He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:7-9)
If you are reading this around the same time it was written, then you are experiencing the “most wonderful time of the year.”
It’s also the most likely time of the year to see a fight break out in the local big-box store over the very last “Extra-Special, Newest Edition Smart Dolly that eats and wets and posts it all on social media.”
Yep … as I write this, it’s just after “Black Friday” weekend and the opening of the Christmas shopping season.
Now, my post is not about this time of year in particular; it just happens to be a good time to practice what I suggest. I am not a financial expert, so I am not here to tell you how to make the most of your shopping dollars or how not to go into debt from Christmas festivities. Nor I am here to offer you great recipes for every holiday gathering from Friendsgiving to New Year’s Eve, although I have a few go-to dishes that I love to make for such get-togethers. I’m not even going to give you “Fabulous Decorating Ideas for Your Holiday Home” because – well, I don’t have any of those. But I have lots of friends who could tell you all about how to accomplish such feats.
What I want to suggest to you is the importance of sharing Jesus through a smile – a genuine, Christ-filled smile that is evidence of the Holy Spirit within every true disciple of Jesus. A smile that even translates across the muffled speaker of a drive-thru lane at a fast-food restaurant. It can greatly affect the person who is checking and bagging your groceries or the person standing in the self-check waiting to help you with whatever issue might pop up on your transaction.
Let me give you a few examples of how I have seen this principle at work in a few of my recent interactions.
I walked into a convenience store one day and had to wait in line to pay for my items. The people in front of me were getting some chicken from the hot box, and when they finished, they asked for some napkins. The young lady assisting them offered just one or two napkins, to which they responded quite angrily, “We just bought 20 wings!” The girl handed them several more, and they huffed away, complaining as they exited. When I got to the counter, the attendant barely even looked up at me and was obviously shaken by the encounter. When she spoke to me, I responded kindly to her, and she looked up. When she saw my smile, her face visibly brightened. By the time I left, she was smiling and seemed to feel better. A gentle voice and a genuine smile, something so simple and inexpensive, seemed to completely change her outlook.
When I left that store, I drove across the parking lot to get some donuts at a chain store. I placed my order (a dozen each, chocolate and glazed), and when I got to the window, they had only gotten the glazed. The attendant at the window looked a little bothered, and then she had to tell the people filling the orders that she needed a box of chocolate also. She was very apologetic about my wait, but I just smiled and told her it was no problem, and then I sat there patiently as they filled my order. The clerk at the window beamed at me as she handed my two boxes of fluffy goodness through the window. As I drove away, she was still smiling.
On another drive-thru occasion, the person taking my order sounded a little frustrated when he or she (I wasn’t certain by the voice) started my order. I think there was some static or something on the speaker, and it took a few tries to get the order entered correctly. But I responded with kindness and didn’t make a big deal about it. As I was about to drive away to the pick-up window, the person on the other end of the speaker said, “Thank you so much! I really appreciate you!” It sounded like kindness had not been high on the menu for the day.
Please understand that I didn’t relate these examples to point a finger at myself and say, “Look how kind I am!” If the point of my smile was simply to bring attention to myself, and an attitude of Christ-like kindness was not the source for it, then it would have been a show of teeth and nothing more. If your smile does not originate from the Holy Spirit within you, then when circumstances are less than ideal, your attitude will most likely be less than kind, less than long-suffering … and less than godly.
Do you treat servers at your local fast-food joint like they are nothing more than servants? Do you ever look in the eyes of the convenience store clerk who rang up your sale? Have you ever thanked the custodian at the big-box store for cleaning up after all the people that pass through the doors? How do you treat your co-workers? Your pastor? Your children? Your spouse?
The way we treat people around us reveals much about our relationship with God. When we have a low estimation of God, then we probably have a much-too-high estimation of ourselves. If that is the case, then we will likely find that other people fall quite short of our expectations, although their worth to God is just as high as our own. I didn’t mention the occasions when I was not on top of my kindness game, but it happens to all of us sometimes. It just should not be where we stay.
Think about how you are perceived by others. When you leave an establishment, do you imagine the staffer who interacted with you thinks, “Whew! I sure am glad he/she is gone! Nothing I did was good enough!” Or do you think they might say, “Man! I wish we saw more people like that in here!”
A lot of people like to say, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me! I am who I am, take it or leave it!” Well, if Jesus is your Lord, then you really ought to care what others think of you because what they think of you is probably what they will think of the One you claim to serve. If so, what impression are you leaving on your world? Is it one that shows the image of the One Who gave His life for you?
Here are a few more verses to consider:
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor (Proverbs 12:21).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).
You don’t have to be like Buddy the elf, who famously said, “Smiling’s my favorite!” You also don’t have to look like a clown with a painted-on, silly grin; that’s just creepy! As a matter of fact, you don’t need to fake anything if you are following Christ. But as you go out into your world today, try to remember those verses about kindness. Simply have a genuine smile that flows from the gratitude in your heart for the kindness God has shown to you.
Even if you do not always receive the same in return, you may be surprised to find that, before long, you will not be looking for a similar return on your kindness investment. You may find that walking in kindness is just the best way to traverse your day.