Each of us must find our ways to cope in this altered reality in which we are living.
Since early in the pandemic, I have made a commitment to myself to journal.
I never journaled before, even though I love to write and regularly produced sermons and articles for the local churches in which I served.
So, journaling has joined mowing the grass as my therapy for the past six months.
At the end of my journal page, I conclude with four encouragements: “Wash your hands, wear your mask for others, mind the gap and be kind.”
The first three are generally supported by the scientists and doctors who actually know something about this plague of COVID-19.
Some Americans may not be familiar with the “mind the gap” reference, but if one has traveled in the United Kingdom as my wife, Anna, and I have, you hear this statement over and over again.
“Mind the gap” is a reminder to watch out for the space between the subway car and the platform. We heard it over and over again in London and in Hong Kong. It is a fun way to remind us all to keep (mind) our distance or watch our distance.
The “be kind” is an admonition of Scripture.
Recently, someone who has benefited from my personal kindness in the past took issue with a particular response I made to incorrect information, calling my statement, by inference, “unkind.”
I’m certainly not above reproach, so criticism is something I consider, mull over (perhaps too much) and repent as needed. Let’s just say, I do a lot of repenting.
One of the issues I considered recently was the Galatians 5:22-23 passage talking about the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Kindness is a gift of the Spirit, commended to the believers as an expression of the outworking of the Spirit’s indwelling and in-working in our lives.
Then I made a serious mistake. I raised two questions: First, was Jesus always kind? Second, what does the Scripture tell us about the prophets and kindness?
As loving and kind as Jesus was, his teachings and rebukes were often considered unkind.
In Luke 11:45, after Jesus shared three woes, an expert in the law is quoted as saying to him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” So, properly humbled, Jesus continued his litany of woes for a total of six.
In John 2:12-16, we learn of Jesus’s clearing the court of Gentiles, running out the merchants and money changers who had forced Gentiles out of the one place they had to offer prayers to God.
Jesus was not always kind.
Micaiah was a lesser known prophet during the time of Ahab, King of Israel. 1 Kings 22:1-40 tells the story of Ahab’s confrontation with Micaiah. Let’s just say, Micaiah was not kind.
Too many preachers and pastors today are being kind when they need to be courageous, clear and rooted in the truth of the Bible.
Religious evangelicals have strayed from that path, and they don’t need “kindness” to call them back to the truth of God’s word. They need to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with Jesus.
Jesus was kind to those who struggled, were oppressed by demons or sickness and were broken by their sin.
He was critical and harsh to those religious leaders who were leading his people astray by majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. He was insulting, perhaps even rude. So were God’s prophets of long ago.
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit we share with others in fleeting relationships and in up close and personal relationships. Kindness is what we share when we are with our spouses and children. Kindness is what we lead with when we are talking to a frazzled clerk in the checkout line at any place we are.
That cannot be confused with the responsibility to respond forcefully to the corruption of our faith by false prophets like those Micaiah found surrounding a deeply flawed king.
These are not days for “kindness” to the men and women who promote Christian nationalism, who support leaders enacting policies separating immigrant children from their parents and perpetuating anti-science views during a global pandemic, and who equate one political party and its candidates with the Christian faith.
Prophetic speech modeled on that of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets is required for religious people who seem to base every significant political decision on the stock market and their cultural despair and desperation.
We don’t have time for kindness when it means continuing to perpetuate the racism and oppressive caste system begun in the South but leaching out throughout the United States even today.
Some years ago, as a teenager, I remember my father’s struggle with bronchitis and our family doctor telling him that unless he gave up his smoking habit, it would kill him.
His doctor was my doctor, and I don’t doubt his words were firm and perhaps a little harsh. But when Dad was 57, he died from cancer of the larynx because he did not give up smoking. Sad but true.
It is really time for biblical Christians to speak boldly to this modern curse on our faith. It is time we name it for what it is.
Otherwise, this worship of America, this nationalistic Christianity, will metastasize into an even deeper crisis than what already confronts us.
Like the prophets of old, like Jesus before the teachers of the law, it is time for truth. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings.
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma, he recently relocated to Round Rock, Texas, to be closer to family. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.