Jeremiah 38:12-13 “Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, ‘Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.’ Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern.”
“Be kinder than necessary.” That’s the motto South Carolina governor Nikki Haley recently adopted. I like it. Sounds simple enough. But I suspect more lies behind acts of kindness than meets the eye.
When I think of kindness, words like gentleness, affection and warmth come to mind. Rarely do I consider acts of kindness as possessing an element of danger, or even boldness. What’s not to like about friendly concern? Yet many acts of kindness would never take place without someone’s willingness to take a risk. Someone like Ebed-Melek….
Ebed served in King Zedekiah’s palace. When he heard the king had given his officials authority to throw the prophet Jeremiah and his inconvenient message into a mud-filled pit, he refused to be silent. He boldly confronted the king and asked if he could rescue Jeremiah. He risked his own position to secure Jeremiah’s release. Ebed even provided rags for Jeremiah to place under his arms so the ropes wouldn’t cut through his skin as they lifted him up from the cistern. He proved to be kinder than necessary.
Risks taken in acts of kindness don’t have to be life-threatening. I think we sometimes avoid being kind because we’re afraid we might, well, look stupid. We don’t want to risk our reputation in a culture which values aloofness over caring. Once when our church was experiencing a devastating crisis, a friend wanting to encourage us appeared on our doorstep with a turkey. He didn’t give us sage advice on how to deal with the matter. He didn’t even offer to pray with us. He simply extended kindness to us in an unusual way— perhaps the only way he could think of—but it communicated he cared. That was about forty years ago. I still remember it. Kindnesses offered in crises always seem kinder than necessary no matter how small the gesture.
We live in a world where refugees are flooding stable nations. Where children are exploited as slaves. Where people are targeted because of the uniforms they wear or the color of their skin.
We live in a world in need of people willing to be kinder than necessary.