Thanks, Mr. Rogers

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I enjoy a well-written biography. Who was he? Where did he come from? What formed his values? I am reading The Good Neighbor, about the man who was part of shaping the lives of millions of children who visited Mr. Roger’s neighborhood each day on television.

A primary descriptive word the author uses is kind, tracing Fred’s kindness to the example of his wealthy parents who were active in caring for the poor of their city. Beyond their example, he knew what it felt like to be treated badly. He was often bullied as a child when he was overweight, isolated, and frequently ill.  Fred Rogers wanted every child to feel loved and invested his life in pursuit of that aim.

Kind – what a bland word, at first glance. We may admire kindness but few of us consciously aspire to being ‘kind.’ Fred Rogers made an easy target for the pseudo-sophisticates who mocked his cardigan sweater and gentle tone. And, yet, children loved him, drawn to a man who had time to notice their interests.

Are you kind?

A kind person is of a gentle nature, helpful, and readily showing concern for others. A good measure of patience is required as well. The Word does not just suggest kindness to disciples. God requires it of us. Contrasting two very different ways of life, Paul writes “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV)

I feel the weight of those moments in my life when impatience made me demanding or mean-spirited. I know how easy it is to speak critical or harsh words, filled with judgment, that leave another’s heart broken.  And I am thankful that God has worked to make me a much kinder man than I once was, though that work has been at the cost of much pain.

The world we live in desperately needs Christians who are filled with kindness. In the cacophony of the raging culture wars, when even Christians hurl Twitter broadsides at those with whom they differ within the Body of Christ, I pray that God will make me gentle.  Gentleness does not mean that we live without conviction. Kindness does not make us fearful of taking a stand. Those who are filled with the Spirit learn to trust Him and that deep faith makes us capable of listening well so as to make even those with whom we disagree feel cared for, persons who are loved by God.

Indeed, kindness is evidence of the life of the Spirit in us! “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  God is kind to us. He does not treat us contemptuously, does not refuse to hear us because we are ‘less’ to Him. He gives us good gifts, loving us even when we are apathetic towards Him.

As you head into a new week, try a little kindness. In prayer, thank God for His compassion. Repent for specific places where you have been mean, judgmental, cruel, or careless.  And, then pray for kindness and let Him break your heart, take away your fears, and make you gentle.

Here is a word from the Word – “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NIV)

_______

Try a Little Kindness
(an old song but a great thought)

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way 

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

 Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

 You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Glen Campbell

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