“Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
In his book “Love Kindness,” Barry Corey shares a meditation on his father’s death from cancer. He remembers his father’s strength in the face of cruel side effects, horrible pain, and radiation treatments. He shares how his father honored those who came to visit him or provide medical care in the hospital. As he reflects on that difficult time, he writes, “What I recall is not his courage in death. It is his kindness in life.”
Corey’s reflection on his father’s kindness in life led to his writing of an entire book on kindness. Typically, we might think of kindness as meriting a single chapter in a book on the fruit of the Spirit. Kindness is, after all, one of the nine fruits of the Spirit that Paul enumerates in Galatians 5:22-23. But we might be tempted to view kindness as the kid brother of love and peace, a secondary attribute to work on if we can “get around to it.” Corey argues that kindness has too often been missing from our Christian public discourse. Worried about being too soft on sin, we’ve ranted before we’ve related, we’ve led with harshness before showing kindness, we’ve put up our dukes before offering up an olive branch. Thinking that kindness is weak and pathetic, we’ve forgotten its power.
The way of kindness treats those with whom we disagree with charity and civility. But make no mistake. Kindness is not the same as niceness. As Corey describes it, niceness is pleasant but lacks conviction. Niceness wanders aimlessly, blown about by every wind. Niceness falls for anything because it stands for nothing. Kindness, on the other hand, embodies courage coupled with consideration. Kindness is not timidity. Kindness is the way of soft edges and firm centers. God’s kindness is what leads people to repentance.
We dare not sell kindness short. Kindness is not weakness and may often require more strength to express than anger. Kindness is, according to Corey, the higher ground that “helps us find middle ground and common ground.” Kindness is speaking the truth in love. Kindness is the Word who became flesh and was “full of grace and truth.” Loving kindness works in partnership with “doing justice” according to Micah 6:8.
Unlike the barbed-wire wrapped Christian, who picks fights and alienates others at every turn, Christians who practice kindness have far more power to influence others while still holding to their convictions. Rather than spewing mean-spirited venom, kindness gains a hearing by practicing respect, mercy, and reverence for God. Our challenge, then, is to live from a Jesus-centered place that leads to a life of kindness. May God bless us as we seek to live from the wealth of our convictions in ways that build bridges and nurture relationships.