Hold on to your Kindness

Open Table

 

I spent most of June, July and August writing this blog post. What began this summer as a heated discussion leading to my child-like blow up (see past blog post) and a great conversation with a friend, sparked an interest in writing a blog with the message,

“We must be able to use our voice to challenge our leaders to be more compassionate, more loving, and to work for justice for the poor and oppressed AND do so in a way that welcomes them to join us at the communion table.”

Whew! I said it. Proclaim Your Truth with Kindness. My decision to sit down and write this blog took a long journey to me hitting PUBLISH because I wanted to make sure that I was not writing in reaction, writing to annoy certain individuals, or writing for self-promotion. So, I let the writing marinate. I prayed that if I was being guided to write this blog, then my heart would continue to be stirred. I would also listen to the wisdom behind letting go of an idea that would in the end not be helpful and could possibly be hurtful. I hope the big picture message is clear. I am aware that this blog post is not perfect (sometimes assuming too much and not exhaustive enough for some) and that we have much work to do on how this all happens.
My thoughts came as a reflection on how different people in my life including minister friends are voicing concerns about our current President. I have some people in my life who are trying to stir up controversy wanting a reaction from the other side. I have other people in my life who are terrified to talk about who they voted for and why they voted for their chosen candidate. I know ministers who are spouting hatred for those who voted a certain way and I know people in the pews who hear everything their minister says as a slap in their face.
During my first year in seminary at Baylor University, I met a colleague who struggled with the idea that seminary would turn his passion for Jesus into a cold and callous intellectual activity. He and I went to the same church so I could hear the message beneath his words. He would show up to our Intro to Theology class and share some important insights but with such venom that people could not receive his message. One day after class when I he was sitting alone frustrated, I walked over to him and sat down. I looked at him and said, “We all need to hear the message that you are trying to share. The tone of your voice and the anger in your heart is the only thing being received right now. Maybe opening yourself to love the people and this place while you are here would help us receive your message.” Several months later, I saw him laughing with a group of guys who I never would have pictured him befriending. His face was softer and his spirit lifted. His message was the same but the orientation of his heart changed. I spoke truth to which he could have taken offense and hardened his heart, but it seems as if he was open to receive my gesture of kindness.

First, I want to look at passages that call us to proclaim our message in our churches, cities, and to our leaders:

Deuteronomy 8: 11-17 God tells the people to remember how to treat others once they are in the promised land. God gave them everything they have so go and give liberally and without condition as God gave to you. Living in God’s Kingdom means that every 7 years and on the 50th year all debts are to be forgiven, slaves set free, property returned to original owners, and the land given rest from production. Jesus meant this way of life to be for his followers when he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and he made it simpler for us by saying, “Love God, love yourself and love your neighbor.” By his actions, we know that he defined “neighbor” broadly.
Isaiah 61:1-3 Jesus proclaimed this as his message. He was not spiritualizing the words of Isaiah but actually wanted to free the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, release the prisoners, and proclaim the Day of YHWH which is the 50 year celebration where all debts are proclaimed paid, slaves set free, property returned to the original owners, and the land given a rest from productivity …The Kingdom on God on earth as it is in heaven.
Jeremiah 7:1-7 Jeremiah is called to go to the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim that God will dwell in this place with you if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, the widow, do not shed innocent blood and go after other gods.
Jeremiah 11—Then Jeremiah is called to go proclaim the message in the cities and out on the streets. Obey God! Our God acts with steadfast love, justice and righteousness. We are called to act in this way to all of creation. Later Jeremiah shares the message directly with King Zedekiah.
Ezekiel had messages for 7 different nations. Ezekiel 25-32
Hosea lived his message during a time of national crisis. He was unrelenting in his critique of political and religious institutions AND he offered hope.
Jonah does not want to go and deliver God’s message to a people he finds unworthy and finds himself in the belly of a whale.
In his vision reports, Zechariah says to the people and priests (7:9-10), “Thus says the Lord of Hosts: render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in our hearts against one another.”

The prophets remind us that God calls us to use our voice when we see injustice happening. We use our voice to draw attention to rules, rituals and beliefs of religious leaders and political leaders that do not work for the benefit of all. Now, let’s look at one of the fruits of the spirit: Kindness.
In my yoga classes this summer, I used the chapters in Meik Wikings book, The Little Book of Lykke, for my themes. The book offers us the secrets of the world’s happiest people. One of the secrets is Kindness. Of all the secrets listed in the book, Kindness wraps a blanket around and weaves its way connecting them all. Wikings found in his research as CEO of the Happiness research institute that our happiest countries are those where

“We’re telling people, ‘You are important—not because you’re rich, but because you are human.’ If people are treated as special, as sacred, even, they behave that way.”

He cites that humans are happier when we feel that our tax dollars serve the common good and that all people will be cared for in their time of need.
Now, let’s look at how we are to use our words with Kindness.

Micah 6:8 God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Galatians 5:22 By contrast the fruit of the spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Here is an article about the difference between Nice and Kind:
https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/why-kindness-is-not-the-same-as-being-nice.html

I appreciate this article because of how I felt when I read the definitions of Nice and Kindness (There are really cool articles on Huffington Post and other sites giving insight into the differences between the two words)!

Nice is extending pleasantries. Nice is agreeing with people when you are supposed to in conversation. Nice is a surface level, rule-oriented posture. One might say living the letter of the law vs the spirit of the law.
Kindness is the orientation of our heart towards another. Kindness extends care to everyone unconditionally, but does not have the need to save everyone from themselves. Kindness comes from a deep place within that knows who they are and what they stand for. Kindness may not be nice. Kindness may cause us to share a point of disagreement or call us to share painful truth. Kindness may break the rules of niceness leaving us better for the disruption.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Now we know why. We can’t see the orientation of someone’s heart, but we can all feel it. There is an energy, a quality that is not scientifically measurable but present.
Jesus entire ministry is marked with kindness. The orientation of his heart is towards people no matter their age, their gender, their place of worship, or their health. He promoted care for people over rules and rituals and beliefs. He spoke truth to the religious authorities and to those in power in a way that left the door open for following him. He was true to his message and spoke the message in a way that outsiders could understand and feel included.

Does your message offer truth in a way that the other person would feel welcomed at your table…your dinner table or your communion table? If not, how can you orient your heart towards the person you disagree with? If so, help us by sharing your thoughts!!!

A very kind man once laid out the charge for us when he said

“Go and do likewise.”

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