As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
— Colossians 3:12-17
Unlike some of your other pastors, I never attended Duke Divinity, and while that may mean a great many things about my education, one of the things that it means is that I have a very different relationship with one of Duke’s most famous theological minds, Stanley Hauerwas. Those that attended Duke Divinity tend to fall into one of two camps, either they love Hauerwas and all his many quirks or they hate Hauerwas because of his many quirks. I, on the other hand, have largely only encountered Dr. Hauerwas through his writings, varied though they are. Some I have enjoyed, others I have wrestled with, but all I have respected.
Some years ago, Hauerwas undertook to write an annual letter to his godson, Laurie Wells, on the anniversary of his baptism. Each letter discusses a different virtue of the Christian faith. They show a tenderness and a life formed in the Christian faith. The letters have been published as The Character of Virtue. On the first anniversary of Laurie’s baptism, Hauerwas wrote about kindness because, in his words, “I believe kindness to be the very character of God.” Hauerwas goes on to write:
To be kind is to learn how to be a creature with other creatures without regret. To be kind is to learn how to receive kindness from others without protection. To be kind is to be drawn into God’s good creation without fear. To be kind is to be disposed to trust the gifts of others that quite literally make life possible. To be kind is to know when not to speak because nothing can be said that is not false. To be kind is the willingness to be present when nothing can be said or done to make things better.
As our national life inches toward familiar patterns — students going back to school, restaurants opening, even sports returning to television — I suspect we will need kindness more than anything: to hold one another gently and offer one another care in every way; to cover ourselves with compassion and to see each other with compassion; to let peace rule in our hearts; and to allow Christ to dwell in us richly.
The Servant Song
Brother, sister, let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.
We are pilgrims on a journey;
we’re together on this road.
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
Dear God, if I cannot be brilliant, let me be kind. If I cannot change the world, let me inspire just one other to do so. If I cannot give away riches, let me be loving. Let me be known for kindness, for it is the greatest glory. Amen.
Pastor Tom Greener