Is that you there? No, not the boxer. I mean the bag

It’s not about how you pack your punch, but what happens when you’re struck. Do you absorb the blows? Because the happy, blessed -the meek of the earth- they do.

The meek take their blows-steady, upheld, composed. They don’t jab back. They’re soft when struck. They feel the heat and yield. And these blessed meek-they’re mixed right in among us.

The ones who roll with the punches are a marvel to behold.

The Meek and the Rest

Meekness gives and yields. Lots of times, it covers. When the meek are hit or pressed, they don’t erupt in rage or crack. They don’t shatter like porcelain or snap like a brittle branch. They don’t get defensive when they’re criticized or lash out when they’re attacked.

Instead, the meek absorb an uppercut. The impact stops on them. They don’t kick the dog. 

The meek commit their ways, their misunderstood hearts and motives to the meek and lowly One who alone knows every heart. They refrain from anger and turn from wrath and don’t fret when evil comes. They are steady and tethered. They know who holds them up and the One who’s got their back. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints

There are the meek among us and they are a sight to behold.

While the rest retreat or lash out-passive or aggressive-the meek absorb the blow. It’s the way the blessed take their wounds. The meek can take the heat. The rest recoil or boil, sullen or harsh, defensive or attack right back.

But the meek are soft when they are struck. Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote,

[W]hen you strike something soft it makes no noise, but if you strike a hard thing it makes a noise; so with the hearts of men who are full of themselves and hardened with self-love. If they receive a stroke they make a noise, but a self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand, and makes no noise.

Spirit-filled meek resist the urge to vindicate themselves. They trust God and wait patiently for the Lord. That’s how they absorb blows big and small. How they stay soft in pain and failure, in the midst of harsh words and foiled plans and when good motives are misunderstood.

They do it because they know that there is a future for the man of peace. And that those blessed by the Lord will inherit the landAre you among these blessed meek?

This kind of meekness might seem fictional, impossible, unreal.

Not Up For The Fight?

Maybe you’re saying to yourself what my friend Marie said to me the other day,

I’m just sick of being dumped-on. Everyone takes their problems out on me. I’m done.

Can you relate? Marie went on to mention some hurtful jabs from her teen-aged daughter and a hook she took from an insensitive friend. Add the couple undercuts she took at work and Marie had had enough.

Now, they’ll hear what’s really up, and not from Mrs. Meek.

How about you? Are you soft when struck? Or do you make a lot of noise? Do you absorb-soak affliction up? Or do you let it leak all over others?

If messy spills seep out of you like a less-than-Brawny towel, and, like me, when things go wrong you make some noise, I ask, Do you want to be more meek? If so, don’t fret, just get back in the ring. There’s always another round. Until the day we die, blows will abound.

Way back, another Puritan named Thomas Watson wondered how to grow more meek. This is his prescription. It comes with no expiration date. 

1. Often look upon the meekness of Christ. The scholar that would write well, has his eye often upon the copy.

So we read the Scriptures and see him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so you don’t grow weary and lose heartRemember the One who did not revile when reviled and when he suffered, he did not threaten, but entrusted himself to him who judges justlyWe look a lot on that.

2. Pray earnestly that God will meeken your spirit. God is called ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Peter 5:10). He has all the graces to give. Ask him for this grace of meekness. Mercy comes in at the door of prayer. 

I’ll add this third, like the first, on to Watson’s script: Flee to Jesus. When you’re feeling hit-hard and heavy-laden like Marie, take his yoke upon you- get hitched to himFor he is meek and lowly in heartand you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29). 

Wearing his yoke means sharing his yoke and that means he’s right beside you. He knows your pain and suffered, too. David knew this well. He knew real spears thrust at him and betrayal and uppercuts from friends. And David sang about his Savior who was right here with him, and who daily bears our burdens

So if you’re feeling burdened or on the verge of punching back, pray to God to “meeken” you up. Then look upon the Lion who is also the Lamb. Flee to Jesus. Here’s there to be found in his Word.

Then, after that you might see them

The Meek Among Us

In big and little ways last weekend, I saw meekness on display.

When motives were misjudged and criticism and correction and milkshakes came, meekness was right there to absorb them like a punching bag or Brawny.

  • When one spoke hurtful words comparing her kids to another’s, He’s nothing like your Jake, my John, meekness wasn’t perfect. But the mom took a breath, then steered the conversation with grace, instead of getting mad. 
  • When one was splashed with milkshake thrown from a speeding Lexus, this one (I know her well) remembered the helter-skelter merge just then. So she shrugged and nodded while the wipers whoosh-whooshed the shake away.
  • When one whose pure, helpful motives were misunderstood she swallowed hard and held her peace and rolled the injustice and hurt onto her Lord. She didn’t lash out. She didn’t defend. She soaked up the rash, unkind words instead. 
  • When one who’s fast fading into glory was chided for resisting her meds earlier in the day, Grandma made no defense. She simply said, Yes, I guess you’re right. Then she swallowed those dreaded pills down with all her might.
  • When one was criticized for his choice of a wife and his own siblings’ lies landed hard on him, he took the rebuke and left his defense to God. God soon showed up, took the grumblers to task and called him the meekest man on earth. 

Yes, they are among us, right there to be seen. Maybe with these glimpses, it’ll be easier for you to pick them out. Because you do know this sort of person.

They’re delightfully refreshing and easy to be around.

Well, mostly. 

Sometimes, it’s true, their rock-solid trust can unnerve us. The way they leave room for God’s wrath and give the last word, sure, that might convict us. It’s sort of otherworldly, really, how they do this.

Yes. It is. 

That shouldn’t come as a shock. Because God’s kingdom is, after all, an upside-down kingdom. The first will be last and the servant is greatest and die to yourself and live.

And one day-those blessed, happy meek among us-they will inherit the whole-wide, upside-down world. The wait will be over, the punches done, when at last the final bell is rung.

Then some of us might be among them, delighting in the abundant peace of that land.

Commit your way to the LORD; 
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, 
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! 
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, 
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

In just a little while the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Psalm 37:5-11

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5


Dad Made It Easy

We Are Our Father’s Daughters

Dad has three daughters. That’s us at a surname bakery in Kilrush, County Clare.

Mom and dad took us to Ireland two Junes ago and in a week we all were smitten. We’ve since lost the lingo and forgotten what towns we toured, but Erin’s feeling lingers. Someone said, People will forget what you say, and they’ll forget what you doBut they’ll remember how you made them feel. 

As I sat down to throw a few Father’s Day memories together, my sisters conference called. Then I mentioned about Dad and they gushed.

They gushed, I think, because it’s so easy to remember how our Dad’s love makes us feel.

Faith Working Out In Love

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love. Galatians 5:6

Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Maybe the reason we remember is that Dad lives and breathes Galatians 5:6. Without love, we’re nothing and Dad’s faith works its way out in love. We all remember how love feels.

Like when he’d let one of us sleep in on Monday mornings until the last second and then he’s wake her and drive her the two hours to college. She’d grab the special Dad-made latte with just his right touch of honey. And she’d sip her grogginess away while Dad drove the miles back up to UW. 
When one of us bounced a check in college, Dad didn’t criticize. Just ask if you need help, he said with concern writ-large in his eyes. And when one locked her keys in the car (again), Dad was Johnny on the spot. With a smile. No guilt trip. That was that and life goes on. 
One remembered stay up late, late, late to make sure the driveway was cleared of snow. He’d let his gardening be hindered by grandsons at the drop of a hat. And drop his plans without complaint and dash to town to deliver a forgotten trumpet or, more recently, a laptop. 
Or drive his John Deere tractor eight miles into town to drag a pesky bush out of city daughter’s backyard.

That’s our Dad. Drop everything, drive far, go low to show his love.

Kind of like Christ. 

Wise True Words, Too

I will run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32

Man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

God cares not so much what you do but what is in your heart. Faith expressed in love. Those are prime-time, all the time, for ourDad. Loving kindness comes out in words, too.We remember the feeling of love and we remember his wise words, too. 

God’s given our Dad a well-instructed tongue to sustain the wearyWhen one sister’s baby died shortly before she was born at 36 weeks, Dad had healing words for her. Hope is in the best place. We can never protect our children fully. Hope is perfectly happy, perfectly safe. Hope is home. 

When one sister couldn’t decide on which college and another was torn apart about leaving a career she loved and another about taking on a new job, that was dad’s advice. It didn’t always make the deciding easier, but still, Dad’s insight was freeing. Love God and do as you please.

When one sister was on the fence, conscience-stricken about whether watch a friend’s dog one week, Dad helped work that through, too. Loving that friend by loving her dog will limit the way you love your other friends who don’t like dogs. Being human means loving one will limits love for another. God knows. It’s okay.

Dad’s no blow-hard. He doesn’t bluster on. Dad didn’t make up rules that seem good to him, and then say he speaks for God. He quoted Augustine and lived it: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. Charity. Love. What counts is faith expressing itself in love.

John Calvin knew about fathers who get preeminence and then become presumptuous. This seems good to me, they say and subject their family to their own opinions. Instead, Calvin urges fathers, Let there be no teaching authority that advances what we invent, but let us learn from God so that He will dominate and alone have all preeminence. (Quoted in Sermons on Genesis, Vol.1, Banner of Truth)

What does the Bible say? If it’s not plain, if it’s a non-essential, then Dad wouldn’t come down hard either. Dad’s words were not presumptuous. Dad’s opinions didn’t rule. God’s Word did.

That’s kind of like Christ, too.

Love The Body

This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 1 Corinthians 8:1
Let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

Our Dad deeply loves the body. He doesn’t much applaud we sister’s in our fitness kicks. But how he loves Christ’s Body. And he’s taught us to love it, too.

Not that it’s limited to Sunday worship. But maybe four times in four decades have I missed a Sunday service. Not because of guilt. I want to be there. I love a worship service and for that, along with the Spirit, I credit Dad. 

Dad was my pastor most of my growing up years. And while some pastor’s kids are irked and recoil at the PK spotlight, I relished it. I relished worship. I relished the singing and the preaching and the being with my friends. It was all good.


There was that one Sunday when Dad interrupted his sermon. He stopped mid-stream and craned his neck up to address the kids up in the balcony in back of the church. That’s where I sat sans parent beside Mike and Trish and Scott and Stacey. 

Where Trish was talking and the guys were laughing and the preacher’s kid must have been carrying on, too. We all carried further than we knew. Then Dad looked up and didn’t pull his punches that muggy Sunday in June. Smack dab in the middle of the sermon, Dad’s big pastor voice boomed, 

Would the youth in the balcony please stop talking? Your voices are disrupting the service. 

So I learned a meaning for mortified. But I also kept learning to love this sacred coming together time. Gathering on Sundays was no penalty but joy to our young spirits.

And still is. The sisters invest themselves in the church’s children’s ministries and worship teams and life groups. Because the three see that building the Body of Christ is a treat. Our Dad showed us how. He made is easy.

Kind of like Christ

Like Father, Like Daughter (And Grandson)

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness. Oscar Wilde

Not that I’ve already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:12

Dad’s not perfect. He doesn’t claim to be. When my nine-year takes the Heinz and dabs it bite by bite on his brat, then licks his ice cream bowl clean, explaining, 

That’s the Grandpa way. 

As if that’s the final word on etiquette.

I’m not proud that I nibble right down to the nubs. I don’t know why I do. But Dad bites his nails too. 
I walk fast. Strolling sort of hurts. Sometimes I grab weights to handicap my pace, and impatience, when friends go slow. Dad’s real fast, too. Ask Mom. Especially on vacations.

I talk with zeal and interrupt. I’m not naturally slow to listen. Sometimes Dad talks with passion too. But I’ve also learned from him how to slow down and apologize.

I indulge-sometimes overmuch- in ice cream. Preferably cappuccino almond fudge. And drink to addiction strong coffee. My first cup was one Dad brewed. 
Even here in temptation, Dad shows me how much he needs God’s grace. Dad points me up to God.
And that too, is kind of like Christ.

Sowing Gospel Seeds

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:5-6

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 4

I know Dad holds these verses close. He knows his children walk in truth in part because he did what he was assigned to do. Dad did his job.

He planted. And watered. And sprayed and weeded too. Dad’s a faithful hard-working farmer. He knows that when the Word goes out, it doesn’t return empty. He did his job even though he didn’t know which seeds would grow.

Dad knows how rain waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and sprout. How many times he prayed the ancient prayer with us, Blessed are you O Lord our God the King of the universe who brings forth bread from the ground and fruit from the vine? Dad knows who brings forth.

Dad would be first to say- and his daughters would be fast to agree- that it was God who made the seeds of faith that he and mom planted grow.

Dad’s taught me to embrace this divine paradox. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are not incompatible.

Christ Jesus taught that,  too.

Words fail and wounds still heal, so I’ll hold some details back. But I’d like to paint one more picture.

When I was thirteen, Dad was offered the pastorate in a small church in a smaller place called Lyons, Wisconsin. I was in my last year at a little K-8 school across the border in Illinois. You’d think Dad would have jumped at it. By then, he’d been mopping floors and driving a school bus for five years.

But Dad didn’t jump. He weighed it with mom and prayed. Then he weighed it with his children, too-including an insecure, adolescent me.

What do you think, Ab? I know you’d have to leave your friends and you like our little farm here? Would you be okay if we moved? If I took the job in Wisconsin? 

I was okay. We did move. I met my husband there. Eight years later, when Dad gave this bride away, he said, He must increase, I must decreaseand did.

Things at church got rocky and dad resigned just shy of two decades at that little church. He left graciously and meekly, and- as I’m coming to see- partly he left for me. The peace of Christ must rule.

But God is ever on the move and works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. And discretely and gently, considerate of his wife’s wish to worship with the kids and grandkids, after a decade in a church two towns away, Dad decided to come back.

Which is a story in itself, but not where this one’s heading. Because this one ends in the basement, in the church nursery. That’s where Dad, with Mom, heads. To basement depths, and nursery deeps, Dad goes low. To dwell with babies and toddlers who barely talk and cannot grasp his great wisdom.

Which is a lot like Christ.

Dad Made It Easy 

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” Matthew 19:14

[B]ut we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:12

Dad made it easy for his kids to come to Jesus. Some of you don’t have a dad like that. Some fathers make it hard. They lay stumbling blocks instead of sowing gospel seeds.

A good father lays down his life for his kids. He goes low to love his ownDad feeds his kids what his sweat has grown, potatoes and berries and beans. He watches grandkids, unlocks cars, and, for love, drives his John Deere miles to uproot a single bush. Where once he preached in the pulpit, now he plays in the nursery. That’s Dad.

He’s probably blushing at this. Not because nursery is beneath him. Not at all. He’s the one who taught us to walk humbly with our God. So it’s not because of spit-up and runny noses and diapers. No. Dad doesn’t mind his big farmer hands getting dirty.

If he’s sheepish at all, it’s because of this semi-public sort of praise. He prefers his praise come later, from his heavenly Father. Which is where I’ll leave off.

The first church Dad pastored had Swedish roots. They sang a song that Dad still sings. Maybe you know it. It’s called Children of the Heavenly Father.* 

It goes like this.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given
Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever
Unto them His grace He showeth
And their sorrows All He knoweth
Though He giveth or He taketh
God His children ne’er forsaketh
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy
Good dads make it easy to come to Jesus. They don’t hinder it. Good dads make us want to seek our Heavenly Father. 

Our dad made that easy.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God.

1 John 3:1

*Words by (Swedish pastor’s daughter) Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg and translated by Ernst William Olson


Firm Core, Soft Edges

Image result for koosh ball image

Kathy is not usually confrontational. And I used to think she was nice. 

By nice, I mean sweet and agreeable. Maybe a tiny bit superficial. Sunny and seventies and no clouds in the sky. I like your shirt and Have a great weekend. Sugar cookies and sweet tea. That nice.

But one conversation with Kathy last week confirms it. Now I know better.

Kathy is not nice.

Not Necessarily Nice

Niceness isn’t bad, per se. But in an age when conviction’s sharp edges cut down bridges and at the same time truth mutes itself and neuters love, we really must get to know kindness. 
In his praise for Barry Corey’s new book, Love KindnessRandy Alcorn nails it. There shouldn’t be this dichotomy. Grace can coexist with truth. But, writes Alcorn, 

Too many Christians choose between standing for truth and demonstrating grace, and the result is self-righteous meanness disguised as truth or indifferent tolerance disguised as grace…The church today desperately needs the humility that rejects mean-spirited religion and exemplifies kindness while upholding biblical truth. 

Many of us equate kindness with niceness. I did. We think kind means spongy and soft and never upsetting. We see nice as milquetoast and mild-mannered and never hurt a fly.

But it’s not that.

It’s a firm core of truth and soft edges of grace. Kind of like a Koosh ball. Remember those?

My brother would dangle it by its stretchy rubber strings. Sometimes, I’d fumble around with the filaments until my fingers found where they connected.

Flexible met firm at the core. Kind of like kindness.

Firm Core, Soft Edges

Corey doesn’t mention Koosh balls. But they kept tossing around my mind as I raced through Love Kindness. I saw them first in the book’s introduction, where Corey explains,

In today’s polarized culture, we are often pulled toward one extreme of the other, soft centers or hard edges…Kindness is the way of firm centers and soft edges. 

Kindness enables us to negotiate in a time when negotiating is dying and friendly discussions are yielding to rancor.  

Whereas aggression has a firm center and hard edges, niceness has soft edges and a spongy center. Niceness may be pleasant but it lacks conviction. It has no soul. 

Kindness is strong yet humble. Kindness is honesty and looks like truth with love. David believed this, writing, “Let a righteous man strike me-that is a kindness.”

In short, kindness is living life with a firm center and soft edges. It has real power to influence others for good, because it deals in that precious, divine currency-grace joined to truth. 

Useful And Profitable

Kindness in Greek is chrestotesIt means useful and profitable. It’s more than sentiment. It’s a quality of being helpful and beneficial, of seeking to improve and bless others. It’s much more “Let me carry that for you,” and “Need a shoulder rub?” than “What a tough load,” and “I’m sorry you’re stressed.” Kindness is more like Let me watch your kids than I’m thinking of you while John travels this week.

Not that tender-hearts and sympathy aren’t good and healing. They are. But they’re not kindness. They’re not chrestotes. When Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden,” he appealed with kindness. His yoke, he said, was easy- chrestos, kind- and his load was light.

Soft edges anchored to a firm core sounds a lot like Paul’s becoming all things to all men that [he] might save someAnd like conversations full of grace and seasoned with salt, and doing good to all men and a being quick to listen. It is an others-focused way of life that spills out of a Christ-centered, rock-solid core of biblical conviction.

It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And the promotion of his own kindness is the very grounds of our salvation. The very reason God made us alive with Christ, Paul wrote, was so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Who was overflowingly full of grace and truth.

This is kindness. 

Being Receivable

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. Matthew 10:40
Being receivable, for God’s sake, was front-burner for Hugh Corey. In Love Kindness, Corey recounts just how close this uncommon concept was to his dad’s heart.

“Barry,” he said, “if the lives God intersects with mine don’t have the opportunity to receive me, how will they ever know the love God has for them? I’ve got to live my life so strangers, friends, aching, lonely, family-they receive me,” he said. “And through me they see God’s inexhaustible love.” 

Clearly, Corey’s father was a very kind man. He is quick to clarify, though, that living to be receivable is not the same as living to be received. Being received is out of our control. But we can make ourselves receivable.

This is living kindly. This is aiming to remove, or at least reduce, the obstacles those around us have to faith. This is pre-eminent in my parenting prayers: Lord, help me live so that the boys see you for who you are. Help me not to be a stumbling block to their seeking you. The Apostle Paul lived to be receivable. We endure all things so we cause no obstacle to the gospel of Christ

The way of kindness, explains Corey is often self-effacing, Koosh-strand flexibility, receivable kindness, does not get hung up on looking perfect. People are far more receivable, Corey writes, when they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Even so, living a humble, receivable life is no guarantee we will be received.  In fact, Jesus promises that his own will be rejected and hated. “Whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). There’s union with Christ even then.

Conversing With Kindness 

When kindness walks into a room it isn’t thinking, Here I am. Instead it’s thinking, There you are. That is the way of kindness. Kindness listens to understand rather than waits to interject self. 
Kindness, writes Corey, calls us to enter conversations with those whose perspectives differ from ours. He details a candid conversation he shared with a lesbian friend, and adds,

Sometimes in our zeal for a firm center, we default to lectures from the sidelines rather than initiating gracious conversation with those whose standards are different from our own. When we respond this way, our edges calcify, and grace is lost in a fight for truth (p. 54).

This builds walls not bridges. Bony-hard edges don’t make for a good hug. But soft centers with soft edges isn’t kind either. In Jesus’ way of kindness, we can be confident in our beliefs and be comfortable listening to those with differing views.

The point isn’t to be respected or even to become friends. It’s also not to avoid awkwardness or to avoid making someone feel uncomfortable. Sometimes discomfort is just what the doctor ordered to set things right.

The point of kindness, says Corey, is to represent Jesus. When we are genuine and winsome, we are able to point them to their greatest good, which is found only in the gospel (p. 54). Love is patient and kind and true love, John Piper asserts, is doing whatever you have to do to help people see and treasure the glory of God as their supreme joy. 

Which means that conversations borne of kindness are not simply for shooting the breeze. Instead, with patience and humility, we do aim to convince.

But that after listening and learning what we didn’t understand.

Why Kindness?

As President of Biola University, Barry Corey walks this talk. In 2012 some Biola alumni formed the Biola Queer Underground (BQU). Its goals were to raise awareness about same-sex attracted Biola grads and to pressure the university to change its sexual behavior policy. 
Talk about a prime-time for Corey’s receivable kindness to shine. 
And shine it did. Barry Corey called some of the more vocal gay alumni a few weeks after the BQU rocked the Biola world, even placing it, and him, in the national news. Over lunch one day, thousands of miles from his home, they talked. And Barry Corey listened and learned. 
Corey was so moved by the conversation that he invited a same-sex group of alumni to share their stories with Biola’s faculty a few months later. They did. And there were tears and pleas, he writes, but no fists or raised voices. Biola did not change its stance on sexuality. It did express kindness. 
Corey explains, 

Reach-across-the-aisle-kindness is not meant to affirm each other’s choices, but it does mean we listen to each other’s voices…Kindness does not mean we assent to cultural norms or that we give people a pass to feed their own moral appetites under the guise of individual choice or because, “God loves us anyway.” God’s kind of kindness is far different from niceness or tolerance because it leads us to see his holiness and purity and from their it leads us to see our own depravity (p. 66). 

In short, God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. As imitators of God, ours should too.

Humility, Not Dichotomy

Kindness is not anything goes. And it’s also not talk ‘atcha and fly. Kindness is way harder than both of those. Way more supernatural. It’s our task to keep a firm core, but to accentuate our soft edges. External flexibility, writes Corey, does not have to equate to internal weakness. 

Corey concludes his very personal chapter four this way.

Kindness that bends to accept as valued everyone else’s viewpoint is not kindness. We can be kind and strong in our perspective. We can be kind and encourage one another toward purity before God. We can be kind and lovingly persuade someone to at least consider our perspective on what the Bible teaches (p. 73).

Kindness pairs well with humility. Paul puts the two together in Colossians 2, Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility. Just like kindness, humility is often confused.

Jon Bloom explains that,

[H]umble people aren’t always what we think they ought to be. They are disagreeable when truth must be valued over relational harmony. They are un-submissive when conformity mars God’s glory. And their company can be unpleasant, even undesired, when their wounding words are kinder than selfish flattery or silence.

Which brings me back to Kathy.

Hard Core Kindness

Let a righteous man strike me, it is a kindness. Let him rebuke me- it is oil on my head; let my head not refuse it. Psalm 141:5

Kathy is a gentlewoman through and through. In the decade I’ve known her, her words have never wounded. They only ever nurture. Kathy is ever calm, never loud, always and forever gracious. I only ever enjoyed brushing against her Kooshy soft edges when we walk and talk.

Kathy listened. She was, as she always is, soft on the edges and truly present when we walked and I talked last week.

Oh, was I angry! He knew that Friday is Gabe’s party. We wrote it on our calendars a month ago. Then last night he told me he’s got a golf outing with his friends all day. Which means he’ll miss most of the party. The whole family’s coming at four and he won’t get home until six or seven o’clock. It just burns me. 

When came up for air and sweet Kathy caught me by surprise.

Abby, can I give you a challenge?  

Gulp. Oh, dear. Of course. Firm core incoming.

When you get home tonight, why don’t you tell Jim to go golfing as planned and to have fun with the guys? Tell him you’ll be just fine without him. And the days he goes to golf, give him a big kiss as he heads out and a warm hug when he gets home. 

These words were not nice. Implicit in Kathy’s challenge was the truth that I was in the wrong, that I was not acting in love. And her willingness to challenge me-that’s the firm core of kindness. 

Nice doesn’t speak truth so boldly. Nice doesn’t call out sinful, selfish attitudes so plainly. Nice doesn’t rebuke and dump much-needed, healing oil on my head.

Centuries ago, Matthew Henry wrote, of this precious oil,

This oil shall be as an excellent oil to a wound, to mollify it and close it up; it shall not break my head, as some reckon it to do, who could as well bear to have their heads broken as to be told of their faults; but, says David, “I am not of that mind; it is my sin that has broken my head, that has broken my bones,” The reproof is an excellent oil, to cure the bruises sin has given me. It shall not break my head, if it may but help to break my heart.

Now you know why. My friend Kathy is not merely nice. She is not just a great listener and a sweet friend. She is something way more courageous and influential, way more strong and loving.

Kathy is kind.

He has shown you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 
Micah 6:8