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Be Ye Kind

As some of you know, Laura and I are just back from a trip to see friends and family. It was a nice respite from–well–our ongoing enforced respite! Needless to say, you meet nice people everywhere, but there is just something special about Texas. On our 12-hour, 775-mile drive home, we passed through four states, but once we passed into Texas, we were re-introduced to that special way Texans live out the gift of kindness.

We had just pulled into a 7-Eleven (with gloves and masks!) as a rather bulky, tattooed, leather-laden biker came rumbling up next to us. He beat me to the door and opened it for my wife with the words, “ Let me get that for you, ma’am.” On her way out, another gent beat her to the door with, “ Let me hold that for you, ma’am .” Laura got in the car and said, “ Manners really do matter.” Then she paused and said, “I just love Texas. Kindness really matters.”

Now again, you can find nice people everywhere. I have lived in six different states. I have found nice people everywhere, but you know, there’s no mistaking that there is a lot to be said for manners... for niceness... for kindness—what Paul called a “fruit” of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22)

I suppose there have been many times in human history when the world could have used a little more kindness. Let us add 2020 to that list. I do not think I need to make much of a case for that. We, all of us, need this “fruit” to infuse our world, our nation, our states and cities, andif we are honestour homes. I confess to you during our “stay at home” season, I have not always been kind. As an extrovert, there are days I have found these days since mid-March to be very difficult. As I told one parishioner recently, the months have been a bit like sandpaper to my personality. There have been moments when I overreacted, lost my temper or just, well, have not been kind. Not a lot of them, but enough of them, if you get my drift.

You know, sometimes we, even we Christians, need to be reminded to be kind. Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, “ Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you... Be imitators of God.” (Ephesians 4:32-5:1) That seems like a tall order, but it was written to Christians, not to non-believers, but to followers of Jesus Christ. For whatever reason, they had prompted the good Apostle to offer that counsel.

I wonder if that speaks to you at all? These are strange, tough, difficult, weird, hard days. There are a lot of uncertainties whispering to us minute by minute. There are plenty of opportunities to turn in on ourselves, to turn on one another, and while that does not excuse unkind behavior, it does make it a bit more understandable. However, you and I follow Jesus, and Jesus’ followers have an opportunity in days like these—an opportunity to be kind.

Henry Drummond was a Scottish evangelist, biologist, writer and lecturer—and a follower of Jesus. He died in 1897, but one of his memorable quotes was, “ The greatest thing a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children .” Let that sink in for a moment.

I don’t know how many of you listened into Rev. Chad Martin’s sermon last month, but I love his reminder that too many of us think our job is to make a big, sweeping difference in the world around us. He said we are tempted to fall into the old adage that when it comes to making such a difference, we should “go big or go home.” Yet no, as his sermon pointed out, there is much to be said for the small, unnoticed gestures of loving kindness: a gentle word spoken, a door held open, a phone call or note, picking up the tab for the people at the table next to you, or allowing the person in traffic or at the grocery to go before you (even if it is your right to go first!).

So you know, my dear Laura was right. Kindness really matters. It is a fruit of the Spirit. At times it may be hard, but the call is still upon us. So ask for God’s help; ask Him to help you be kind. Follow the thoughtful counsel of Mother Teresa, “ Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” Don’t be tempted to go big. Instead, to borrow the words from the King James Version, just “ Be ye kind .” That alone is enough. It could make all the difference in the world.

Lord Jesus,
forgive my selfish ways,
any harshness of thought, or look or word....
cleanse me and renew me and fill me.
Oh Lord fill me, with your life-giving Spirit of Love,
that I may, by Your power, be kind to all You send my way.

The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
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