One night at dinner I was explaining to the boys my frustrations about Trump as the presidential candidate. I explained how the president needs to be someone who is smart, kind, and a good leader. One of my boys immediately started jumping up and down in his chair and saying “ooo, ooo!” …and pointing at his daddy. He is so right. If only!
Last summer, my oldest sang in a children’s choir for the first time, following in the steps of his momma and making her very proud. One of the songs in the concert that week was one called “Be Ye Kind,” a simple song with this text:
Be ye kind to each other
Have a tender heart
Treat everyone with love and fairness
No matter who they are
Be ye kind to each other
In all you say and do
Just do unto others
As you would have them do unto you.
Listening to those children sing timeless truths, with their little hands shoved in their pockets and proud smiles spreading over their cute faces, it all seemed so simple. Yes! Be kind to each other! Isn’t that the secret to so much human interaction? Kindness! Fairness. Do unto others!
But now it is 2016, and we are in the middle of an election cycle. A big election cycle, with much on the line, and many people seeking to become our nation’s next president. Kindness seems so far away these days. I choose, in general, not to discuss politics on my social media, partly because I find it to be so futile. I have never once heard of someone changing his or her mind on politics due to reading someone else’s Facebook status. It just doesn’t seem to work that way. And I happen to have good friends who land all over the political spectrum, and I love them all. But lately I feel disheartened by the political vitriol that I find lurking all over the place.
So here are my thoughts, in the “for what it’s worth” department. First, I wish we would all stop invoking the name of Jesus for our own political gain. I’m not talking about standing on principle, which is a great thing. I’m talking about implying that Jesus would vote for your candidate if He was walking around today. Or that Jesus would co-sponsor your bill. Or that Jesus hates your opponent. There are people who love Jesus on both sides of the aisle and everywhere in between. I know this because of all of you, my friends from different walks of life. Ten years ago, it would have pained me to admit that Jesus is not bound by our political parties. But I have changed a lot since then, and anymore I wish that people, all people, would stop trying to use Jesus for political gain. Instead, I think we should all start striving to be more like Him personally. To know Him and to be like Him. A lot of our problems could be helped if we just acted more like the One we claim to follow.
And okay, second, I fully admit that I am a crazy bundle of beliefs which will not fit neatly with any one candidate or political party, ever. I am both pro-life and pro-gun-control, for what I consider to be the same reason: life. And the list of fascinating dichotomies goes on. That being said, I can love you even if you don’t agree with me on these or other issues. And I don’t think you are evil or stupid. And I truly believe we can still get along.
Which brings me to my third and final point: Kindness. Kindness is where I believe I can find my Jesus, where we can all find His grace, regardless of political persuasion and in the midst of a disheartening political landscape. I think about that song that my precious boy performed in his choir concert. Be kind to each other. Have a tender heart. Treat everyone with love and fairness, no matter who they are. This is the call. I don’t mean being a doormat, and I don’t mean being without opinions (clearly I don’t mean that), and I don’t mean that we won’t sometimes squabble. We will disagree. But we can also, always, choose to be kind in our disagreements.
Kindness may theoretically cost nothing, but in practice it will require much from us. The path of kindness will require fewer words and more listening. We will have to look for the best in everyone, even when we are skeptical that there is anything good to find. And sometimes, kindness will cost us much, much more.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
And what was the attitude of Christ when people were unkind to him?
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” 1 Peter 2:21-23
I could be wrong about this (I’m used to being wrong because I’m 30 and a mother…), but it seems to me that Jesus-brand kindness means we abdicate our right to revile in return when being reviled. Jesus-brand kindness doesn’t utter threats. Jesus-brand kindness trusts the Father with the outcome. Jesus-brand kindness is full of forgiveness. So that’s my plan this political season. Quiet trust. Doing what is right (notice that Jesus committed no sin!). Forgiveness. And I choose kindness, a call that is simultaneously simple and supernaturally difficult. That’s the aim for me between now and November, and beyond, and I invite you to join me.