Pelham Road Baptist Church | Greenville, SC

Now is the time to be Kind

By John Roy

 

What must a person do to be considered an athlete? What must a person do to be considered an American?

Well, let’s start with the way I put the question. I intentionally included the word DO. As opposed to feel or believe. I’ll explain.

To be an athlete do you need to be competitive? Fit? On a team? Is a golfer athletic? A bowler? A dancer? A person who is proficient in a physical activity is usually considered an athlete. Yet proficient is sort of a sliding scale, proficient for the sport, or for your age, or for your competition? Let’s say an athlete is someone who does physical activity at the highest level possible for their circumstances. Of course, what is “done” is different from one person to the next. The football player blocks and runs, the golfer turns their hips and keeps their head down. Yet an athlete is one who does these fundamentals of whatever their game is.

An American is that someone born here? Someone who believes in Democracy? Textbook wise an American is a citizen of the United States. Yet this is a bit understated. There are people from our country aligning themselves with ISIS. Maybe an American would be better defined as a citizen whose allegiance and citizenship is with the United States. So it’s not about wearing an American Flag pin, or believing the constitution, it’s where your allegiance lies. Of course, such an allegiance is liable to produce saying the pledge, singing the national anthem loud, or flying a flag on the fourth of July. The above are not all we should do or might do, but they are the basics.

What are the fundamentals or basics of Christianity? Well, there are many who have listed these basics. The only problem about this is that it is always about BELIEVING. It concentrates on what a Christian should believe—to them these are the fundamentals.

Yet as we have seen from the opening illustrations, an athlete is not someone who believes physical activity is productive (many people believe and know it is but they stay on the sofa). An athlete is someone who does. Likewise, an American is not someone who believes all people are created equal, they actually ACT like all people are created equal.

Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of Heaven but those who DO the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21).

Of course, one could argue that no one does anything without first believing it. This much I concede—–if there are indeed actions which follow the belief.

So what are the fundamentals Christians DO?

Our point of emphasis this year is “Be Kind.” It might be a stretch to say that all kind people are Christians but it should be true that all Christians are kind. Kindness would be on this list of fundamentals. If we cannot treat others with kindness then it might be hard to prove Jesus found his way into our hearts.

 

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires Galatians 5:23-24.

You may remember a well-known rabbinical saying attributed to Hillel the Elder“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

The line has been used in a variety of novels and movies.  In most cases the plot of the story involves a group of people who are in need of rallying to overcome a difficulty. If not now . . . when.

I suspect today many groups could use this as a rallying cry to advance their concern or issue. I bring it up—-because NOW is the time for kindness, if not now, when would be a good time? When I first announced this idea in the fall a few people jokingly said, “why now, it’s an election year.” I understood perfectly what they were saying. So is now a bad time to practice KINDNESS? One of the most redeeming traits of kindness is it does NOT require me to change my opinion or even keep my opinion to myself, it demands that I say and do whatever with the utmost KINDNESS and HUMILITY, always speaking gently and never looking to insult or belittle.

We have two great temptations as I see it when it comes to kindness and our words. The first is to have disregard for others (our children, our spouse, our co-workers, etc.) and do what we like and say what we will and label everyone else as “too sensitive.” The second is to say or do nothing because we are too afraid. Neither of these positions is Christian, healthy, or necessary.

Kindness is an  effort to aid or help. We are not being kind to our children by allowing them to treat us or others with disrespect. It is the kind thing to address this problem, of course, we could do it in an unkind way but hopefully not.

Employees need guidance it has to be done and can be with kindness.

Children need guidance, it has to be done and can be with kindness.

Difficult conversations can take place and be done with kindness.

As we consider kindness don’t make the mistake of thinking it is always about making a cake or taking someone to lunch—it can be, but it can also be about saying something that needs to be said or NOT saying something that is unnecessary.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:23-24).

It troubles me that being unkind has become a sport in our times. The story I am about to tell is the story of Lindy West. I first heard it on an American Life on NPR. The set up for her story stated the obvious that there are almost always two opinions, if not more. We have become a society of opposition and resistance this has become natural for us. Yet until recently we had AGREED that while we may not always be NICE we would at least not be VILE. But sadly this is changing. Furthermore, maybe even oddly, by changing the tone, we have buried the more importance differences, the concerns that really need to be addressed.

Lindy is a writer and humorist and doing it on the internet is not safe.  What follows are her own words, “For the past three years or so, at least, one stranger has sought me out pretty much every day to call me fat (or some pithy variation thereof). I’m a writer and a woman . . . and I write about things that make people uncomfortable. And because I choose to do that as a career, I’m told, a constant barrage of abuse is just part of my job.

Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism.

Sometimes the hate trickles in slowly, just one or two messages a day. But other times, when I’ve written something particularly controversial like, say, my critique of men feeling entitled to women’s time and attention, or literally anything about rape – the harassment comes in a deluge. It floods my Twitter feed, my Facebook page, my email, so fast that I can’t even keep up (not that I want to).

It was in the middle of one of these deluges two summers ago when my dead father contacted me on Twitter.

At the time, I’d been writing a lot about the problem of misogyny [hatred of women] (specifically jokes about rape) in the comedy world. My central point – which has been gleefully misconstrued as “pro-censorship” ever since – was that what we say affects the world we live in, that words are both a reflection of and a catalyst for the way our society operates. When you talk about rape, I said, you get to decide where you aim: are you making fun of rapists? Or their victims? Are you making the world better? Or worse? It’s not about censorship, it’s not about obligation, it’s not about forcibly limiting anyone’s speech – it’s about choice.

The backlash from comedy fans was immediate and intense: ‘That broad doesn’t have to worry about rape.’ It went on and on, to the point that it was almost white noise. After a week or so, I was feeling weather-beaten but fortified. Nothing could touch me anymore.

But then there was my dad’s dear face twinkling out at me from my Twitter feed. Someone – bored, apparently, with the usual angles of harassment – had made a fake Twitter account purporting to be my dead dad, featuring a stolen, beloved photo of him, for no reason other than to hurt me. The name on the account was “PawWestDonezo”, because my father’s name was Paul West, and a difficult battle with prostate cancer had rendered him “donezo” (goofy slang for “done”) just 18 months earlier. “Embarrassed father of an idiot,” the bio read. “Other two kids are fine, though.” His location was “Dirt hole in Seattle”.

My dad was special. The only thing he valued more than wit was kindness. He was a writer and an ad man and a magnificent baritone (he could write you a jingle and record it on the same day) I loved him so, so much.

There’s a term for this brand of online cruelty: we call it internet trolling. Trolling is recreational abuse – usually anonymous – intended to waste the subject’s time or get a rise out of them or frustrate or frighten them into silence.

And even “innocuous” harassment, when it’s coming at you en masse from hundreds or even thousands of users a day, stops feeling innocuous very quickly. It’s a silencing tactic. The message is: you are outnumbered. The message is: we’ll stop when you’re gone.

Sitting at my computer, staring at PawWestDonezo, I had precious few options. ”

As far as I know not one of us writes regularly on the internet. Nor am I aware that anyone in this room is a troll, harassing others online. So I brought this story to you with a lot of hesitations.  I believe this story is a symbol. It stands for something. It is one story of ten thousand stories of bullies, haters, whiners, and intimidators whose only contribution is vile actions and words. This group that contributes nothing but says much, who have traded kind actions and civil discourse for thoughtless words and mean actions is growing. So if now is not the time for kindness to rise to its feet and be championed by the spiritual minority then tell me when would be a good time?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:23-24).

There is a war on Christian values and one of these assaults in on kindness. I suspect people consider it a weakness to not help another, forgive another, say nothing hurtful, or refuse to be a hater. The calling before is a challenging one.

First we need to be mindful of what we are doing and saying in front of our children. It is not enough to raise them to respect all people and to be kind, we must also model this behavior.

Second we need to confront the purposeless meanness when we see it. If you see someone bullying another at school, find a way to support the person being bullied. If someone you know is being treated unkind then stand in solidarity with this person in an effort to de-escalate the issue.

Finally, let’s stop pretending that Christians can be unkind. Christians stumble and fall daily, we are not a perfect people. But when you see someone who in God’s name is being unkind—in word or deed, to others, let’s not make them our role model or believe for one moment that they speak or act for the divine—

“Whoever does not love does not know God”(I john 4:8), if a person cannot love it is highly unlikely that they can act kind with any regularity.

If not now—when. We are being flooded by hate, unkindness, and meanness. The water is rising and if we don’t do something now, when will we do something