Month: March 2024

The Absence of Kindness


          There is a very disturbing trend in modern American Christianity.  It isn’t low attendance, declining membership, aging buildings, or shrinking budgets.  It’s the absence of kindness that should worry us the most.  For a multiplicity of reasons, churches and their leaders have decided, both consciously and unconsciously, that kindness is no longer a virtue worth demonstrating or pursuing.  And when the church decided that kindness no longer mattered, the nation got the message.

            Christians have been called by Christ to be “salt and light,” or to be as a “city on a hill” whose light of goodness, hope, and grace extend deeply into the culture of the day.  But unfortunately, the light has dimmed, and our distinctive goodness is all but non-discernable.  For those charged to influence, infuse, and promote such virtues as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we have lost that sense of calling.  In fact, it’s as though we have adopted and now promote that which is the exact opposite of such qualities.  We promote divisive bigotry, exclusionary practices, hate speech, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and even violence.  Rather than challenge ourselves to represent the Prince of Peace as we proclaim Good News to the world around us, we have decided to adopt a limited world-view that teaches that it’s okay to hate our neighbors and demean anyone whose brand of religion differs from our own.

            The Gospel is to be Good News… not judgment, not hate, not discrimination, not anger.  Something about the message of Jesus should give life to those who have lost their way, their hope, and their future.  Jesus offers inclusivity, not a pious “religious border” control, not judgment, not condescension.  We have poisoned our minds to believe that we are to love only those who love Jesus with the same zeal and dogma that we hold.  We make little room and offer little tolerance for anyone not in our tribe.  Whenever we decide that we are the ultimate possessors of truth and thus, the real chosen people of God, we stand in a very dangerous place.  Maybe our task is not that of loving only the people who love Jesus, but loving the people that Jesus loves.  Suddenly our embrace of every neighbor becomes reorienting.  If we truly claim to love Christ, we must intentionally, passionately, and unselfishly love every neighbor who stands before us, regardless of their race, their origin, their gender, their language, or their practice of faith.  If you believe that heaven is only filled with your kind of people, you may be really shocked when the Kingdom leaves you behind in its wake.

            To be Christ-like is to be kind.  It is to be respectful, tolerant, grace-giving, bridge-building, and fence-mending.  Kindness demands less shouting, less hatred, less violence, less arrogance, and less warmongering.  Kindness demands decency, decorum, and dialogue… not social media rants, not caustic pulpit rhetoric, and not selfish control of every public space.

            There was a time when the pulpits of America set the tone and challenged the character of our nation.  There was talk of true liberty and justice for all.  There were calls for the end of hatred and prejudice.  Preachers spoke of love and grace.  In other words, there was a time when kindness mattered, and people listened.  But those were different days.  We are now faced with intolerance, explosive anger, and demeaning language… often spoken through the mouths of pastors and pulpiteers.  What have we become?  What have we allowed ourselves to embrace?  If the voice of reason, grace, and kindness doesn’t arise from people of faith, from whence shall it come?  There are choices to be made, conscious, deliberate, culture-altering choices.  Embrace kindness.  Pursue kindness.  Demonstrate kindness.