What do you think? Where does kindness lead?
Being walked all over?
Being taken advantage of?
Being considered weak, even pathetic?
Our culture does not put a high premium on kindness. And, to a greater or lesser extent, we are all influenced by the current of our culture. Even in the church, we can bristle at the idea of “turning the other cheek” and “loving your enemy” and “blessing not cursing” those lined up against you. We’ve been hurt, haven’t we? Of course, we have. We all live east of Eden and on this side of Heaven. Along the way, we can choose to harden as opposed to soften, because those callouses might better guard us for the next bout. Or, so we think.
God’s Word challenges that line of thought. For example:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
It is well documented that anger is the emotion most likely to go viral on social media. If you want your personal or professional brand to move online, stir up anger. It is also well documented by researchers like John Gottman that one of the communication dynamics most predictive of relational division is when one party stirs up conflict by harsh demands and the other party withdraws and isolates. If that “demand-withdrawal cycle” gains momentum over time, the relationship is almost sure to breakdown. Just taking these two things together, it is no wonder why there is such widespread strife in our culture today.
What does God say is the answer? A soft one. A weak one? No, a soft or gentle or kind answer is capable of making wrath do an “about face” and go back to where it came from. Kindness wins over wrath. And, a kind answer is all it might take to break the “demand-withdrawal cycle” in a relationship. In the spirit of “paying it forward,” spreading kindness through real relationships just might be a better movement than a wildfire of rage online. Just a thought.
In fact, God does just that with us:
“…God’s kindness is meant to bring you to repentance.” (Romans 2:4)
There was a tattooed, anti-religion single mom in my neighborhood that would give me a hard time about my faith. She would rail on “Christians,” which she sadly saw as harsh and wrathful for many reasons—some of them good reasons, more sadly still. But, it was kind answers that gave her pause to listen and to reconsider little by little. It was the kindness of a group of men to provide for her and her kids during Christmas in the midst of job loss that opened her heart up. “No one has been this kind to me in my life. I’ve never met Christians like this before. I gave you all hell, and you gave me and my kids gifts!”
Isn’t it tragically ironic that many “Bible-thumping” Christians don’t seem to read it carefully? Too many use harsh words to rouse the wayward only to stir up anger. Too often, in our fervor to rid the world of worldliness, we find its wrathful tools in our hands striving to turn the tide. My neighbor had lost count of all of the times and all of the ways that Christians would condemn her. All the while, it’s God’s kindness in word and deed that will turn people, places, and things around for good. Against the scores that had condemned my neighbor to make a statement, a handful of us kindly listened and loved as Christ made a positive difference.
“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Some questions for reflection:
- Are we Christians in Northwest Arkansas and beyond known for our loving kindness?
- Are the churches in Northwest Arkansas and beyond known for loving kindness?
- To the watching world and souls around us, is “loving” and “kind” the first words on the tip of their tongue when they think “Christian?”
- Why or why not?
If we come to the unhappy conclusion that we have fallen short in this area, which I would venture a guess we all would in some form or fashion, can I make a few suggestions?
“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Let’s rediscover the astounding kindness of Christ toward us to rekindle our kindness.
Let’s apologize to Christ where we have misrepresented Him as unkind.
Let’s repeat after Christ by speaking a kind word today.
Let’s reenact Christ by choosing a kind deed today.
Do this privately on your own. Do this together with a handful of loved ones. Do this as a church focus for a season or as the representatives of a church network or denomination in your area. One way or another, let kindness lead us—away from wrath, toward repentance, and toward making a positive difference.