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The Wardrobe of Easter: Kindness

Language that folks wouldn’t dream of using in face-to-face conversation has now become, sad to say, a normal part of their careless, coarsened interaction. How do you reduce the level of shrill and inappropriate talk and behavior?

Facebook, Twitter and blogs are full of them: vile, violent words from nameless, faceless—and inconsiderate—individuals who suppose themselves entitled to utter whatever they please, no matter how damaging and lethal the impact of their words upon others. Language that folks wouldn’t dream of using in face-to-face conversation has now become, sad to say, a normal part of their careless, coarsened interaction.

The swath of carnage and destruction that such hate-filled language produces is wide. And it can be perpetrated so quickly and easily—all it takes is a few quick keystrokes, and a hitting of the “Send” button as a final punctuation.

If anonymously written internet comments can serve as Exhibit A of hateful attitudes expressed toward faceless others, ranting TV heads follow close behind as Exhibit B. One commentator terms the entire spectacle of such sorry speech and gestures as “drive-by insulting.”

Reducing the shrill

How to reduce the level of shrill and inappropriate talk and behavior? Well, for starters, internet companies have begun erecting defenses. Many media sites have their commentators travel to third-party sites such as Facebook prior to commenting, thus encouraging real writers to connect with other real readers, not nameless faces and faceless names. 

Others are calling for deeper, more substantial change—for an altering of people’s attitudes, not merely of their external behaviors. They make appeal to human beings’ minds and hearts—to their “nobler side,” if you will—in hopes that then they’ll speak and act more appropriately.  

It’s worth a try, I suppose. In fact, for what it’s worth, let me toss in a homespun check my Grandma taught me when I was a little boy. Her intuitive “sixth sense” sounded an alarm within her whenever inappropriate words were about to come out of my mouth, Grandma would raise her index finger toward me in caution, and ask in a tone that carried an inflection both interrogative and accusative: “Dale, is it true; is it necessary; is it kind?”

Cultivating “chrestotes”

But now let me now set forth an antidote far more powerful and effective: Learn the meaning of the Greek word Chrestotes, and acquire skill at putting it into practice. By all measures, chrestotes can serve as the strongest counteragent against rudeness and incivility.

Chrestotes as St. Paul uses it in Colossians 3:12, connotes such qualities as “favor, generosity, allowance, beneficence, goodwill, clemency—largeness of heart.” Chrestotes, simply put, means kindness. Chrestotes mirrors God Himself (cf Luke 6:35) and God’s firstborn son, Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:3). More than half of the uses of chrestotes in the New Testament refer to the kindness of God.  

How important for Christians nowadays to learn to act and speak with kindness.  Kindness can serve both as counter-cultural witness against the brutish world around us and as vivid evidence of our risen-ness with Jesus. To speak and to act kindly ought to be put on and worn daily as a very visible part of our Easter dress—our “Easter best.”

Worship as a call to live chrestotically

And where are we to learn the meaning of Chrestotes and how to put it into practice? It’s learned best among God’s people gathered “in the sanctuary” for worship and instruction. There they become reminded of Jesus’ death and resurrection for them and of his call to live, as he did, chrestotically

There they can confess the small murders they perpetrated upon others when they belittled and insulted them by unkind thoughts, words, looks and gestures. There, too, they can learn to plead for the Spirit’s presence and power as they pledge again to live as their Lord intends.

God’s Word summons Christians: Practice chrestotes—always and everywhere. It is a Christ-like character quality. It befits those who have become resurrected with Jesus, and who aim to speak and act accordingly. 

Theological Reflection

Of all the apostolates open to all of us the
Most effective, the most far-reaching, the most
Consoling is Kindness.

Kindness is one of God’s best gifts to the world.
It drives gloom and darkness from souls.
It puts hope into fainting hearts.
It sweetens sorrow. It lessens pain.
It discovers unsuspected beauties
Of human character.
It calls for a response from all that is best in souls.
It purifies, glorifies, ennobles, all that it touches
It opens the floodgates of children’s laughter.
It gathers the tears of repentant love.
It lightens the burden of weariness.
It stops the torment of angry passion.
It takes the sting from failure.
It kindles courageous ambition.
It lifts the unfortunate.
It leads back the wayward.
It walks in the steps of Our Savior.

Let us all become apostles of kindness to partake
Of its sweetness, to aspire to its holiness.
The apostolate of kindness is exalted;
It is sublime;
It is Christ-like.

The Abbey of Gethsemani, Trappist, KY

Hymn: There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

There's a wideness in God's mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in God's justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kindly judgement given.

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind;
and the heart of the eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
Make our love, O God, more faithful,
let us take you at your word,
and our lives will be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.

Words: Frederick Faber, adapt. Gregg DeMey © Re:Create Music, admin. Faith Alive Christian Resources

The Wardrobe of Easter Series

This series was written to be read in the following order: