When Kindness Gets Replaced
There's a decided lack of kindness in our society today.
I don't want to say it doesn't exist because it does. There are warm and beautiful moments when people act beyond their own self-interests for the sake of others.
We can find them if we are looking for them. And we often experience it ourselves.
But in general, kindness has taken a backseat to outrage, suspicion, fear, and pure hatred in some cases.
As you might imagine, social media has played a huge role in this. In our current culture, it's far too common for some to use social media to bully, ridicule, and cancel other people than it is to show them kindness and grace.
The political landscape has become absolutely toxic, often serving as the worst example of what has become acceptable regarding how we disagree with one another.
Sadly, far too many people in our society claim to be Christian, attend church regularly, and spend an inordinate amount of time ridiculing and denigrating people who believe differently than they do.
I've been on the receiving end of some of that vitriol, so I know how it feels.
I also know how easy it is to lose any sense of kindness toward those who choose to do these kinds of things. And then, before I know it, I'm becoming just like them.
You see, the hardest part of the journey of following Jesus is actually following Jesus. It's hard to do as Jesus would have done. It's nigh impossible to love like Jesus loved.
And siblings, it's hard to be kind sometimes, especially when we're being belittled or treated unkindly.
So, instead of living like Jesus, acting with justice, mercy, and kindness in the world, we generally find something a bit easier to do that makes us feel good about ourselves without having to change.
Fr. Richard Rohr once wrote:
Religious group identity becomes its most common replacement. Then we don’t have to find and live from a positive and loving place. We can just go to church.
So many of us who claim to be Christian use this religious group identity as an identifier, even though we may live in opposition to the ideals that Jesus set forth for his followers.
A long time ago, one of the fundamentalist Baptist preachers from my youth said something to the effect, "Some of you come to pray to Jesus one day a week and then live like the devil the other six days."
I hate to admit it, but there's some truth in that noxious quip.
If our Christian faith has not transformed us so that kindness is our default reaction to whatever and whoever we encounter in the world, we're missing the point.
The world needs kindness in it, now more than ever, and you and I can help spread it if we are willing.
Rather than just going to church to feel better about ourselves for a couple of hours a week, perhaps we can learn what it means to be the Church day in and day out.
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't gather for worship with our community; it just means that we carry whatever we're experiencing on Sundays out into the world beyond the walls of our sanctuaries.
Find a way to show kindness to the people you encounter today. Be the Church of Jesus Christ to them. Show them that kindness still exists in the world and that grace and mercy aren't hard to find if you long for it.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, now and forever. Amen.