What is kindness? Is it being nice? Is it telling people something encouraging to lift their spirits?
Nowadays, the popular Christian message could be boiled down to something that goes like this:
I know you’re having a hard time, but God loves you just the way you are so hang on, don’t give up and fight all the challenges that come your way and you will overcome!”
If you don’t believe me, peruse the Christian isles of Barnes and Noble. To be clear, the message is not a bad one. We all need encouragement when we’re down, and since we are all emotional beings we find ourselves down quite often. Having someone to encourage us is truly a gift from God.
But is this message kindness?
When Kindness Isn’t
A doctor was attending a board review course in preparation for his oral boards. Oral boards are the most rigorous, challenging and important test a doctor will ever take in their career. It’s also the last test they will ever take, and the examiners are merciless.
At the review course, the doctor had to go through public “mock orals” where he stood in front of the other doctors there for the course to give his defense. After the mock orals were over, each of the doctor’s peers were asked to critique the one who just gave his defense. They were each instructed to be “cruel in their assessment, for in being cruel, they were actually showing the doctor kindness.”
Why on earth would cruelty be kindness? What would make the instructor say such a thing?
Because they were only participating in the mock orals; the real oral board examination was still to come. If the doctor’s peers knew he was awful but only gave quaint platitudes to encourage him, what would become of him on the real examination day? He would surely fail. You see, the doctor’s peers were encouraged to be cruel, because in their cruelty they were adequately preparing the doctor to stand prepared in the judgment to come.
That’s not a hypothetical–that story is true. Those physicians running the oral board review course knew the challenge that lay ahead for their doctors and they wanted them prepared, even if it hurt to hear the bad news now. Kindness in their case only looked like cruelty.
But we, as Christians, are encouraged to be kind and nice and happy at all costs. Our culture has told us that Christians are supposed to be helpful, respectful of everyone’s opinions and pleasant to be around. If we act outside of those boundaries, we instantly become bigots.
Our Christian books and popular teaching today back up this horrible reality. There is a billion dollar-a-year industry to supply people with books that tell them God loves them just the way they are and if they just hang on, everything will be okay.
Is that kindness?
Kindness, true kindness, is something that goes much, much deeper than superficial encouragement. Again, we all need encouragement, but not to the point that we are paralyzed by our own comfort. Encouragement can be the thing that lifts our weary spirits when we feel like we can’t take it anymore or it can be the thing that gives us license to continue in our own sinful comforts.
We are not okay the way we are. That’s the message of the Gospel. We are so bad off, in fact, that we have no hope of saving ourselves with any amount of “hanging in there.” Don’t get me wrong; there is a time and a place for “hanging in there,” but if you think it will lead you to salvation, you have been sold a worthless bill of goods.
So, are you ready for the cruel truth?
You are rotten to the core. You’re pitiful. You’re bad. You’re mean. You hate. You love evil and despise good. That is who you truly are.
Is that kindness?
Bad News + Good News = Salvation
Yes, if it accompanied by the good news that you’re not stuck that way. The truth about ourselves is very cruel, bad news to hear. Nobody wants to hear that hard truth, in fact, but without it there is no good news. Unless we first realized how bad off we actually are, there is no way we can be saved. We cannot be saved, because we will not be capable of accepting our absolute necessity for a savior.
Our situation is bad news–in other words, it is not the gospel. The gospel is the great news that we can be free from our sin through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The trouble we face today is that the gospel is inseparable from the bad news that precedes it, bad news we unfortunately never hear anymore.
If we never confront people with the bad news in this time of our own “mock judgments,” how will they stand up in the true day of judgment? Even more sobering is the fact that there is a judgment to come; something that is rarely communicated anymore. American Christians have become so averse to giving bad news that we are preparing people to fail their day of judgment.
“It Helps Me Get Through The Day”
Jesus did not come to save people from having bad days. He is not primarily interested in helping us get through our days with encouraging music. He is most interested in us choosing to see ourselves as inherently wicked creatures whose only hope is to accept His offer of Salvation by giving up our sinful ways and receiving His forgiveness, redemption and grace.
Don’t drink the comforting Kook-Aid of today’s popular Christian message. It is not preparing you for what you will face. Doctors fear the oral boards, so they choose to be “cruelly kind” to their peers so they themselves will pass the test. Why should not we be the same with something infinitely more important? People’s eternity is on the line, so we are not free to give them platitudes that will wreck them eternally.
When you hear someone talk about how they just hope they can do enough good to get into heaven, why not confront them with the truth? Be bold! Tell them they can’t do enough good. Ever! When you hear someone trying to fill their hours with enough contemporary Christian music just to make it through the day, be intentionally abrasive with them. Tell them God is more concerned with them inheriting eternity than having a comfortable day where they can put up with their boss. Won’t your abrasiveness really be kindness in light of eternity?
We cannot accept a salvation we do not think we truly need. We cannot tell Jesus that we want Him to fix something we do not think is wrong. That is not salvation, it is lying. To receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, we must honestly confess the horribly wretched state we are in.
That means that each of us has to face that miserable reality. It is an uncomfortable reality. It’s ugly. It’s unpleasant. I’d call you a liar if you said you were happy you had to face it, but face it we must. If you have not considered how wicked your own heart is, then maybe you should ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to reveal who you really are in light of who He really is.
Do the same for others. Help them confront their horrible realities. Tell them how bad off they are, and don’t be afraid that you won’t be nice enough in your delivery. Our sinful state is an ugly pig–putting lipstick on it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a pig. When people truly confront how rotten their heart is, then they can accept the gospel, the good news. Nobody likes the bad news, but it is necessary to understand what the good news is.
Don’t let those around you suffer an eternity in hell because you want to be kind to them. In the end, that’s not kindness at all. That’s just mean.