GUEST POST: The absence of kindness

By Jon Roebuck

There is a very disturbing trend in modern American Christianity. It isn’t low attendance, declining membership, aging buildings or shrinking budgets. 

It’s the absence of kindness that should worry us the most.

Many professing Christians including church leaders have decided, consciously or unconsciously, that kindness is no longer a virtue worth demonstrating. And the nation got the message.

Jesus called his followers to be “salt and light,” and a “city on a hill” whose goodness, hope and grace extend deeply into the culture of the day. Unfortunately, the light has dimmed, and our distinctive goodness is often non-discernable. 

For those charged to influence, infuse and promote such virtues as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, we have lost that sense of calling. 

Christian voices often promote divisive bigotry, exclusionary practices, hate speech, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and even violence. 

Rather than representing the Prince of Peace to the world around us, many professing Christians have adopted a worldview that permits hating one’s neighbors and demeaningthose whose lives and faith differ from our own.

The Gospel is to be Good News — not judgment, hatred, discrimination nor anger.  Something about the message of Jesus should give life to those who have lost their way, their hope and their future. 

Jesus offers inclusivity, not pious “religious border” control, not judgment, not condescension. We have poisoned our minds to believe that we are to love only those who believe with the same zeal the dogma that we hold. 

Claiming to be the ultimate possessors of truth and thus, the real chosen people of God, leads to a very dangerous place. Surely our task is not that of loving only the people who love Jesus, but loving the people that Jesus loves. 

Then our embrace of every neighbor becomes reorienting. If we love Christ, we will intentionally, passionately and unselfishly love every neighbor who stands before us, regardless of race, origin, gender, language or faith practice.

To be Christ-like is to be kind. It is to be respectful, tolerant, grace-giving, bridge-building and fence-mending. 

Kindness demands less shouting, hatred, violence, arrogance and warmongering. Kindness demands decency, decorum and dialogue over social media rants, caustic pulpit rhetoric and selfish control of every public space.

The pulpits of America once set the tone and challenged the character of our nation. There was talk of true liberty and justice for all. There were calls for the end of hatred and prejudice. 

Preachers spoke of love and grace. In other words, there was a time when kindness mattered, and people listened. 

If the voice of reason, grace and kindness doesn’t arise from people of faith, from whence shall it come? There are deliberate and culture-altering choices to be made. 

Embrace kindness. Pursue kindness. Demonstrate kindness.

Jon Roebuck is executive director of the Rev. Charlie Curb Center for Faith Leadership at Belmont University. This post is adapted from a “Moments That Matter” blog at Photo by John D. Pierce.