Be Kind – It’s the Doctor’s Order

By the end of 2020, the name Bonnie Henry has become a staple in our newsfeed here in the Province of British Columbia for her weekly news briefing on COVID updates. More than just a figure representing the regional health authority in her role as the Chief Medical Officer for the province, the BC doctor has become a household name as she led the response to the pandemic with her gentle and calm demeanour.  So much so that a book was released with the title“Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe: Four Weeks that Shaped a Pandemic.” The autobiography details her wealth of world-wide public health experience, from her key role in fighting SARS in Toronto in 2003, to the Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2000, among other health crises. 

Dr. Henry’s appeal for the public to demonstrate kindness in a season of hardship and trials resonated with many, and the success of this gentler approach to the implementation of health restrictions were evident in my opinion. In many ways, Dr Henry’s exhortation for kindness may be the most Christian thing that has surfaced among the sea of opinions, and even protests, coming from the church community throughout the current global pandemic. 

The concept of kindness was also recently presented in the Global Leadership Summit by Shola Richards (Founder & CEO, Go Together Global), where he explored practical ways to lead others in civility and making the distinction between being kind and being nice. Richards suggest that there are two types of people in this world: those who make you feel good when they walk into the room and those that make you feel good when they walk out of the room. The difference is civility as we are defined by how we treat each other. 

At the time of the Apostle Paul’s writing to the church in Rome, it may also be going through division and struggles in maintaining unity – hence the use of the analogy of one body with many members to highlight the need to value every person on the team. In Romans 12:10, Paul makes the appeal for the Roman believers to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another.” This charge may just be as applicable to our church today amid the current social and political dissensions. 

Biblical kindness is best expressed through the Hebrew word הֶסֶד (hesed) in the Old Testament, which can mean loving kindness or grace. I wrote an entire capstone paper on hesed for my Hebrews class and have come away with a profound conviction that hesed kindness goes beyond just being nice to someone. It is the willingness to forgive even when we are wronged. 

The noun hesed is used 245 times in the OT, particularly in the early narrative literature (49 occurrences) and becoming less important in the prophetic literature. The root occurs only in Hebrew and Aramaic, usually with the positive meaning (“kindness, grace”) dominating, but there are also two negative occurrences (“shame”) in Lev 20:17 and Pro 14:34. Hesed is most used in poetry (131 occurrences), but also appears 23 times in the Chronicler’s history, with roughly 63 of the 245 occurrences belonging to the secular sphere.

This repeated references to God’s hesed stands as one of His most central characteristics.  The divine use of hesed is also abundant in the expression of God’s lovingkindness across legal, narrative, prophetic, and cultic materials. This divine usage is commonly found in God’s demonstration of hesed to large numbers of people and/or generations that are favourably disposed towards him (e.g., the Ninevites in the Book of Jonah).  

God’s loving-kindness is offered to His people, who need redemption from sin, enemies, and troubles. From the eve of Creation, the entire history of Yahweh’s covenantal relationship with Israel can be summarized in terms of hesed. The association of hesed with covenant keeps it from being misunderstood as mere providence or love for mankind. God’s hesed is ultimately beyond the covenant and it will not ultimately be abandoned even when the human partner is unfaithful and faces discipline. 

With that in mind, we should be motivated to demonstrate loving kindness and grace to other people, including those that we may disagree with. After all, we are defined by how we treat others, but it all starts with how we treat ourselves. How can we be kind to ourselves?  According to Shola Richards, “leading self with civility through actions include maintaining healthy boundaries, removing yourself from toxic relationships, asking for help and forgiving others.” Only then are we able to best lead others with the kindness and grace that God demonstrated. 

The truth is that when someone passes away, we don’t sit around and talk about their cars or their careers. What we are doing instead is remembering how they treated us. Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  

Therefore, let’s purpose to be KIND and GRACIOUS to others and get them filled up because it is what the Doctor (Jesus) ordered!