A credible life of kindness
I want to continue my discussion of what would capture the attention and respect of a watching world and help them want to hear what we have to say about our beliefs in Jesus. If building relationships is now one of our primary tasks as Christians, how can we back up this work by establishing a credible lifestyle of kindness?
It’s really a remarkable commentary on our times that kindness is a standout quality! And with as much antagonism many Christians are experiencing in our current time, it is understandable that many bristle, wanting to fight for what is true. But Jesus did not demonstrate any struggle combining both truth and kindness. Said another way, the opening of John’s gospel testified that “we have seen His glory… full of grace and truth.”
No one can dispute the increased violence in our society. Online arguments rage, ironically growing verbally violent in arguments about how to curb violence. What’s more elusive are the underlying causes. Whatever is sparking this fire, it’s undeniable that contention is the new social and political climate.
What is darker is that the underlying narratives for our society have little to offer in the way of solutions or motivations to stop the madness. A secular worldview can’t help but fuel cruelty! Whatever may be vague or inscrutable about an atheistic belief system, what is not foggy is that in a universe caused by one big accident, there is no way to attach meaning to the existence of one single person. The strong eat the weak with unblinking heartlessness.
Then add on top of a bread of pervasive secularism the depersonalizing spread of myriad technologies! How many times have you seen someone’s eyes locked on a screen while they ignored a person — a real live person right in front of them that possibly they love or potentially could be in need? Computer screens, tablet screens, phone screens, and games!
Technology is not inconsequential. Technology has changed the climate in our society by depersonalizing us.
And let’s consider one more aspect of this problem. Pride and fear are the inevitable fruit of idols, and these two culprits feed right into this culture of argument and disdain. Prideful (because I believe I have something or I have done something that makes me worthy and better), I look down on those with whom I disagree. Or fearful (because I believe I do not have something or have done what’s necessary makes me unworthy or worse). I feel threatened by those who look down on me. So while cruelty increases, while people lose their value generally, and while my internal compass is distorted by my idols (with pride or fear), what hope can we possibly have against this struggle? The mercy of God in Christ cuts totally across all of these tendencies.
Grace = being given what we do not deserve, and mercy = not being given the negative consequences that we do deserve. We are saved by God’s grace as He gives us, in Christ, what none of us deserve. And we are objects of His mercy as He has spared us the wrath, again only because of Jesus’ work as our Substitute, that we do deserve.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans, “In light of the mercies of God…” we are not conformed to this world but are transformed (Romans 12:1-2). This means that in light of how God has treated us, we are changed. So as Jesus has worked amazingly toward us, it starts to change how we respond to others — even people we have previously believed were unworthy. After all, WE were unworthy!
In a hymn, Martin Luther translated Psalm 130. And in its final verse, he wrote, “We live alone by mercy.” Without yielding on our commitment to what is true in Christ, with truth AND grace, what needs to change in your own interactions with people “in light of the mercies of God”? And if you regard yourself as a believer, remember also kindness is a fruit of His Spirit. It is not optional.