From justice in the large sense, Micah turns to kindness in our relationships – “love kindness”, he says. Some translations speak of mercy, loyalty, or constant love, and they all add to our understanding. Some of us will remember Glen Campbell singing, "Try A Little Kindness":
You've got to try a little kindness yes show a little kindness
Yes shine your light for everyone to see
In some ways the song makes an important point about the way we relate to ourselves, with others, and by extension, with the planet. Jesus may not have used the word “kindness” per se, but he did urge the need for mercy and compassion, and his teaching is full of practical examples. He practiced what he taught, and as Lord he calls us to follow. Micah spoke about “doing justice”, and what we find here is that kindness and mercy are very basic ways in which justice is fleshed out in the business of every-day life.
“Random acts of kindness” do not have to be costly; it may be something as simple as a smile, as basic as an act of care and compassion, perhaps for someone who often feels excluded. Without too much effort, I’m sure that all of us could think of a long list of examples. Kindness is indeed “a renewable resource”, and it is also contagious! There is a multiplying effect, and as Mark Twain once said, it is a “language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see”.
In other words, to love kindness works both ways. Acts of kindness obviously benefit the ones on the receiving end, whether or not there is a special need involved. But there is some interesting research which seems to indicate that those who practice kindness tend, albeit unwittingly, to help themselves, with positive impacts on their relationships, physical and mental health, and overall satisfaction with life.
Kindness, of course, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Apostle Paul lists for us in Galatians 5:22; that, too, is also worth reflecting upon. It becomes a matter of the Spirit helping us to express the compassion of Christ in our everyday life. It begins with awareness, it is nourished through our devotion, it is enabled by the Spirit, and it becomes a natural expression of who we are.
Beyond all the words we may speak, what sort of person are we known to be? There is a little song which picks up this essential biblical theme: "they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love." And that has to mean more than just words!
Clive W Ayre