After the worldwide spread of coronavirus, the successful testing of several vaccines has made possible a knock-on distribution of hope for widespread health and safety in 2021. Meanwhile let’s think of the part we can play in some chain reactions of Christian kindness.
Waking one morning around 3 a.m. I recognised an old hymn that had embedded itself in my brain, one I’d not heard or sung since childhood. It went something like this:
Have you had a kindness shown?
Pass it on! Pass it on!
‘Twas not meant for you alone –
Pass it on!
It will echo down the years
Helping sufferers dry their tears
And spread lots of thankful cheer –
So, pass it on.
In our school science lessons we were taught about ‘chain reactions’ – although these days I can’t recall even one example from chemistry! But I do know from Scripture and experience about chain reactions of kindness. It starts simply by:
Recognising a kindness received
Here are some instances:
 When Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Rome, he promised to visit them after ‘I . . . go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For . . . the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They are glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially.’ (see Romans 15:25-27 New Living Translation).
In this example, the blessing received was the message of salvation; the kindness passed on to their donors in return was financial help in their season of need. In this instance, the kindness received was passed back again!
 And Paul told the church in Corinth how he felt motivated to impart empathetic comfort to others who were experiencing ‘painful trials’ because he himself had received comforting blessings from the Lord directly in his time of difficulty:
‘Our Father God . . . always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us’ (2 Corinthians 1:2 and 4, The Passion Translation).
In this case the donor is God, the recipient is Paul, and the gift is spiritual and emotional. In the ensuing ‘chain reaction’ Paul imparts comfort to his friends in Corinth.
 It was our Lord himself who reminded ‘his twelve disciples’: ‘Freely ye have received; freely give’ (Matthew 10:1 and 8, King James Version). And the Greek verb ‘received’ means ‘received as a gift’, not as a reward (according to Strong’s Concordance) – and as our hymn urges us, we should ‘pass it on!’ That is why I try to count my blessings as I start each day to motivate me if people should call me by phone or I simply greet dog-walkers as I pass them on my regular stroll.
 The whole of chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel is about the first mission journeys of our Lord’s twelve apostles – from his prior instructions to them, to his subsequent assessment of their ventures. Significantly, the verb ‘give’ recurs frequently in Matthew’s account. Here are extracts from the chapter in the New Living Translation.
 Right from the start their Master ‘gave them [‘his twelve disciples’ 10:1; ‘the twelve apostles’ 10:5)] authority (10:1) to heal . . . , raise the dead, cure . . . leprosy, and cast out demons’ (10:8). They had to administer all these wonders free of charge; ‘Give as freely as you have received!’ (10:8).
 Nor, in this venture, could they carry cash. ‘Don’t take any money in your money belts’, but simply ‘accept hospitality’ (10:9), and ‘When you enter [a] home, give it your blessing’ (10:12). If that home was unworthy they must ‘take back the blessing’ (10:13).
 If they were ‘arrested’ (10:19) and ‘handed over to the courts‘ by their accusers who rejected their ministry (10:17), they should make the occasion an opportunity to declare their gospel message, assured that ‘God will give you the right words at the right moment’ (10:19).
 And anyone who would ‘give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers . . . will be given a reward’ on judgement day (10:40-42).
Seize the day!
Paul encouraged his readers in Ephesus 5:16 to ‘Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.’ But he cautioned them straight afterwards not to rush thoughtlessly into ‘do-gooding’: ‘Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.’ I am visualising the comic postcard I saw in my youth of the overzealous boy scout attempting to make the most of the potential opportunity for his good deed for the day by pushing an overweight woman on to a bus when in fact she was trying to step off backwards!
Paul was choosing his Greek words thoughtfully here. He expressed ‘Make the most of every opportunity as: ‘Buy up each bargain when it’s in season!’ And he counselled Timothy to go one step further, using the word ‘season’ again: ‘Be prepared, whether the time [season] is favourable or not’ (2 Timothy 4:2).
A local example
During the year-long Covid-19 pandemic, congregational gatherings and small home groups were all cancelled for our church, so we were each assigned some six or eight homes with whom to keep in touch by telephone or Zoom. Occasionally I would call others who were not on my list whom I know live alone, some with medical needs. The usual response was gratitude for making contact. One is an immigrant sister I could greet with my very limited knowledge of her first language, pronouncing ‘Praise the Lord!’ better than the average Brit. ‘You made my day’ was her genuine appreciation. And when she told me of her delight on getting a box of grocery products from the church’s leadership team, ‘more than I can use’, I recommended she donate her surplus to the local branch of the Food Bank managed by one of our members who has a vehicle to transport her gift, so she felt doubly blessed!
 Have you had a kindness shown to you? Well, pass it on – in some appropriate form.