“Kindness is very, very close to the heart of God”: Dr William Wan, Singapore Kindness Movement

Be kind! Salt&Light supports Kindness Day SG today, which kickstarts a month of celebrating kindness.

by Tan Huey Ying // May 24, 2019, 12:00 pm

Kindness Day 2018 - opening of Kindness Carnival

Rev Dr William Wan (left) with Minister Grace Fu at the opening ceremony of the Kindness Carnival 2018, which kickstarts a month of celebrating kindness in Singapore. The 2019 Kindness Day SG starts today. Photo from Singapore Kindness Movement.

Mention Dr William Wan, and the association that immediately springs to mind is: Singapore Kindness Movement.

Few may know this, but the impetus for his involvement in the movement is God.

“I think that kindness is very, very close to the heart of God,” says William Wan, 72, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM).

Dr Wan giving Singa a high five at the Kindness Carnival 2017.

The lawyer, who is also a Justice of Peace, has headed the Singapore Kindness Movement since 2011. Prior to this, Wan has been an academic, pastored a church, and run a psychometric and consulting business, amongst other things.

The energetic and spritely gentleman also helped to co-found organisations such as the Law Christian Fellowship (LCF), Prison Fellowship Singapore (PFS) and even the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore (EFOS). He was also the first chairman of the Singapore office for Operation Mobilisation, an international mission organisation.

Driven by a deep love for God, he has tackled heavy issues in those organisations alongside acclaimed heavy-weights such as Dr Benjamin Chew, founding elder of Church of Singapore Goh Ewe Kheng and founder of the National Kidney Foundation Professor Khoo Oon Teik.

The kindness of God in the Gospel

Today, however, he is more interested in the small stuff: Promoting the understated virtue of kindness in Singapore.

From running national campaigns such as the Singapore Kindness Movement, to facilitating ground-up initiatives run by individuals and small groups, Wan champions the Gospel message through the expression of kindness.

“Scripture says the Gospel is God’s kindness to us. (Titus 3:4-5) That means our salvation speaks of God’s kindness!”

In the Old Testament, one of King David’s first acts as king was to ask: “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” (2 Samuel 9:3)

“Mercy. Grace. They’re all part of God,” Wan emphasises at the start of his interview. “Scripture says the Gospel is God’s kindness to us. (Titus 3:4-5) That means our salvation speaks of God’s kindness!”

The gift of salvation is the expression of God’s love and kindness to the world.

Then having accepted that gift, there are only two things that God expects us to do as His children: Love God and love your neighbour. (Matthew 22:37-39)

Made in God’s image

 “In every human being, there is kindness because we are created in God’s image and our source of kindness is God (James 3:9). God has not abandoned the world – there are many people who may not be Christians but who are actually doing a lot of good and right things. And we should recognise that.

Because the image of God remains in man, there is always the possibility of doing the good thing.

“Sin has not completely destroyed God’s image in us,” Wan asserts. “We are only distorted by it; because the image of God remains in man, there is always the possibility of doing the good thing.”

Kindness is a “common denominator”, he says, calling it “a golden thread” that runs through humanity, regardless of religion.

“But that doesn’t mean we agree on every other point, because, amongst other things, the understanding of our salvation is different.”

Some may practise kindness in order gain salvation or a better future. But in our Christian faith, salvation is a gift – we don’t offer acts of kindness as a means to salvation, but as gratitude towards God’s saving grace. 

If Christians are responsible citizens who practise kindness and do good, they can “really be the salt out of the saltshaker”.

Dr Wan and Minister Grace Fu with visitors at the Kindness Carnival 2018. “Salvation is all about God’s grace. Our responsibility is to behave ourselves in such a way that we glorify God,” he says.

“It is the living dynamism of your faith expressed in deeds that will draw people to Christ,” says Wan.

He reasoned: “If I don’t know you – you only go to church and don’t mix with me because I don’t go to church – how will I know that your faith is so wonderful?

“Whereas if you come together, then there can be faith in action. (James 4:14, 17-18) People will see, and they will say, ‘Wow, this is a Christian. I also want to be a Christian.’”

The personal witness of good deeds

“When I became a Christian, I realised there’s a high standard because God calls us to be holy,” said Wan.

“Kindness is a good platform to bind people together and learn from each other.”

In his younger years, he was idealistic. He got upset by Christians who perpetrated wrong-doings. “You think that being a Christian means everybody is kind and loving. But the reality is that we are also sinners, and many times we fail. That’s why churches got splits and splats and splutter.

“We experience God’s grace, so we should manifest it in our life by being kind and gracious. Can we make society better? … Or does that not matter to us?”

He says: “When we practise kindness, whether we recognise it or not, we are practising God’s kindness.

“The kindness movement is a very powerful way to show God’s love. It is a good platform to bind people together and learn from each other. It will make Singapore a better place.”

Truth be told: It takes courage to be kind

About the author

Tan Huey Ying

Huey Ying is now an Assignments Editor at Salt&Light, having worked in finance, events management and aquatics industries. She usually has more questions than answers but is always happiest in the water, where she's learning what it means to "be still".