Basic human kindness

Published 2:30 pm Sunday, June 20, 2021

“I guess it just comes down to basic human kindness, and the pandemic exposed that we were running shorter on that than we would have hoped.” As I heard that sentence on a radio interview this week, I knew what I would be writing on for today. I could have wished I had a rebuttal to offer as the analyst gave his opinion. Instead, I had to agree with him.

The last year left us with a plethora of lessons to reflect on and learn. There are people who always try to just move on from an experience like the one we all shared during the Coronavirus era. No matter the pain or hardship, they simply want to put it behind them. The less it’s mentioned, the better. But there is that nagging wisdom saying. Variously attributed to anyone from Winston Churchill to Karl Marx, it seems that George Santayana actually said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Crisis exposes what really is present. I have told married and premarital couples that for years. Crisis shows us the good and bad, and the strong and weak within ourselves. Early on in the pandemic, I saw in our culture a sad reality. We talk a lot about caring for others. But even many Christians can’t seem to get serious about that. 

I am an educated clergyman. I am not given to proof-texting just to make a point. But a couple of things Jesus said seem relevant here. In John 13: 34-35, Jesus told his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” As if that were not clear and challenging enough, in Matthew 22: 36-40, he was asked to name the greatest commandment. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I confess, I have spent a career as a minister watching how easy it is for any of us to just switch on and then switch off our faith as it suits us. If you want to shut me down, just let me hear a person of faith set theirs aside in a given situation with the words, “I know that’s what the Bible says, but in the real world …” Because it was precisely our all-too-real world that the Bible was addressing. The same book that person would vociferously defend as “Holy” can be declared situationally irrelevant. 

When science and medicine recommended masks and physical distancing, and the like, you would have thought they were asking each of us to march off to war. What I witnessed at times were Christians and active church members setting aside their compassion for anyone beyond themselves. Suddenly, their rights and wishes were all they could think about. 

Toughest may have been those who pushed their favorite restaurants, store owners and even their churches around, pressuring them to ignore these basic minimal guidelines. Suddenly speaking as consumers, and not as Jesus-type people. All the while, under the sacred standard of basic human kindness, we could have complied with these actions that have since borne out to be helpful. We could have said, “I’m not all that worried about it, but I do care about others around me. I want to do my part.” Or, “I’d be there tomorrow. But I understand why they’re taking a prudent approach and waiting a while longer to resume.” 

So, it’s all left me to wonder whether good Christian folks really do take Jesus seriously when he asks us to love one another? I wonder if they tune it out when the Bible identifies God as “love.” Do we care that Jesus said others would identify us by our love? I wonder if we think it sounds nice, but when push comes to shove it’s all just too inconvenient? We had a chance to show the world some love, empathy and compassion. Some got it right, with shining examples of generosity and care. Others simply confirmed folks’ worst suspicions about them. And about their faith.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.