Thursday, April 08, 2021

Moving From Unkindness to Kindness

(Foggy morning, Monroe, Munson Park)

There is a lot of unkindness on social media. People who are unkind are far from Jesus. Unkind people do not represent Jesus.

An unkind person is a branch, disconnected from Jesus, the Vine.

Followers of Jesus have no excuse for being disconnected.

"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else."

1 Thessalonians 5:15

How kind am I? How kind have I been? In general, I think the further I go back in my life the less kind I have been. 

Linda and I are kind to each other. When I've been unkind, I've always asked her to forgive me. She's that way towards me, too. We confess, forgive, and move on. We love being kind to one another!

The further back I go in my life, my "kindness circle" shrinks. I tended to be kind to those who were kind to me. As Jesus said, anyone can do that.

Sadly, I used to privately, and sometimes publicly, make fun of other people. I mocked people. I stood on my self-righteous perch and judged people. I have spoken negatively about people I don't even know! This is unkind.

Unkindness pays back wrong for wrong. You get wronged; you wrong the other person. Tit-for-tat; an eye for an eye. Unkindness breeds unkindness, which breeds more unkindness, and so on ad infinitum

Unkindness is spiritual cancer. Unkindness is... antichrist-like.

In 1 Thessalonians Paul addresses Jesus-followers. N.T. Wright comments: 

"Each Christian, and each Christian group or family, has the responsibility to look out for the needs of the others, to give comfort, warning, strengthening and example whenever necessary. It isn't enough to avoid trouble and hope for the best. One must actively go after ("pursue") what will be good for other Christians, and indeed for everybody." (Wright, Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, 132)

The kindness circle extends to all who claim the name of Jesus for themselves. If this were followed, churches everywhere would be revitalized. But the real concern here is: me.
Years ago, in an interview, I was asked, "What is the #1 problem you see in your community?" I answered: "It's me." I was serious! If I change, our community will be better and stronger. The old hymn does not sing "Change their hearts, O God..." Nor does it sing "It's them, it's them, it's them O Lord, standin' in the need of prayer."

I need to be kinder.

Does the kindness circle extend even to our enemies? Of course, because it includes you and me. 

·                You and I were once Christ's enemies. (Romans 5:10)
·                God's kindness to us led us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
·                Christ is being formed in us. (Galatians 4:19)
·                As fruit-bearing people attached to Jesus the Vine, we exude kindness. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Being kind to others is not equivalent to agreeing with others. Christ included us in his kindness circle, and we were his enemies. Enough said!

The kindness circle extends to those in your own home. If we don't show kindness to those in our own home, our marketplace-kindness is fraudulent. The person who is unkind to their family members while opening doors for strangers is a fake. Linda and I have talked about this. I don't want to treat others with kindness, and not be so towards her. That would be hypocritical.

How can I grow in kindness? This happens as I abide in Jesus, the Vine, now.

Then, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of kindness within me.

I slowly transform into someone who walks in kindness towards all. That's how wide and deep and long and high God's kindness circle extends.

(Further, kindness has power to heal. See former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection In a Sometimes Lonely World.)