The Rev. John Watson, also known as Ian McLaren
one of those supposedly dour Scottish Presbyterians
once made a profound comment.
“Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.”
(No, Plato did not say this, nor did Philo of Alexandria)
Or, as Henry James once famously said. ““Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
I think Jesus would agree.
It is not that Jesus wasn’t real.
It is not that he did not challenge and disrupt.
And most of us don’t like challenge and disruption very much.
Frankly, it doesn’t feel kind!
But even when turning the world upside down, I believe Jesus was kind.
Because he saw the other.
Truly saw them.
He looked past the adjectives of male and female,
Samaritan and Jew,
Tax-collector and Roman.
He looked past the color, even accepting those mythical humans
who were white (in the midst of sea of brown and black),
and saw instead the person within, that deep self, which truly defines.
He saw the pain, the fear, the anger,
the hope, the joy, the hate, the love.
He saw it all, felt it all.
He joined with each person in that place.
Opening them up. Revealing.
Yes, at times disturbing.
But he wasn’t there, judging,
He was there loving.
I think that if we would follow Jesus we would be better off being kind than right.
(not that it is bad to be – we hope – on the right side of issues).
But with rightness come cruelty.
And the abuse of power.
We see it all the time. Those thin lipped grim “Christians”
grinding the poor, the women, the dispossessed, the addicted, beneath their “rightness.”
Jesus entered into the space of those he met
He entered into their pain, their fear.
And in doing so he transformed them.
That is the only way to create change!
When we attack, marginalize, minimize, and judge,
we harden the other, creating resistance, and making it impossible for them to change.
So, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
One of my favorite books is Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen
In that amazing little book Nouwen makes this statement
“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”
That I think is what many of us, in this vague and difficult time, are trying to do.
We are trying to create a free space, a space created by compassion and love, where people can be open, where people can struggle, and learn, where people can heal.
The more inhospitable the world is
The more estranged we are from one another
The more hostility we experience, from nature, from our bodies, our minds, and yes, each other
The more we need a free and friendly space
The more we need people who will be with us, offering love and acceptance, and kindness
And that, it occurs to me, is just what God does in Jesus