A few days ago one of my kids was withdrawn and quiet—a reasonably rare occurrence at our house—so I asked him what was wrong. He hesitated, then with a little prodding told me that it was because I had been unkind to him earlier.
I wish I could say it was a case of childish hypersensitivity on his part, that he was wearing his feelings on his coat sleeves, that he needed to toughen up . . . but that wasn’t it. I knew it was true when he said it. I had been critical and irritable, and it was bothering him (as it should have).
The Spirit convicted me with Paul’s words in Ephesians 4.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. . . . Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (vv. 29,31,32).
Use your words to build one another up, Paul says, and be kind. The Bible contains a lot of theological mysteries, stuff most of us will never really understand, and then there are a few things that are completely clear. One of them is this: Christians ought to be kind.
On a blog that I read, the writer posted some comments about interviews he had had with people who had left the church. At the end of the interview he asked them what it would take to get them to come back. A comment he heard dozens of times was, “I would consider coming back if I knew people in the church would be nicer.” Many of them had apparently been burned by other Christians—either as recipients or spectators.
Maybe we need to hear Paul’s words. Build one another up. Encourage. Be nice. Treat everyone—Christian, non-Christian, family, stranger, enemy—according to the rule of kindness.
Christianity certainly can’t be completely described with only those admonitions, but can it be described at all without them?