We played “Stump the Pastor” at my church last Sunday. Everyone wrote down a question about the bible, the Church or theology, and I drew them out of two baskets, one for kids and one for adults, and tried to answer them on the spot.
Of course, we only got a few answered in the 15 minute sermon slot. The rest of the questions were left on my desk to rummage through on Tuesday morning. Some were designed to trick me (How many animals did Moses take on the ark?); some were skeptical (How many mistakes has God made?) and some were sad (If we are spirits in heaven, how will I recognize my loved ones?). And then, one question made my heart skip a beat:
“Why are you so kind?”
It was written by a child who, I imagine, has seen her share of unkindness. I was touched, at first, that she experienced me as “kind”, but I also recognized that this was not a compliment. It was a question. It was asked from her world, where kindness is not a given.
Entering the Church, that child has found kindness, and not just from me. And this makes her wonder why. What makes us Christians kind?
I consider the family I was lucky to be born into. I think of the many people who taught me kindness as I grew up in the Church. I watched and emulated these people, but I have also experienced a lot of worldly unkindness, some of it in the Church, and sometimes I have absorbed it, so that, if you don’t happen to catch me on Sunday morning, you may find me in a not-so-kind state.
Finally, I remember Christ, who embodied kindness in the face of all sorts of evil. If I am sometimes kind, it’s because I have been drenched in the stories of his rough kindness, a kindness that embraced filthy children, shook evil spirits out of the sick, and shouted a dead man out of his tomb.
It is not really my nature to be kind. I think, without the Church, I would be a lonely curmudgeon, actually. The Church turns out not to be a place where kind people gather, but a snare for sinners who get sucked into the claws of kindness– and transformed.
I am posting this entry under the category of “Reasons to Stay Open”. If a church is to remain open in the future, this is one reason why it must: to provide that “claw of kindness” in a troubled world that draws a child in and makes her wonder, until the day it overcomes and transforms her.