The Loss of Kindness
Galatians 5:22-23, I Corinthians 13:4, Luke 10:25-37
First Baptist Church Laurens
July 2, 2017
Just a few weeks ago, on Wednesday, June 14th, 66 year old James Hodgkinson, carried out a plan he had been thinking through for weeks. While members of the Republican Party were practicing for a charity baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, Hodgkinson opened fire on the Congressmen with the intent to hurt and to kill. Why? Amazingly, his behavior was due to the fact that he didn’t agree with their views and thus he deemed them worthy of destruction.
In our modern world, Hodgkinson could have just as easily been a Republican firing on Democrats, a Christian firing on Jewish people or a former employee firing on a former boss. Today, when we don’t like or care for others, we want them to know it in tangible, real and often destructive ways.
Granted, Hodgkinson’s behavior is an extreme case. And yet, his actions are the product of this world that has been cultivated in which those with whom we disagree, have differences of opinion or who are unlike us, are only worthy of our anger, our disdain and our disregard.
Galatians has reminded us so far, however, that the Fruit of the Spirit – these behaviors that develop out of our belief in God and our devotion to the leadership of his Holy Spirit in our lives – are love, joy, peace and patience. This morning we add to the list kindness.
Kindness. It is a fruit that our world needs desperately. It needs it from every citizen of this planet but first and foremost it needs it from you and from me as people of faith. Further, the world needs kindness on display in our lives not only as it relates to the people we like, respect or who are like us. But, the world needs kindness even more from us as it relates to the people whom we dislike, struggle to respect and who are very much unlike us. If we could model kindness for the rest of the world in these sorts of situations and relationships it would be a tremendous gift at this time, in this day and for this age.
In the book, The Seven Deadly Virtues by Todd Outcalt, a story is told by the author born from his own life experience. For a period of time Outcalt worked with young adults who were the parents of infants that they were struggling to care for adequately. Over time, his frustrations grew as the same old stories were repeated with each new client. They had made bad financial decisions. They had had a child without even thinking about the responsibility or how it would impact their lives. Or, they possessed a flippant attitude about the child and thus about their little boy or little girl’s well being.
Eventually, he admitted that he had become so calloused that he just lumped all of his clients together in one big lot. As each new client came along, before even learning their name or anything about them or their situation, his immediate response was frustration, judgement and an attitude of looking down his nose at them. He showed no love, he showed no grace, he had no kindness. In his eyes, they had become, as a group, unworthy of anything but his disregard. (The Seven Deadly Virtues, IVP, p. 42-43).
This week while our children were at Passport, kindness was one of our big themes as you have already heard. One of their focal passages for the week was the story of The Good Samaritan. What struck me as I heard that story yet gain was that not only was the Samaritan kind, but, he led with kindness as he interacted with a man who was apparently his polar opposite. Jews and Samaritans did not get along. They had different thoughts about God, different beliefs about how to worship and different ideas about where to worship. In turn, they often showed their disregard for each other by finding ways to be hateful. But not this Samaritan. He believed that his first response was simply to be kind no matter who the stranger in the road happened to be. His first response was one of kindness. In so doing, his story has become as universally connected with love, mercy and care-giving as any story the world has ever known.
The Civil War came to a close in April of 1865 when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in the parlor of McLean House in Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. The two enemies, when they met early that afternoon, are said to have spent the first 25 minutes or so simply talking and remembering the past as they had once been fellow soldiers fighting on the same side.
When they did finally get down to terms, Grant allowed generosity and kindness to be his guide. All Confederate officers and enlisted men were pardoned. Confederate officers were allowed to keep their side arms. While the Confederates had to turn over their other weaponry and military supplies, they were allowed to keep their horses as Grant understood they would need them to travel home and to do their spring planting. Likewise, Lee and his officers were allowed to freely ride into the meeting at Appomattox and to freely ride out with dignity and respect.
After put on his glasses and quietly reading Grant’s terms, Lee is said to have looked up and said to his nemesis that his kindness on that day would go a long way toward healing the wounds that had opened up in the country over the previous four years. Grant and Lee are also said to have continued a mutual respect for each other for the rest of their lives and that moment at Appomattox Courthouse has gone down in history under the name “The Gentlemen’s Agreement”.
(“The Meeting Between Lee and Grant”, NPS.org)
It is one thing to be kind to our friends. But, the world is changed when we are even kind through the Fruit of the Spirit, to our