Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Counting on Kindness

[Add] to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1.7,8

Work Boots

About a week ago, my partner came in and announced he’d rented a movie called
The House Bunny. “You’re gonna hate it,” he said, “but it’s got that Anna Faris actress—the one who reminds us of Goldie Hawn—so I thought we’d give it a shot.” Final verdict: Faris, yes; Bunny, no. However, the screenwriters (two women, proving sexual objectification and condescension are not gender-based) did leave me with an unforgettable line. At one point, someone compliments Ms. Faris’s ditsy blonde for being so kind, and she says, “Oh, honey, kindness is just love in work boots.” I’ve not been able to shake that image: love in work boots.

In our survey of Paul’s list of the fruits of Spirit (Galatians 5.22), kindness falls between patience and goodness as a “winter fruit”—a less visually striking attribute that nonetheless is essential in its ability to sustain us through harsher times. From this perspective, kindness is like a sturdy pair of work boots. It allows us to wade through drifts of unpleasant conversation, slog through puddles of prejudice, and kick aside obstacles that adversaries raise to hinder our ability to express God’s love, joy, and peace.


The Linchpin

Just as Paul does in Galatians, Peter opens his second epistle with a list of qualities each believer should strive to embody. Many of them are the same, but the order is slightly different. Peter lists them as additive traits, one enabling another. He rounds things up with godliness—behavior and attitudes that reflect the nature of God—and ends with love. But he inserts kindness as the linchpin connecting godliness and love. “The more of these qualities you possess,” Peter writes, “the more effective and productive you’ll be in your knowledge of Christ.”


Kindness clears away clutter. It raises our minds and focus above pettiness and small-minded criticism. It deflects darts aimed at us by putting us on the offensive. Being kind to others outranks the importance of how kind others are to us. Counting on kindness inverts the equation. It’s not about us; it’s all about them and how we treat them.


Winter Warmth

That reversed flow of kindness for cruelty is easy in the summer, when love and joy and peace are ripe in our lives. It’s a little tougher in winter, when we may not have optimal conditions to grow love for those who falsely accuse us. But in these cold times, kindness can work wonders—for them and us. Kindness provides winter warmth. It knocks the chill out of situations. It brings light to quick-falling shadows and early dusks. It preserves us from injuries—frostbite and exposure to harmful elements. Kindness shouldn’t be underestimated or, worse yet, undervalued as less than love. It keeps us alive to love. It does the work of love before love reaches its fullness to work on its own.




Kindness: love in work boots.

Postscript: Kindness Rising

I’m thrilled to share a recent email I received from www.gaychurch.org, that proves kindness to GLBT believers and other ostracized Christians continues to rise. Thank God for His Spirit—and the willingness of more and more congregations to answer His call to love unconditionally and wholeheartedly!

Dear Fellow Members in Christ:

It is my pleasure to announce that the 2008 Welcoming Christian Church Survey Report is out! Comparing the numbers to the previous year it is clear that churches continue to open their doors to the gay and lesbian (GLBT) community at a rapid clip. Like the gay community itself, this is a movement crosses virtually all denominational and geographically based lines. At the close of 2008 the directory contained 5,301 Christian churches from thirty different countries, representing sixty-five different denominations. The United Church of Christ leads the way with over 865 churches followed by the Episcopalian churches, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches respectively.

To find out more including details as to where this growth is taking place by denomination and geographical location, along with a brief analysis as to where this movement may be headed next the report is a must read. The 2008 Welcoming Christian Church Survey Report along with the other yearly reports can be found in the section of the www.gaychurch.org titled “Welcoming Church Report”.

4 comments:

Mariah and Byron Edgington said...

We'll say "ACK" to each other when we see someone not being nice. Always Choose Kind. We believe it's not much harder to be kind, and the benefits are so much sweeter.

Tim said...

Mariah/Byron, how right you are: it's not much harder to be kind. Sometimes it's actually easier; sometimes we have to go out of our way to be cruel or insensitive to others. And the benefits are ALWAYS so much sweeter.

Thanks so much for your thoughts (and KINDNESS in sharing them!).

Blessings always,
Tim

kevin said...

R u crazy?? or what? I mean that in the kindest way. Being gay is a choice & is not observing anyone except ones selves wants. We need children to be born. We need to be a bit more "normal" in our life. Just my thought on the gay choice that some make. Love, Peace & Hair grease - Kevin

Tim said...

Welcome to Straight-Friendly, Kevin. We're honored and grateful to have you join our discussion. And I personally take your comment in the kindness with which it's intended.

As a newcomer, you may not realize that everyone who frequents S-F respects the beliefs and opinions of others. Therefore, we resist every impulse to debate issues that none of us is qualified to judge. We don't condemn nor do we conform. We accept. And we do this to maintain S-F as a safe place for people of every persuasion and orientation.

Thus, I accept your right to believe whatever you prefer, even though my personal experience as a gay man and God's Word leads me to believe otherwise. I didn't choose to be gay and since being gay significantly raises one's potential to experience discrimination, hostility, and isolation, it's hard for me to imagine why anyone would.

Furthermore, if same-sex affection were a choice, it's logical to assume its frequency would vary widely from culture to culture and era to era. In more tolerant places and times it would be more prominent; in more threatening ones, fewer would choose it. But we know this isn't the case. The gay-straight ratio has proven consistent across generations and around the world, which tells us it's not a choice. It's a fact of life.

So where does this leave us as believers? Well, if homosexuality isn't by choice, then it's no different than heterosexuality--an innate characteristic. And since we believe we are God's handiwork, we credit Him with choosing who's straight and who's gay. Surely none of us is so bold to charge Him with wrongdoing or error.

By faith, I accept my orientation is given by God to serve His purpose, in my life and in the world. It's a blessing, not a choice. And since He's honored me with this, it's my responsibility to honor Him with a life that pleases Him by doing what He created me to do, being who He created me to be. That's the choice each of us--straight or gay--must make; that's the choice that counts.

I empathize with your wish we'd be "a bit more 'normal' in life," Kevin. But it also concerns me. God neither created nor called us to be "normal." Our making and His mandate call for us to reflect His presence in the world. And because He loves every person He made without condition, we must do the same. Pushing conformity to manmade norms seriously muddles His reflection, because it promotes hatred and exclusion. We let Him judge; we earn His favor by obeying His commandments to love others as ourselves. That makes all of us "normal."

"Normal" behavior is what you want. Equal acceptance is what I want. But what God wants from both of us is all that matters.

Thank you for taking the time to comment so kindly. You're more than welcome to share your views here any time, provided they're meant to uplift and accept others who come here. In deference to them, I take full responsibility for the site's content and regretfully withhold any incendiary or condemning comments aimed at anyone. Call me crazy, but that's what seems best to do.

Blessings, my brother,
Tim

PS: I'll take the love and peace, but pass on the hair grease--too messy for an old goat like me!