Kindness……

I know this is one of the aspects of fruit of the Spirit, and I agree that kindness is important.  I have even been praying for a more consistent expressing of kindness and gentleness in my life, neither of which I get regularly accused of having in any significant measure.  Sometime people have such a hard shell around them that kindness can’t even get through the suspicion and hurt out of which they operate.    Given the people with whom I interact most regularly, these are not the skills most generally called on for deployment. They may read kindness and gentleness as weakness and one thing I cannot afford to project working with addicts in early stage recovery is weakness.  Also, I have observed that too much of what passes for kindness is mere politeness or good manners and is couched in an artificial, insincere bubble that insulates individuals from strangers or bare-acquaintances. It is quite easily detected by many who have watched it pop explosively when those same people spend more time together and one crosses a “kind” person’s often arbitrary and undisclosed boundaries…(especially if whatever causes the popping sound involves money, politics, or religion!) .

That’s why I prefer to put my boundaries out there, be transparent and project as WYSIWYG as possible For the confused that would be “What you see is what you get.”  I am not reluctant to let my beliefs and values be known and I am not ashamed to stand for or against what I believe needs to be advanced or squashed. And I thank God for the other transparent WYSIWYGers out there among whom I know where I stand. I love you for that alone. We can disagree about most anything, fight until we talk it all the way through, chill and let it go after a while, and go on with respect for one another and agree that it doesn’t make either of us any less loved by God.  It is those who operate through denial, manipulation and avoidance that present the greatest challenge, not those who are straight- up and combative.

That said, I really love the Hebrew word that is often translated as “lovingkindness”…. or hesed…. Ligonier ministries notes: “… the best translation of this term would be “loyal love.” God loves His people genuinely, immutably, loyally. Both the love and the loyalty are tightly bound together. Loyal love that does not shame but shows compassion. Loyal love that looks beyond the immediate physical need to the deeper, more profound spiritual need to heal. Loyal love that stays at the table, even when there’s betrayal. Loyal love that keeps teaching even when eyes can’t see and ears can’t hear. Loyal love that trusts that denial thrice rendered can be thrice repented. Loyal love that knows that understanding will come with time, growth, and wisdom.

One can be kind capriciously, inconsistently, on and off, like a faucet. It can masquerade in a very superficial way, rooted in politeness and manners. But one cannot show lovingkindness capriciously; one cannot be loyal without love, especially the selfless, interest-of-the-other-directed agape love of God.  God is for His people, and will never cease to be for them.

Some people will be kind to those they love and one would hope they would be loyal, too, but they often won’t be if their love is selfish and self-serving, as much human love is.. They’ll be mannerly and polite even to those they don’t know, especially if someone is watching. The reason we have difficulty understanding God’s kindness, goodness, loyalty, and love is that it is so different from the superficial and capricious, inconsistent kind that is so common among people.

Our calling is to reflect God’s reality, not that of the world. Our loyalty and our love, and even our kindness, should be grounded in our loyal love toward God who loved us loyally first. Our loyal love and kindness ought to be toward both what it is we believe (the virtues, values, principles, promises, proclamations, and prohibitions), and toward those with whom we believe it, first and foremost….with enough left overflowing out of our Christ-nature to share it with all the world. If this is not the case, we’re just living the better part of the world’s masquerade in the moment for the approval of people, not the reality of God.

 

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