Three messages were on my answering machine this morning. All three making the same request. They’d heard the topic of this chapter and wanted to contribute. God had been kind to them. They had a story to share. I invited them over.
The first to arrive was a young couple freshly married. Both showed evidence of a recent wedding—she was thin from the weight she’d lost; he was wide eyed at the bride he’d gained. Sitting cuddly close on the couch, they told me their story. She did most of the talking. He nodded and smiled and would finish a sentence when she stopped for breath.
“My mother and Mary had been friends since they were teens. So we invited Mary and Jesus to the wedding. We were thrilled when Jesus came. But a bit surprised at the vanload of buddies. There was a bunch.”
“Fifteen or twenty” he offered.
“But that was fine. After all, Jesus is like family. Besides, we had a great time. Long after the ceremony ended, people lingered. Eating and drinking.”
“Yeah, soon the wine was gone, and the waiters were nervous because the people still wanted to party.”
The young girl slid to the front of the couch. “I didn’t even know about the problem until it was solved. No one told me. Someone told Jesus, though, and he took care of it. Not only did he produce more wine, he improved it!” She went on to saythat the wedding coordinator reported that the vintage tasted like the hundred-dollar-a-bottle Bordeaux she tasted once at a wine festival.
The young man moved up to the front of the couch with his wife. “Here is what impresses us.” As he spoke, she looked at him and nodded as if she knew what he was going to say. “This is his first miracle, right? His debut, and he uses it on us! To save us from looking like poor hosts.”
He didn’t have to do that,” she jumped in. “Our town had sick people, poor people. Why, raising the dead would have made the headlines. But he used his premiere miracle on a social miscue. Wasn’t that kind of him?” She smiled. He smiled.
So did I.
As they left a businessman came in. Told me his name was Zacchaeus. A short fellow in an Italian suit. All tan and teeth. Cole Haans. Ray.Bans. You could tell he had done well for himself. “Don’t let the appearance fool you,” he said. “I had the bucks but not the friends. Built this big house on the edge of town. But no one ever came to see me. Can’t say I blamed them. I paid for the place with money I’d skimmed off their taxes. No, no one ever visited me till the day Jesus came. ‘I’m coming to your house today,’ he announced. Right there in the middle of town where all could hear. He didn’t have to do that, you know. The diner was down the block, or I would have bought him lunch at the club. But, no, he wanted to come to my house. And he wanted everyone to know where he was going. His is the first signature in my guest book. That was kind of him, don’t you think? Unbelievably kind.”
Later in the day a woman came by. Middle aged. Hair streaked with gray and pulled back. Dress was simple. Reminded me of a middle-school librarian. Face was wrinkled and earnest. Said she’d been sick for a dozen years. HIV positive.
“That’s a long time,” I said.
Long enough, she agreed, to run out of doctors, money, even hope. But worst of all, she had run out of friends. “They were afraid of me,” she said. “Worried about catching the disease. My church hadn’t turned me out, but they hadn’t helped me out either. I hadn’t been home in years. Been living in a shelter. But then Jesus came to town. He was on his way to treat the mayor’s daughter, who was dying. The crowd was thick, and people were pushing, but I was desperate.”
She spoke of following Jesus at a distance. Then she drew near and stepped back for fear of being recognized. She told of inching behind a broad-shouldered man and staying in his wake until, as she said, “There were only two people between him and me. I pressed my arm through the mob and reached for the hem of his jacket. Not to grab, just to touch it. And when I did, my body changed. Instantly. My face rushed with warmth. I could breathe deeply. My back seemed to straighten. I stopped, letting the people push past. He stopped too. ‘Who touched me?’ he asked. I slid behind the big man again and said nothing. As he and the crowd waited, my heart pounded. From the healing? From fear? From both? I didn’t know. Then he asked again, ‘Who touched me?’ He didn’t sound angry—just curious. So I spoke up. My voice shook; so did my hands. The big man stepped away. Jesus stepped forward, and I told the whole story.”
“The whole story?” I asked.
“The whole story, “she replied.
I tried to imagine the moment. Everyone waiting as Jesus listened. The crowd waiting. The city leaders waiting. A girl was dying, people were pressing, disciples were questioning, but Jesus. . Jesus was listening. Listening to the whole story. He didn’t have to. The healing would have been enough. Enough for her. Enough for the crowd. But not enough for him. Jesus wanted to do more than heal her body. He wanted to hear her story—all of it. The whole story. What a kind thing to do. The miracle restored her health. The kindness restored her dignity.
And what he did next, the woman never forgot. “As if he hadn’t done enough already”—her eyes began to water—”he called me ‘daughter.’ ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace. I’ve been told he never used that word with anyone else. Just me.”’
The kindness of Jesus. We are quick to think of his power, his passion, and his devotion. But those near him knew and know God comes cloaked in kindness. Kind enough to care about a faux pas. Kind enough to have lunch with a crook. Kind enough to bless a suffering sister. . . .
But Jesus’ invitation offers the sweetest proof of the kindness of heaven –“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” . . . .
I wonder, how many burdens is Jesus carrying for us that we know nothing about? We’re aware of some. He carries our sin. He carries our shame. He carries our eternal debt. But are there others? Has he lifted fears before we felt them? Has he carried our confusion so we wouldn’t have to? Those times when we have been surprised by our own sense of peace? Could it be that Jesus has lifted our anxiety onto his shoulders and placed a yoke of kindness on ours? . . .
Jesus not only attended the wedding, he rescued it. He not only healed the woman, he honored her. He did more than call Zacchaeus by name; he entered his house.
Hasn’t he acted similarly with us? Hasn’t he helped us out of a few jams? Hasn’t he come into our house? And has there ever been a time when he was too busy to listen to our story? . . .
Kindness at home. Kindness in public. Kindness at church and kindness with your enemies. Pretty well covers the gamut, don’t you think? Almost. Someone else needs your kindness. Who could that be? You.
We are quick to think of His power, His passion, and His devotion.
But, those near Him knew and know God comes cloaked in kindness.
“Your Kindness Quotient”, chapter 3
in Max Lucado’s A Love Worth Giving