Do you think you ever intentionally withhold love? Is that a weird question? Let me ask it this way: Do you ever consciously choose not to show kindness, thinking you might somehow be doing someone a favor?

At first I thought this was a silly question and I could simply answer “No way!” but after a little more thought…I’m less convinced that I’ve got a clean-conscience response ready.

Let me e’splain.

Sometimes, when people don’t seem very … lovable … for whatever reason, I think it is common for a person, like myself, to become abrasive toward them, in hopes that they’ll change. If a person has a personality that makes it difficult for the people around them to, well, be around them, I’m pretty sure I’m one of the people that tries to send signals, none of which will be verbal, in hopes of communicating that message.

Instead of showing kindness, I either turn into rough grit sand paper or I make myself scarce to avoid the issue altogether. I don’t like it when I see in my heart that I am struggling to find the grace and patience for another person, so I figure if I just avoid that person, well then, I won’t have to feel like that, now will I?


{Bear, 1 year, 7 months, and 3 homes ago}

Alternatively, you might be more confrontational in nature. Mayhaps you’ll go so far as to treat that person unkindly (I know I have fallen into this category, too) — a roll of the eyes, the tone of your voice, a sarcastic response or three, you’re doing everything but sending the person an email with the subject line “We don’t love you, you’re not perfect, now change!”

The thing is, somewhere deep down, I think we’re a little convinced that we can be cruel to be kind — that our harshness and “tough love” will help a difficult-to-handle person see the error of their ways, and, well, change themselves into someone more lovable or change their behavior into something we find acceptable.

We’re doing them a favor, right? Right?

Well, here’s the thing.

Or the Truth, as it applies to the matter:

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? {Romans 2:4} (I love this verse in the New Living Translation!)

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (New American Standard)

Or do you presume upon the wealth of his sweetness and upon his patience and upon the place that he gave to you, and do not know that the sweetness of God brings conversion to you? (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

So, if the kindness of God leads us to repentance, why do we think we should show anything but kindness to anyone else?

My Dad loves to support our university’s football team (Go Pirates!) and often travels to away games in different parts of the country. On several occasions, he has mentioned the difference between going to football games at two different universities in West Virginia. The Mountaineers fans at West Virginia University are some of the roughest toughest rootingest tootingest bottle-throwing trash-talking fans in the country.

But just a few hours’ drive down the road, the fans at Marshall University (still in the same state) are warm and welcoming. He’s made friends with some of the fans at their tailgates, enjoyed some wonderful food and come home with stories about their impressive hospitality. Seems like you can’t walk through the parking lot during the tailgate without being offered something to eat or something to drink. It doesn’t matter to them that you’re cheering for the other team — seems like they’re just glad to see you!

Remember the story of the Good Samaritan, in Luke 11? Jesus told that story in response to a lawyer’s question: “Who is my neighbor?” People that are like you…people that aren’t like you…even people who wouldn’t think of showing you such kindness, those people are your neighbors.

A moment before, that same lawyer had summed up the law, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'” And Jesus had said, “Yup, ya got dat right.” Let me try to sum it up:

The command? Love.
The question: Who?
The answer? Everybody.

Dad has vowed that he’ll never go to another game at West Virginia University. He hands down 100% will not attend another football game there. But he will happily make the drive to watch the Pirates play at Marshall. Hospitality makes all the difference.


Unconditional kindness speaks life and value to the soul.

If we, the people of God, could learn to demonstrate that kind of unconditional love, I’m completely convinced we would turn the world upside down.

Can we love people with different political affiliations? Can we love people who are cheering for the opposing sports team? Can we love people who have sexual preferences that we as Christians don’t agree with?

I’m afraid the Church is missing the boat in so many harbors in society because we think we cannot show kindness to people whose behaviors, doctrines, or lifestyles are different from ours.

Jesus never agreed with the behavior of the woman at the well, or with Zacchaeus and his dodgy dealings, but still He loved them. His presence changed them. He didn’t cast the first stone, or any other stones. His kindness brought them to repentance.

Since we will neither play the part of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit on the stage of life, we would do well to remember that our responsibility is to bring people to Jesus. It’s not to play Jesus, Jr. or Holy Spirit the Third. It is to introduce people to a God who loves all of us just the way we are — but is kind enough to help us see that there’s no good reason for staying that way.

It sounds strange to point out the kindness of the cross — though it was cruelty to Jesus, it is a gift of kindness to you and me. Hold tight to the truth that any goodness in us, and every good gift, comes from God and all of our hope is because of the cross.

Brothers and sisters, let’s turn the world upside down.

With Love.