Love Tough


Today’s readings:
Psalms 96; 148, Daniel 12:1-4, 13, Acts 4:1-12, John 16:1-15

Kindness is revolutionary, especially when it seems “undeserved.” Respond with kindness to someone who has wronged you, and people will think you are foolish, saintly, or up to something. Does it seem like we seek more excuses for unkindness than for reasons to be kind?

When Peter and John followed in Christ’s footsteps and (through God) healed a lame man, this kindness helped get them arrested.  The religious leaders feared Roman authorities might consider the enthusiastic response of the crowd to be rebellious and so threaten the relative autonomy of the occupied Jews. Peter, understanding the motivation of the religious leaders’ response, asked whether “we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed” – practically daring them to voice their opposition to mercy. People were excited over the miracle, but they were also excited over what it said about mercy.

In the United States, more than 70 cities have outlawed giving food to homeless people in public. In these cities you can hand a sandwich to your well-fed friend, but not to a hungry stranger. These laws are controversial and opposed by charities and churches who try to meet the needy where they are instead of where we’d prefer they be. Cities present various defenses for these laws, from food safety to not enabling the cycle of homelessness. Could it be we buy into these reasons because such laws help drive homeless people out of public spaces and out of sight to where we can forget they exist?

The problem of homelessness is not the homeless. It is a broken society, and that is more than we can comfortably wrap our brains around.

We find excuses to withhold kindness to the “undeserving” and give them names like “enablement” and “tough love” and “rule of law” because actual Christ-like kindness costs us, and we don’t want to admit how much kindness we have left undone. That line between charitable love and enablement is not a clearly drawn one. God has offered us all the unearned (and unearnable) kindness of forgiveness, yet even our churches can teach us to withhold it.

Jesus told the disciples, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.”

Our capacity for kindness terrifies authorities who would rather intimidate or pacify us.

Be revolutionary.

Comfort: Kindness is a sign of strength.

Challenge: Read this insightful article by a man who was homeless and addicted and broke the cycle.

Prayer: God of mercy, give me the courage to be kind. Amen.

Discussion: Do you ever make excuses to be unkind?

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