Over the last week, I have had the words of an older worship song replaying over and over again in my head. The song is Kindness by Chris Tomlin. I first heard the song at a small group we attended briefly about 14 years ago and it was shared simply by one guy with a guitar. I remember how refreshing it sounded and was captivated by the simplicity of the lyrics:
It’s Your kindness, Lord, that leads us to repentance
Your favor Lord, is our desire
It’s Your beauty, Lord, that makes us stand in silence
Your love, Your love is better than life
As we were singing “Your love is better than life” it felt as if we were singing straight from the book of Psalms. It was fresh and something like I had never sung before in all my years of being raised in church. I loved singing that song and soon had both the CD of the recording and the piano sheet music.
As I’ve shared before, I’ve had several years playing worship and many of those as a worship leader. However, in all my years as a leader, I can only recall maybe just one time of leading a congregation in singing this song. Why? Why would I not sing a song that I loved so much? Why would I not want others to feel what I had felt when I first heard it? Looking back now, I think I can clearly say I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it because I had not allowed myself to experience it. During that time, I have to admit that I truly believed if God was kind, it was only because I had done something to deserve it. (Wow!! Even typing those words right now hit like a punch to the gut! Who am I to think I could do anything to deserve God’s kindness?) The sad part of this is, I had been a Christian all my life. At 4 years old, I told my dad I didn’t want to die and go to hell. I was so small when he baptized me at 5 years old, that he had to cradle me in his arms like a baby and dip me down into the water. So, here I was, just shy of thirty years old, been a Christian all my life, and I did not believe God was kind. I was convinced that, although I became a Christian by simply believing, in order to stay a Christian I must work for it. If you had asked me at that time, Is God good? Is God kind? I would never have imagined answering no. But, from what I know now, I have to admit I was living afraid of messing up, afraid of blowing it, and afraid of upsetting an angry God. If you truly believe someone is kind, you are not afraid of them. Now, I don’t know if you realize it or not, (please finish this sentence with a sarcastic tone) but occasionally worship leaders or Christian artists may not always ensure their lyrics are theologically sound or even if scripture based!!! I remember the day I wanted to verify the lyrics about God’s kindness and I discovered Romans 2:4, “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Chris Tomlin and his co-writers actually pulled that one straight from the Bible.
I wish I could tell you that from that moment on I was convinced of God’s kindness, but, trying to keep the whole honesty vibe alive here, it would take several more years for me to experience it.
So, with this song echoing in my head the past week, I have a new appreciation for it. It IS God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Unfortunately, we as Christians have the habit of forgetting that when we are trying to reach others. In the King James version, the word kindness used above is translated as goodness. This same word in the original Greek is also used when listing the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. In this verse, it is translated as gentleness. So, if God leads us to repentance with his kindness, goodness, and gentleness, shouldn’t those be the qualities we display and the same ones that we are known for?
The same word is used as well in Ephesians 2:7. I want to end with that verse followed by the two following it: “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
We cannot take credit for God’s kindness and it is not given as a reward but as a gift and it was given as a gift so we can be examples of it.