A long time ago – more than ten years ago, less than thirty – I ended up behind a car at a traffic light with a bumper sticker that read “Are you kind?”
I wasn’t sure.
I suppose I had never really thought about it before.
After that, I did.
Some time later, I ended up on the Session of my church. Our then-pastor, as part of the officer training that year, wanted us to think more deeply about one of the ordination questions: “Will you serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?” He asked each of us to think about which of those would be the biggest challenge for us. Then, he pointed out a corner of the room for each word, and asked us to go stand in the appropriate corner.
Possibly having more honesty than good sense, I went and stood in the “love” corner.
“Wow,” said our then-pastor, “I’m just surprised you would admit that.”
Everybody knows Christians are supposed to love everybody.
This was the same pastor who once preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 and said something to the effect of: “Think about it – who does this actually describe? Not us. And we don’t get to be this way by trying to use our willpower to try and act patient, try and act kind, try not to act envious or arrogant or boastful or rude. This kind of love is God’s love, and if we are ever going to be anything like this, we are going to need to rely on God for it. This kind of love comes from God.”
On the other hand, we can make choices. In the direction of patience, kindness, non-rudeness. Small choices, at least; easy ones. In practice they may not be that easy, actually, but they are not exactly heroic.
Like the choice to forego the first, meanest, snarkiest thing that comes to mind in response to a stupid question. And just say something boring instead.
Or the choice not to say exactly what we think of someone behind their back.
Or the choice not to interrupt the other person.
And when we make those choices, we do get help. It does get easier.
Even to ask “What can I do to help?”
So now I think, “Maybe. Sometimes.” I hope.
And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”Luke 13:20-21
Image: Anders Zorn, “Brödbaket,” public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.