This year we had a large vine growing in our garden. It was a vine we did not plant. I wondered if it was a weed, but it looked familiar, and it didn’t strike me as a weed. So we let it grow, and as the weeks went by we watched as this plant took over that part of the garden. Soon we knew what it was by its fruit. A pumpkin!
What happened in our garden is a helpful reminder of what I’ve been writing about in this week’s posts on how Christians can respond to the 2020 election in the USA. If this is the first post you’re reading in the series, you can start at the first post here. One of the points I made is that we Christians must live out the truth that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, and together we form the body of Christ. But if you are like me, you might wonder how you know if the Spirit is in you. Think about the pumpkin in my garden, and Jesus’ parable of the fruit tree. He said, “By their fruits, you will know them.” Just as we eventually knew that the vine in our garden was a pumpkin, we can know if the Holy Spirit is living in us if we see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Remember the list of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5? Kindness is on that list. Kindness, then, will be flowing out of us because the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives.
In the same way, you can know if the Spirit is living with you maybe especially when you see kindness flowing out of you toward those with whom you disagree. When we consider how Christians should react to the election, it should be with kindness to all. But what is kindness?
My wife Michelle recently spoke at a youth group, discussing Micah 6:8 (that famous verse that says, “What is good and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”) In light of that verse, Michelle asked the students the difference between niceness and kindness. There is a difference. They said that it is easy to be nice, whereas kindness takes work. Nice is shallow, kindness is deep. Nice is basically effortless, while kindness is sacrificial.
I’m not trying to arguing for a word choice. What the difference I’m describing is the difference between action and sentiment.
Kindness is actively engaged care, love and concern for people. Are you living out the actions of loving unity and care towards the body of Christ? Here is one way to tell: Barry Corey, in Love Kindness, says, “The objective is not to be received, but to be receivable.” In other words, are you the kind of person that people want to receive into their life?
As the years have gone by, I’ve noticed that there are some people who require deeper reserves of maturity in order to interact with them. We tend to call them “difficult.”
It might be that they are talkers, and you know that if you walk near them, your life will be on hold for the next 30 minutes as they talk and talk and talk, usually about the minutia of their lives, rarely, if ever, asking about you and how you are doing. It takes great maturity to be kind to them. To some, they might be low on the receivability quotient.
Then there are the people who are know-it-alls. They have a story for everything, an opinion about everything, and they are quick to top your story with their better story. It takes great maturity to be kind to them. Again, to some they are not very receivable.
Then there are the intimidating people. Maybe they disagree a lot, and strongly. Maybe they complain and critique a lot. They might even use manipulative means to try to get their way. This is called gaslighting. Have you heard that term? Gaslighting is defined as “to manipulate (someone), by psychological means, into questioning their own sanity.” Receivable? Not so much. People often want to be far from them.
How receivable are you? I recommend not only examining yourself, but asking others to answer that question for you. Corey suggests, “Remove the distance and obstacles that keep people from seeing Jesus in us.” Work to be receivable. You want to be a person that other people want to receive into their world. That’s how they can see Jesus. Show kindness, even to the people who see the world differently than you. That is also how you can see Jesus in them, even in the difficult people in your life. You can see that they are made in the image of God, and you can be kind to them.