You know what I don’t understand? Well, there are many things I don’t understand—like how this magic thing called a computer works or how information flies through the air to my cell phone. But I digress…
Today, in particular, I want to talk about one thing that I do not understand. I do not understand unkindness between Christians.
We all know that there is much unkindness in the world. Bigotry and racism abound and unnecessary rudeness is becoming common place. People often feel free to wear their anger and hatefulness on their sleeves, treating others with disrespect and heartlessness. They post their unkindness on Facebook. They shout it at strangers on public transportation. They ignore the pleas of others to practice acceptance or, at the least, tolerance.
It will not be so among you, says Jesus. (Mt. 20:26-28) Jesus says this in the context of speaking about the misuse of power by one person over another one. He admonishes his disciples that they should not only treat one another with respect, but that they should be willing to serve one another as he came to serve them (us).
Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus set for a procedure for how Christians should deal with other Christians with whom they have a problem. (Mt. 18:15ff). The goal of this procedure is reconciliation between believers. It is not a recipe for excluding others or permission to treat other Christians with unkindness. It is a process by which Christians should seek to reconcile their differences, so that they can continue to be in relationship with one another and with Christ.
Unkindness should not be so among Jesus-followers. I cringe every time I hear a story about one Christian or group of Christians dismissing, disrespecting, or even condemning other Christians who believe differently. This is to say nothing about how Christians often speak of, judge, and condemn those outside the church who are “sinners.”
It will not be so among you, Christ says. Jesus calls Christians to a standard of behavior which mirrors his own. We are called to show mercy and love, forgiveness and gentleness, acceptance and grace, especially toward other Christians. And we are to do this because Jesus said so.
“Practice kindness” has become a phrase that many are using in response to the unkindness they see around them. Christians should be the shining example of kindness. We always should have been. And we still can be so. Because Jesus calls us to be so.
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Eph. 4:31-32)