The Law of Kindness
From the Christian Science Sentinel, June 6, 1908, by Rev. William P. Mc Kenzie
When for purely personal reasons laws are made by men, these human enactments often seem to other men to be unreasonable and arbitrary, and they are sometimes resisted. Hence there has grown up a wrong sense of law, and when we speak of the law of God it is frequently conceived to be an arbitrary demand on man of the personal will of the almighty Lawmaker. But when we rightly understand God as Principle, and that “righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne,” we then conceive of God’s law as the uniform and consistent expression of His true nature, and no longer think of it as a rule of action enforced on man and supported by penalties for disobedience. When one becomes assimilated to God, is harmonious with divine Principle and accordant with the nature of the creator, then in his life appears the uniform occurrence of characteristics such as were manifest in Christ Jesus, who came not to do his own will, but to express the will or character of God. Such a life manifests the divine law, which is ever the same. “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Let us examine one characteristic which may be so regularly active in a man’s life that it becomes a law. Kindness does not seem to be natural to men, but it may become, as they say, “second nature.” Kind action may be of such uniform occurrence that the man expresses the law of kindness. There are yet to be found unsocial and savage conditions where every man’s hand is against his neighbor, but even among barbarians, whether in civilized lands or uncivilized, there is to be found a sense of kinship. The man who seems to be the conscienceless destroyer of the well-being of many, may be considerate to his own family. He may regard the ties of blood, even as animals do that fight for their young and nourish them. But men are capable of higher things than the wolf, the savage protector of his household. In men there is a common nature, a universal kinship, a similarity of relationship to true life; and the individual who reaches a sense of universal friendliness and world-wide good-will, perceives this indestructible relationship and is lifted thereby into the permanent and heavenly sensed life.
Professor Drummond, in his book “The Greatest Thing in the World,” asks the question, “Have you ever noticed how much of Christ’s life was spent in doing kind things — in merely doing kind things?” In the life which represents to us the normal life for man this characteristic kindness has not been sufficiently noticed by good men, else the query of the child would not occur, “Where in heaven will God put the men who are good but not kind?” The observant Peter seems to have noticed the need of something more than austere righteousness, for he says, “Add to your . . . godliness brotherly kindness.” How great is the need in the world for ordinary kindness! We applaud kindness in the great emergencies, as when after the cruelty of battle the devoted nurses minister to the suffering, supplying their needs without asking on which side in the conflict they stood, — just ministering to them all as to men in need of friendliness.
But in the daily battle of life there are the wounded and broken-hearted. A smile gleaming from the innocent face of a child has comforted one bereaved; the courtesy of a stranger has reassured a man almost discouraged; a pleasant word, a kind inquiry, a friendly look, a hearty greeting is often enough to redeem a man from loneliness and heart exile, and remind him that he belongs in the circle of humanity and has his home with God’s children. Even when rebuke is needed the loving heart may give it and bless thereby. “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness,” said the psalmist; “and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.”
Men are slowly learning the true method of reform as they labor for the redemption of the world. Experience has shown that more good may result from an insignificant kindness than from the most elaborate ritual of punishment and cruelty. The punisher labors to satisfy himself by taking vengeance upon the wrong-doer, but the kind man endeavors to change the motives of the sinner so that he may become a right-doer. The cruel man wins hatred and distrust from men, and even though by cruelty he thinks to do God a service, he does not balance his account thus or win favor with God, for the divine methods are not destructive and hurtful, but always methods of salvation. Therefore it can be said, “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.”
If any one has a doubt as to the attitude of God to man, consider the insight of the prophets, who gave their message in pre-Messianic days, as light shining through the cloud of anthropomorphic conceptions regarding Deity. “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer,” is the comforting reassurance of Isaiah; and Jeremiah wrote, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Compare these with the teaching of Peter, who was himself taught by the Messiah, declaring that God is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” and we have a consistent revelation as to the character of God, and may learn what in man will be this likeness expressed. We can then appreciate Paul’s injunction: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness.”
If men were ordinarily kind, deferential, considerate of others, how many agonizing problems would cease to exist. If we can put trust in God because of the excellence of His loving-kindness, we shall trust man in proportion as he excels in kindness. Many situations pregnant with suffering and bitterness are the result of distrust. The action of another cannot be certainly prophesied, and surmise becomes busy foreshadowing the worst possibility. These fear-created clouds darken with their gloom many a heart when the light of trust in good would show that all was really well. It is upon kindness shown that confidence may be based, and when kindness has become so consistent in a man that it is known to be law, then trust in his goodness becomes assured. We know that his actions will be consistent with his character. We rely upon the law that governs him, and should become ourselves subordinate to that same law of kindness.
No positive results whatever seem to be achieved by unkindness. A quarrel or a war between two nations may embitter the lives of men for generations. The resentful feeling may be like a tree producing poisonous fruit season after season, whereas an international courtesy may send a thrill of kind feeling through a nation and produce patience, consideration, good will for many years after. Hatred does not sow seed and reap harvests, for it is the blight upon the crop cultivated, the destroyer of man’s good. Kindness comes as blessing upon the righteous labor of man. Kindness enriches man’s life as the sunshine and the gentle rain persuade the growth and ripening of the seed hidden in the earth, until the fields are golden with harvest wealth.
Christian Science shows us clearly that we can make no progress without sincerity. To be honest or sincere we must work from one standpoint. If we love our friends and hate our enemies we are double-minded, trying to conjoin ill will and good will, and the result too often is that the blight withers the blessing; that hate and lust for revenge become the ruling power; while love dwindles to the mere formality of loving those who love us. “If ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.” This question was put by Jesus, and then he said, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again [or despairing of no man, which is the better translation]; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
History makes clear that cruelty never brought success. Men by murder and deceit have sought for power, but have grasped only a phantasm of happiness. Like the Emperor Julian, they have dwelt affrighted in view of the mental pictures of their own evil deeds. A wrong done is the seed of terror to the wrong-doer, and the sowing of hate in the victim; but kindness is always “twice blessed.” The kind man increases his happiness and the recipient of good will is comforted and encouraged. Indeed, there is a threefold blessing in obedience to the law of kindness. The kind office blesses both giver and receiver, and places before the observer new ideals of success and happiness. Men have pointed out to the youth of the land the aggrandizement of the selfish and the brief prosperity of the unscrupulous, as if that were success; but “the mills of God” grind not so slowly after all, for already these false ideals are ground to powder, and the men of the nation see with clearer eyes that “success in error is defeat in Truth” (Science and Health, p. 239). They are asking how success may be achieved in concord with law, so that prosperity may be permanent. The answer is given in the teachings of Christian Science, and the answer is also given by the life of its Discoverer, Mrs. Eddy, to whom the words of King Lemuel so well apply: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”