Mr. Nice Guy?
As I read Psalm 92 the other day from An American Translation of the bible, I paused at verse 2, where the psalmist mentions God’s faithfulness and kindness. The ESV uses the term “steadfast love.” The lexicon uses the longer term “lovingkindness.” God is also described as “kind” when Paul writes, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 ESV). So I started thinking, “What does it mean that God is kind?”
In my mind, a kind person is nice. Not mean, rude, abrasive or irritable. In my mind God isn’t like that either. But it just doesn’t seem right to simply describe the Almighty as a nice guy. When you head down that path, you end up with everyone in heaven, because after all, God is kind. There’s got to be more to it than that.
Other New Testament passages (Eph. 2:7 and Titus 3:4) link God’s kindness with Jesus and his saving work. That makes God actively kind, similar to activity associated with agape love. His kindness is an aspect of his grace. When you don’t get what you deserve and your sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ, you’re experiencing God’s kindness. It’s a kindness meant to lead you to repent and get your act together.
I wonder if Israel camped at the base of cloud-covered Mt. Sinai, the ground trembling beneath their feet, thought of God as kind. Powerful? Yes. Holy? Check. Frightening? Yep. Nice? Not to their enemies, that’s for sure. But for the moment God was providing and protecting them. That’s pretty nice of him. And I wouldn’t ever want to take that for granted!