By Nathaniel Gamble
This title might seem a little odd. Why are we being admonished to be kind to Lutherans? Did something recently happen specifically to Lutherans? Well, I don’t know about that, but the title makes clear a galling truth: kindness is always specific and particular, but it is so tempting to treat it as an occasional and generic option when interacting with others.
In our society, kindness is one of the hardest characteristics to practice while also being one of the most sought-after commodities. Western civilization has taught us to view each other as competition, which often gets translated into the nitty-gritty details of our lives: harsh words, judgmental attitudes, platitudes instead of true caring, xenophobic suspicion, intense ignorance of the families of our neighbors, even more intense ignorance of the life stories of our neighbors, spurns, spites, revenges, and petty humiliations and put-downs of others—most of which are done without thinking about it or taking notice of our kindnesses, or lack thereof.
Yet for all this, the evidence of our movies, music, entertainment, and leisure belie the fact that we are starving for kindness: everyone wants to be understood, everyone wants to be accepted, everyone wants to belong, everyone wants to be loved, everyone wants to be reassured they are not their pasts, and that their futures are bright with hopes of grace, freedom, and joy.
Paul provides an interesting perspective on kindness as the touchstone of Christian relationships. Colossians 3:12-15 (NRSV) states, As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. According to Paul, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience not only serve as synonyms for each other, but bear the fruit of respect, understanding, forgiveness, love, harmony, peace, and gratitude.
Be kind to Lutherans—and everyone else—by filling your mouth and hands, head, and heart, with kindness. Why? Because kindness is what the Christian life concretely looks like—and because kindness is what you receive from Jesus and others every day, whether or not you realize it.
—Nathaniel Gamble is RMC religious liberty director. Photo by Unsplash.