Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation.
Kindness is a pretty clear concept... so why do we continue to be so ineffective in it? I have a theory. We're less interested in being kind, than we are in looking good. Many people in Christendom have bought into the idea that if “I'm a good person, then Jesus will love and accept me,” even though the Bible clearly teaches that this is not the case:
The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!
I've never understood the concept about how “goodness” leads to conversion. “If I act like a good person, then I am a Christian,” is totally false doctrine. The Bible clearly says that we must believe in Christ, confess that he is Lord of our lives, repent of our sins, get baptized, symbolizing the death to our sin and our new life in Jesus, and walk in His footsteps every day. That is conversion, and if you have followed that, then the Bible says you can call yourself a Christian.
But there is a problem. You see, while most Christians to agree on the fact that being “good” cannot save you, we fall into a pretty awful trap: “Well, if I just act like a good person, then people will realize I am a Christian, and they will wonder what it is about me that makes me different, and then they will discover I am a Christian, and then they will want to become a Christian too.” Does anyone know of even one person who was brought to Christ in this manner? Even Jesus had to explain who He was... why should we feel that our lives are worthy of showing Christ's love any better than His own?
To truly be good, and to truly exemplify this concept, we need to first admit that we could not be good without Jesus, and accept his gift of salvation. Once we call ourselves Christians, we go into the mode of show-and-tell. In no way am I saying that trying to be a “good person” is a bad thing... it's just ineffective to leading other people to Christ.
For instance, if you just randomly decide to pay for someone's meal at a restaurant, but do not tell them why, they'll probably think, “Wow, that was really nice of that person,” but I doubt they'll leap to, “They're probably a Christian, so I should become a Christian too.” If you do good, tell people why you're doing it! Teach people that God loves you, and because He loves you and has commanded you to love others, you're doing that to show them that God loves THEM as well.
Every conversion in the Bible has some aspect of “show-and-tell.” Even the apostles, who could whip out some pretty cool stunts in order to “show” people the power of Christ, made sure to explain that it was through faith in Jesus that they were able to perform all their miracles.
So this week, as you try to do good, remember to take it the whole way. Don't just tell, and don't just show, but make sure that both are working together for the good of the kingdom.
I remarked right at the beginning of my sermon this Sunday that I didn't want to waste a lot of time talking about the concept of "Kindness" because there is nothing to explain. Kindness happens, and when it does, we know it immediately. It has varying degrees and levels, but in the end kindness is kindness.
Although I'm only 22 years old, I've lived long enough to figure out a few things about kindness. For one, as much as it is clearly evident when it happens, kindness doesn't seem to happen enough. Two, kindness appeals to a huge demographic of people. Three, when Christians aren't kind, the world is quick to point out that we're being hypocritical... and they would be correct:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
Now, I need to confess that I don't always feel like shining like a star, especially when it comes to being kind to those who make me angry, but that's not what Paul seemed to have in mind. I've always respected Paul, because I always figure that no matter how bad I perceived my life to be at the time, Paul had it worse-- so when Paul tells me that I should treat people with kindness and respect, I should probably listen... but at least it's somewhat sneakily “righteously vengeful.” :-P
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
I'll be completely honest and say that I feel uncomfortable in reading that. I know I need to get better, but I also had an recent experience where I got to live this out, and what a phenomenal experience it was (listen to this week's sermon on Kindness for more info). Reacting to those who angered and upset me in a loving and kind way was a very liberating experience, and one that I know God smiled on. It's a start, and it's something I need to improve. It's what the church needs to improve as well.
When it comes right down to it, I have to ask myself, who would I rather have as a face of modern Christianity: Mother Teresa or Terry “Koran-burning” Jones?
This spiritual battle is changing. For proof, I submit the following video to you. It comes from a Skeptics conference, and the speaker in this clip, Dr. Phil Plait, is a self-professed atheist, and a very entertaining blogger over at “Bad Astronomy.” Someone in the atheist community has discovered what Paul knew 2000 years ago... people don't respond well to yelling, nor do they respond well to being called an idiot. Now, the video has some language that probably wouldn't be considered kosher for this blog, but it's pretty astounding just how amazingly similar his rhetoric sounds in comparison with my own.
For hundreds of years, Christians have relied on the fact that the message would get passed on, no matter the delivery. But until we actually SHOW Jesus' love FIRST, we won't have an audience to tell SECOND. Now the atheist community has started to change their delivery, and their tone. They will have an audience, and though I feel our message is superior, we need to figure out a way to pass that message along in a way that people will want to listen and respond. Chew on that, and I'll have a follow-up on this next Wednesday in relation with this week's coming sermon on "Goodness."
Please feel free to post comments and questions in the comments section. Also, I suppose that I should put a disclaimer that I do not agree with much that Dr. Phil Plait has to say about God, or Christianity in general, but this blog post is not meant to debate his a-theology, and I don't want the comments section to devolve into a scientific debate... thanks in advance.