[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
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.
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.
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”.