A number of years ago I was in New Orleans for a seminary workshop. I had brought a friend along with me who was on Spring Break from his college and had never been to the Big Easy. I was glad to have him with me so I didn’t have to make the drive alone, and so we were walking down Canal Street after eating at one of the innumerable local eateries. As we were approaching the end of the street where the Riverwalk sits, we saw an elderly black man sitting on a bench. His clothing suggested that he was of extremely limited means, and he looked as though he didn’t have a friend in the world. We walked past him, but I couldn’t get the image of that old man sitting on the bench in front of a department store in which was nothing he could afford. I told my friend we needed to go back. I walked up to the old gentleman and introduced myself. I told him I was a pastor attending the seminary in town, and I asked him if he had eaten anything that day. He replied that he had not. I asked if he would mind if I bought him something to eat, and the most shocked look came upon his face. He replied that he would very much appreciate that. My friend and I went in the fast food restaurant a short ways down the street, bought a meal, and returned to the man on the bench. He said he didn’t know how to thank us. I told him we just wanted to help him out, and to tell him that Jesus loved him. He smiled and said that he knew Jesus loved him, and he looked forward to being with him one day in heaven. As we walked away, my friend (who was unsaved at the time) said: “What if he had money? What if that was just a scam he pulls to get free food?” My answer was that if nothing else we were able to demonstrate the love of God toward another person. I didn’t know the man’s background or intent; I only knew that Lord laid a burden on my heart to reach out to that man at that moment. I know that I received as much of a blessing from that experience as that old man did.
Kindness is to be the hallmark of a child of God. After David had been firmly established as king, he sought to find anyone from Saul’s family to whom he might show kindness, remembering his covenant with Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s friend (1 Samuel 20:14-17). David summoned Ziba, a former servant to Saul, and inquired of him for any family members to which David could show kindness. Ziba replied that indeed there was: Mephibosheth, the one who had been made lame in both feet by a caretaker’s carelessness as a child. He was fearful when brought before the king, but David demonstrates Godly love in his actions: “David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.’ Again he prostrated himself and said, ‘What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me? Then the king called Saul’s servant Ziba and said to him, ‘All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce so that your master’s grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall eat at my table regularly’” (2 Samuel 9:7-10).
Mephibosheth is a picture of an unbeliever—one who is lost and cannot save himself. David, through the love and grace he demonstrates, represents God who, in His amazing love, provided for our greatest need: eternal salvation. We certainly have done nothing to earn God’s mercy. In fact, all we deserve is death and judgment, but God gives us the offer of salvation (Romans 6:23). When we show acts of mercy, as the Lord leads us, we are demonstrating both God’s love and our obedience.
We are often swift to perform acts of cruelty, but it is kindness that should distinguish the believer. And it should not be a kindness that expects anything in return, but rather a kindness that is motivated by the ultimate kindness shown to us at the cross of Calvary.