Let’s face it. It is an unfortunate truth that Christians are often not immediately identified by their kindness. Either we are known as being very firm in our beliefs but not kind in expressing them, or we are known for being overly kind but losing any sense of standing firm in convictions and the truth. In fact, if you polled those who are not Christians and asked them what primary trait stands out from Christians they have met, it is probable that love and kindness would not necessarily be the first thing that comes to mind. (The book UnChristian illustrates this very well.)
Barry Corey, president of Biola University as of the time of this review, noticed it as well, and he wanted to offer some correction to it. He does a great job in his book Love Kindness, published by Tyndale Publishers.
In the book, Corey walks through what it means to love kindness as Christians. He does this largely through personal stories and anecdotes, providing real-life examples as illustrations of what it means to be kind toward others in the name of Christ.
Some of the ideas he writes about are what it means to be kind (it requires us to be receivable, thought not necessarily received, it can be messy, and it requires humility), how to be kind when we disagree with people, that kindness can take time, how hypocrisy ruins kindness, and how we can let kindness lead us to mentor others, among other topics. All of this is rooted in a God who is kind. As Corey reminds us, God’s kindness leads us to repentance (see Romans 2:4). As a result, we are kind to others, which is a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
I must admit that when I first started to read the book, I was concerned it might be one of those books that insists on kindness to the exclusion of standing for what is true in terms of right beliefs and right practices. Corey very quickly offers a reassuring explanation of what kindness does, and does not, mean. He writes:
In today’s polarized culture, we are often pulled toward one extreme or the other, soft centers or hard edges. I’m proposing a different approach, a third way. Rather than the harshness of firm centers and hard edges, and rather than the weakness of spongy centers and soft edges, why don’t we start with kindness? Kindness is the way of firm centers and soft edges. (p. xv)
In other words, while we firmly believe certain things (and refuse to compromise on those beliefs), we still do so in such a way as to be kind and loving towards others. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. This is such a relief in light of books that encourage us to be so firm we lose kindness or so kind we lose any sense of a firm center. Corey manages to maintain this balance in every chapter of the book.
In the next-to-last chapter, Corey provides seven ways we can live this out in our lives. In order to live out the firm center and soft edges of kindness in our lives, we should do the following:
- A firm center and soft edges means we become more involved in the culturally unfamiliar.
- A firm center and soft edges means we are creators of goodness and beauty.
- A firm center and soft edges means we approach the growing opposition in our day by leading with humility.
- A firm center and soft edges means we fear not when our grace is met with hostility.
- A firm center and soft edges means we remain even more deeply rooted in biblical faithfulness.
- A firm center and soft edges means that evangelism is at the heart of why we live this way.
- A firm center and soft edges means we need to remember that Christ-centeredness means we will never be marginalized. (taken from subheadings on pp. 201-217)
If you are looking for a good book to help increase your growth in kindness as a Christian, I would strongly encourage you to pick up Love Kindness. It is a wonderfully written and insightful examination into this topic, that is kind in its reminder of how to live out this fruit of the Spirit every day.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.