“A Kingdom Divided”: David’s Kindness
At the risk of rubbing someone the wrong way—which is not my intention—I want to share a pet peeve with you: unkindness. I see this more and more all around me. From how people order a meal at a restaurant, “Gimme a number 6,” to people failing to hold a door open or thank someone who did, to people failing to let a car over or cutting one off. All of these are marks of unkindness: failing to see and treat another person with respect.
The World’s Unkindness
To be fair, some of the actions I cited above could result from a simple oversight—such as a distracted mind or heart. But I see these occur far too often for that many distracted people to be the reason. And these are the lesser examples I see of decreasing kindness in our culture. Spend some time on Twitter and you will see what I mean. Or engage in a political discussion, or even a theological one. Not only do people today seem less prone to extend good manners and kindness, they seem more prone to be unkind.
You may have noticed the subheading I chose here—”The World’s Unkindness.” I did that for a reason, of course. Unkindness, either by omission of kindness or commission of intentional acts of unkindness, is a mark of worldliness. Sure Christians can, and often do, act unkindly, but when we do, we are not walking in the ways of the gospel, but rather in the ways of the world.
The gospel is about selflessness. It’s about loving and serving others. It’s about humility.
The world, in contrast, is about selfishness. It’s about being loved and being served. It’s about pride.
An unkind believer, then, has more in common with the world and its master in that moment, rather than God’s Kingdom and its Master. Harsh? Perhaps. True? Undoubtedly.
God’s Kindness through Christ
Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, gives us the case for fusing kindness with the gospel:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins
2 in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, 5 made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10 CSB)
In verses 1-3, we see how wretched we are before Christ. This might be hard to read, but it is true of every single one of us. We lived selfishly—according to our fleshly desires—and because of that we were under God’s wrath, rightfully so.
But then two of the most beautiful words in Scripture: “But God.” But God intervened and fixed what we had broken and could not fix.
God who is rich in mercy and full of great love made us alive in Christ. He saved us by grace and raised us up with Christ. The reason? Verse 7 tells us—so that we might display before a watching world the immeasurable riches of God’s grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. And there you have it. Kindness is at the center of the gospel. The gospel is a result of God’s kindness—and it is the greatest act of kindness the world has ever, and will ever, see.
Our Kindness Because of Christ
This is why a Christian living unkindly is anathema to the gospel. We are violating the root—the very spirit—of the gospel by which we have been saved. Instead, the natural response to God’s kindness displayed in Christ should be to extend likewise kindness, although we will never be able to extend kindness to the same degree. This is why believers should be marked by kindness. It should identify us. It should saturate our every behavior. It informs how we interact with a waiter as we order a meal. It informs how we walk through a door, how we drive (ouch!), and everything we do. We live this way not to earn God’s kindness and favor—we cannot earn what has already been freely given to us in Christ. Instead, we live this way because of that kindness and favor. We live delighting to be kind to others because of God’s delight in providing Jesus for us.
Love through me, Love of God; Make me like Thy clear air Through which, unhindered, colors pass As though it were not there. Powers of the love of God, Depths of the heart Divine, O Love that faileth not, break forth And flood this world of Thine.” — Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)
Preschool Tip: This is the final story of David we get to before his sin with Bathsheba and forgiveness of God. So don’t shy away from holding up David’s act of kindness to your preschoolers, but at the same time, be sure to do your best not to position David as perfect. You may want to even plant that seed this week—that next week we will see a time when David made some really wrong decisions. (Don’t worry, we don’t get into the specifics of David’s sin next week.)
Kids Tip: For kids, you may want to connect several dots between this story and the gospel. As we have seen, kindness is at the core, but there are several other beautiful connections. Mephibosheth was helpless and estranged, just as we are because of sin. David invited Mephibosheth to eat at his table like a son, while God has seated us at his table as sons and daughters, and we will eat at that table for all of eternity, pictured for now, in part, by the Lord’s Supper we celebrate.
 Amy Carmichael, “Love Through Me,” in Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1999) [eBook].