Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Kindness is a powerful thing. Albert Schweitzer observed, “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” The ancient wise man Solomon said, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1), and, “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, And a gentle tongue breaks a bone” (25:15). But the world around us is not very gentle and kind. A man was invited to a meeting of a sophisticated & exclusive club. The man asked, “Where’s the meeting at?” and was told rather curtly, “You do not end a sentence with ‘at’ ” – to which he replied, “Okay, where is the meeting at TURKEY?” Several number of years ago I ran across a printed sermon by Richard T. Ritenbaugh. The sermon was entitled, “Civility and Courtesy.” He noted our culture has become a place of “widespread incivility, discourtesy, bad manners, disrespect, an in-your-face attitude, argumentativeness, & so on.” He observed, “Things have become so bad that the April 26, 1996 issue of the US News and World Report had a clever cover story entitled, ‘The American Uncivil War.’ Its subtitle reads, ‘How crude, rude, and obnoxious behavior has replaced good manners, and why it hurts our politics and culture.” That was 26 years ago! Today we continue to face a rising tide of nastiness. Ritenbaugh urged readers, “It is good to remember the principle, “If it happens in the world, it will eventually find its way into the church.” Ouch. I wish that wasn’t true, but sadly it sometimes is. Christians are not beyond being rude and even crude in the way they speak to and about each other, and sometimes unwilling to speak to each other at all!
Consider the apostle Paul’s directions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (and by extension to all Christians in all ages) – “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth … come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”  Amazingly, these words immediately follow Paul’s warning about dangerous false teachers and how “their message will spread like a cancer” (vs 17).  We should not understand Paul (nor any other inspired writer) to be directing preachers or the church to be “soft” on or compromise the Bible’s demanding message about moral and spiritual truth. Read carefully – the apostle describes some who “in opposition” to God’s truth. They suffer a form of spiritual and moral insanity due to the devil’s influence through false teaching! He declares they need to “escape” the devil’s “snare” because they have “been taken captive by him to do his will.” Hardly soft or compromising. And yet, don’t miss the directive about not disputing and being quarrelsome. Instead of being rude or crude or mean or harsh, “a servant of the Lord” must be “gentle to all …. patient” and humble (similar to Ephesians 4:15, “… speaking the truth in love”). Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Human kindness has never weakened stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation doesn’t have to be cruel to be tough.” A church doesn’t either, friends. God grant us to be truth loving and truth-speaking but gentle and kind Christians in this rude, crude world. Give it some thought.