More on Kindness
With our daily podcast on a bit of a pause, I'm writing a weekly newsletter, at least for the summer months. There is a lot going on at New City, and my hope is this will help keep you informed and connected.
- Starting this Sunday we are scaling back to TWO weekend worship services. As it turns out, with social distancing protocols still in place, we can handle more folks in the worship space than we previously thought. And the Saturday service was not as helpful as we imagined it might be. So starting this weekend, just two services, both on Sunday, at 9 and 11am. Head on over to Church Center and register for this weekend.
- Thanks to everyone who came out to pray and sing at the end of our Day of Fasting and Prayer on Monday.
- We're coming to the end of our budget year, and thanks to your amazing generosity, we've been able to give an extra $70,000 away this month, spread across three of our ministry partners: City Link, Back2Back, and Partners India. Your generosity makes a huge difference, especially at the current time. You've blessed not only our New City ministries, but our partners as well. Thank you!
- As most of you know we're working on a Master Plan to upgrade and expand our facilities for the next decade of ministry at New City. We own the two houses next to our parking lot on Floral Ave. Both the dilapidation of the buildings and the many code issues with the city have made it cost prohibitive to keep those structures for the future plans. So, NEXT WEEK, we will begin the demolition of these buildings. Come on by starting this Tuesday and see them knocked down (kids, at least, will think this is cool!). Gayle Frazer has helped us design a really cool natural playscape that will occupy that space temporarily until we move forward with any future building plans.
On Sunday we continued our Love series, meditating on Paul's phrase, "Love is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4). We may tend to think of kindness as a slender virtue (nice and all, but not that big a deal). However, not only does Paul mention kindness as an attribute of love, it is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This means that kindness is not an optional add-on to our lives, but rather is essential to Christian maturity. What follows below is not so much a coherent essay as much as mashup of a few extra thoughts on kindness.
T.S. Elliot wrote an introduction to one of Charles Williams’ novels. And in the introduction he said, I don’t want to write about the novel as much as I want to write about the author. He went on to talk about the incredible kindness of Charles Williams. He said, “Every time he came in a room, he was so interested in you, his presence was like a benediction.” Can you imagine if people thought about you that way? That when you walked in a room, your very presence was like a benediction.
Scott Sauls had something similar to say this week in a post about his mentor Tim Keller. Scott says that while Tim's ministry giftedness is unparalleled, they are not the things he appreciates most about him. Rather, it's qualities like kindness that stand out in Tim Keller's life.
Tim is one of the best examples I have seen of covering other people’s flaws with the gospel. In five years of serving under his leadership, never once did I see him tear another person down to their face, on the Internet, or through gossip. Instead, he seemed to always assume the good in people. Occasionally, he would talk about how having the forgiveness and affirmation of Jesus frees us to “catch people doing good” instead of looking for things to criticize or be offended by. Even when someone had truly done wrong or been in error, Tim would respond with humble restraint and self-reflection instead of venting negativity and criticism. Like the grace of God does, Tim covered people’s flaws and sins — including mine on more than one occasion. He did this because that’s what grace does. It reminds us that in Jesus we are shielded and protected from the worst things about ourselves. Because Jesus shields us like this, we of all people should restore reputations versus destroying reputations, protect a good name versus calling someone a name, shut down gossip versus feeding gossip, and restore broken relationships versus begrudging broken people.
What about kindness online? We talked a bit about this on Sunday, but social media is rigged against kindness. I was reading a book by Jarron Lanier last year. Lanier is one of the pioneers of AI technology, and he explains that the the algorithms that populate your social media feeds are designed to get as many clicks has possible. But what they've found is that anger and rage are the things that get you to engage -- to type a comment, to read an article, to click through to the next site. Lanier,says the whole system is designed to get you angry, to make you quarrelsome. And Lanier, who I don't think has any formal religious commitments, says this cannot be good for your soul. His advice -- delete your accounts right away, which could be a way of following Jesus' advice, "If your eye makes you sin, gouge it out." Short of that, we MUST take great care with how we interact with people online. Kindness is not optional for the Christian.
Lastly, a couple of resource recommendations. For parents, check out Sam Crabtree's book Practicing Affirmation. Sam was John Piper's long-time assistant pastor and he argues that affirmation is the way we affirm the good things that God has made. This plays out in really important ways with children. Thinking about kindness to those with whom you disagress (even those who seem like enemies), check out Scott Sauls' new book, A Gentle Answer. And lastly, on wider systemtic issues and learning to care, I mentioned this 17 minute video by Phil Vischer on Sunday. I highly recommend you watch it.
Worth a Look
- My daughter and I have been reading Lord of the Rings. All 13 BBC radio episodes have been posted to soundcloud for free. Also check out this short article on why many are finding hope and encouragement from LOTR during the time of the coronavirus.
- She Reads Truth currently is offering a free printable Bible study called "God's Heart of Justice." Thank to my wife for the tip.