Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
Luke 10: 25-37, The Message
You don’t need any sort of special qualifications to be kind to someone.
Several years ago, I was working in a high school, and eavesdropped on a conversation between an openly gay boy, talking to a pregnant girl.
The boy asked, “How awkward was it [telling your parents]?”
She responded, “Daddy threw a couple of things and cussed me out. He told me to get out of the house.”
Then they made some small talk, and when I tuned back in, she said, “I had to quit softball. My life is over. Now I have a new life to care about.”
I wanted to say something to them both. I wanted to offer them hope. To let them know they weren’t alone. That they matter to God, and to me. I wanted to hug them and say,“The world cruel, but God is love”.
I wanted to tell that sweet girl, “Your Dad may have cussed you out and thrown things, but your Father loves you beyond measure. No questions asked. No strings attached. Your Father is wild about you and the baby you’re carrying. The new life growing in your belly is a gift.”
But I was scared. Scared of losing my job, scared of saying it all wrong. So I listened to a conversation begging for compassion and kept my mouth shut.
But maybe I wasn’t needed after all. Maybe the two friends found compassion in each other. These two kids, marginalized and cast aside from their families and, most likely, their rural church communities, found messy grace in one another. In someone who would ask real questions, and handle real answers, when they desperately needed to be shared.
I’ll never forget how I felt that day. I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. You can call my non-response a lack of creativity or you could label me a coward. Either way, the moment has always stuck with me. It impressed upon me the truth that we truly do not know what it’s like to walk around in somebody else’s shoes. Until we have lived in their skin and had the difficult conversations, we can’t imagine what others are feeling or experiencing.
When we hear a story outside of our experience – a teenage girl, pregnant, a teenage boy, coming out of the closet – even if we don’t know what they are experiencing, we should always start with kindness.
In the years since this moment, I’ve also learned that kindness requires action. Who really gives a damn that I felt compassion that day, when I didn’t do a thing about it? Kindness and compassion demand more than simply feeling something in response to a person’s story. They require a physical, real life response. We’re probably going to have to share our money or time. We have to get creative with our love. We must judge less and listen more.
We’re going to need a generous spirit.
It’s why I get sick of hearing sermons from rich white men about caring for the poor or reaching the homeless, while we sit in our pristine sanctuaries, never intending to budge to help the suffering in our communities. The man on the street with hunger pangs doesn’t give two shits about your Jesus, if he’s weak from low blood sugar and shivering in the cold.
The compassion of Jesus urges us to cross the street and go to our neighbor in need. To cross the aisle and speak to our enemy with compassion. To go across town and mend bridges that have been burned for decades. Kindness looks like action.
Never again will I simply feel sorry for the hurting person next to me. Never again will I simply eavesdrop, while staying comfortable. Never again will I see the person in need and not do something to help. Kindness requires action.
As we launch this 30-Day Kindness Challenge, I want to be clear that even though our world that seems pretty cruel lately, I believe kindness can change everything. I absolutely believe in the power of positivity. And I want to do my part to find something praiseworthy in every single day, in every person I meet.
If you’re ready to target one person for 30 days of kindness, click here to join. Sign up for the 30-Days of Kindness Challenge and you’ll receive daily emails to encourage and inspire you to cloak yourself in kindness and compassion. And if you want to take it a step further you can join my 30 Days of Kindness Challenge on Facebook!