This Lent I decided to join my church in taking up our Lenten Kindness Challenge. There are forty acts of kindness for the forty days of Lent. The challenge itself is laid out like a checklist, but we were told we could either do the tasks in order, or pick and choose which acts fit our schedule on a particular day. I elected to do the latter. I confess, the kindness challenge began somewhat easily for me. You see many of the acts of kindness are part and parcel of my job as a priest. I have visited the sick more times than I can count this Lent. I have hosted people in my home as part of our new Rector’s Receptions. I regularly ask people about their faith journey and ask people if I can pray for them. In some ways, by virtue of my job, I have felt like I am coasting through this kindness challenge.
But about halfway through Lent, I have passed all the “easy” acts, and am now facing all the acts of kindness I skipped because they will take more time or intentionality. Midway through Lent, this kindness challenge is starting to feel like work – work that will require my time and attention. On the one hand, I am already dreading the work, trying to figure out when I will have time to write extra notes, or do tasks that are outside of my everyday routine. On the other hand, I am glad I have hit this point in the kindness challenge. The work being demanded of me now reminds me that kindness is not just the kindness that we naturally do day in and day out. Kindness requires something more of us – our time, our forethought, our work. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!
This is why I think focusing on kindness is so important for people of faith. You see, being kind can reference the superficial, polite, everyday way of being that is common for all people – a great thing to be celebrated, but not necessarily the behavior in life that motivates and inspires. But the kindness people of faith are invited to claim is the kind of kindness we see modeled through God – the kind of kindness we as people of faith embody so that others might see Christ in us. Jesus was not venerated because he was simply polite – a good Southerner, if you will. Christ was venerated because he healed the sick, listened to the isolated, and ate meals with the disenfranchised. The kindness of Jesus was the kind of kindness that made people uncomfortable – that crossed barriers, that pushed people out of comfort zones, and that placed little value on societal norms. Christ’s kindness was a radical kind of kindness.
I wonder what ways you are being challenged to get a little more radically kind this Lent. What are things that you can be doing that require more of you than simply being polite? What are the acts of kindness you can do that will take more time, that will inconvenience you, that might even make you a little uncomfortable? Perhaps you have already notated which of those challenges are going to be hard for you this Lent. Or perhaps there are different challenges that are not on our Lenten Kindness Challenge, but are the actions you need take to embody Christ today. I cannot wait to hear how you are challenging yourself during this second half of Lent!