Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit
How can we be more civil in an increasingly uncivil culture? Increasingly Dr. Barry Correy believes the antidote to all of the division and the scepticism, the anger and the polarisation is for Christians to lead the way for living in profound kindness. Micah 6:8 (NIV) says:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
We are called to in Micah 6:8 to love mercy but it literally means to love kindness. That means kindness is not a random act, it is a radical life. Dr Correy book “Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue” unpacks how revolutionary our lives can be in our families, in our neighbourhoods, our culture and in our politics if we live out this profound sense of kindness that the Scriptures call us to.
Why does kindness get lost?
Living in kindness requires living a life with a firm centre and soft edges rather than a firm centre and a hard edge says Dr Correy. He continues,
“Too often Christians have had a firm centre and a hard edge. We think if you have soft edges you have a spongy centre, that you don’t really have any firm convictions or beliefs. Since kindness is a fruit of the Spirit and not a gift, it’s not optional.”
Dr. Correy points to the Apostle Paul’s writing in Romans 2:4 which identifies how God brings redemption to creation. The scriptures say:
“God’s kindness leads to repentance.”
Paul says this after he speaks after all the words warning against judging. Sometimes we think it’s judgement that changes things so we are quick to be angry, quick to be angry, quick to be combative because we think kindness is too soft. But why asks Dr. Correy, should our approach be any different to God?
Becoming people that others can receive
Where it’s common to think that the opposite of kindness is meanness, Dr. Correy considers that it’s opposite is actually fear.
“Because of fear we put up barriers and those barriers become obstacles for building our relationships for those who may not see eye to eye with us. That is what Scriptures calls to do when it says to love kindness.”
While it may be easy to be kind when the barista makes your coffee right or in a loving and close-knit family, kindness is to be shown to all and is particularly needed when there is dissension or a strained relationship with your husband or your children.
Kindness and its importance for building bridges was modelled to Dr. Corey by his father who while growing up, would witness on a regular basis his father’s kindness towards strangers. It was only several years later during a conversation when Dr. Corey’s father came to visit him during a study abroad trip in rural Bangladesh that he understood his father’s heart behind his actions.
For Dr. Corey’s father, Jesus’ words in Matthew 10, offered a key teaching to reaching the world with the gospel through kindness. Just after Jesus speaks about following Him and carrying their cross, He says:
“Whoever receives you, receives Me. And whoever receives Me, receives the one who sent me.”
Matthew 10:40 (NLT)
The implications of Christ’s words are profound to how we live our daily lives. For Dr. Corey’s father, he read these words as a call to live kind and generous lives. Unless we make ourselves receivable through kindness to those who come across our path, how will those outside the faith ever receive the grace of God? How will they ever receive the love of Christ?
You may not be accepted with your kindness, you may be rejected. But kindness is never forgotten. The seeds of kindness that you plant, you may not see the results in this lifetime but if you lean into kindness even when it seems offensive to people, even when you are rejected, you may see the fruit in eternity.
Living authentically and its relationship to kindness
Dr. Corey also believes that kindness means you open yourself up to others through living authentically. You allow your imperfections to be exposed because that’s how you make yourself receivable. It is risky kindness, it’s radical, it’s hard, it’s countercultural. But in Paul’s word, you are the aroma of Christ, you need to smell like Jesus. It’s not your job to be received, it’s your job to be receivable. Dr Corey points out:
“There’s something about authenticity that the rising generation is looking for in leaders. They don’t want the buttoned up life they want the opened up life. When you have the buttoned up life that smells to them hypocrisy and hypocrisy is the poison of kindness.”
Generationally God puts these things in the heart of people. The younger generation by seeking authenticity in their leaders, is requiring a correction to years of a style of leadership prominent in church life that projected perfection rather than vulnerability. When you are authentic, you are admitting your own brokenness to others making it easier for people to relate to you and to be received.
Reclaiming the practice of hospitality
Another key to walking in kindness according to Dr. Correy is to reclaim the practice of hospitality. It is easy to invite people into our homes who are literally like us- same social, economic, family types, political party- that’s easy to do. But if the Kingdom of God is every tribe, tongue and nation gathering around the Great Supper, we need to open our homes so that those invited to our tables look different to us- ethically, culturally, politically and religiously. Dr. Correy finds comfort in how Jesus modelled for us hospitality:
“The cross was the most profound kind moment of history. We think of it as bloody and rugged. But that was where God’s grace took place for us. It was flagged by two meals- the last supper and then after that, Jesus cooking fish for breakfast for His disciples.”
Hospitality is key to healing and building bridges. This is where learning takes place, where we have conversations with those of differing perspectives and where we can see some level of reconciliation. Dr Correy says that instead of giving up dialogue for diatribe, we can follow in the footsteps of Jesus and associate with those who had a fundamentally different worldview to our own.
If we are not intentional about establishing these conversations we will never grow. We may get rejected, we may get our feelings hurt because someone may betray us, but that shouldn’t dissuade us from trying again. Demonstrating kindness through hospitality is the antidote to so much that is wrong with our culture today through its radical and powerful nature.
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About Dr. Barry Corey
Dr Barry Corey is the current president of Biola University, located in Southern California.
Barry is the former chief academic officer of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is a board member for several non-profit organizations. He and his wife, Paula, have three children and live in Fullerton, Calif. His latest book is Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue.