Formation Fridays: Kindness as Solidarity
Have you ever said something and then realized where that saying comes from? I think about it a lot with different phrases or little colloquialisms that we say. One example I’ve used before is the term “sword fights” or “sword drills.” Many of you probably remember these. They were little honor-shame competitions in Sunday school where the teacher would yell out a Bible verse and two participants would race to see who could find it and read it aloud first.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized why they were called “sword drills”: we were rifling through the Bible, aka the “sword of the Truth.” Maybe I’m a little slow on these things, but I feel like we can do this with a lot words we use regularly.
One word that occurred to me was the very Fruit of the Spirit we are talking about this month: Kindness.
I know what kindness looks like. I know what it means, but I had never really thought about what the word says it means. Kindness. Kind-ness. “Kind” is a category or type of something, something that is the same. “-ness” is a suffix that denotes a status. So “kindness” at its root is the quality of sameness. Offering someone or something a kindness is an acknowledgement of the sameness and connectedness that we share.
This is also interesting because it implies equality. For something to be the same it needs to be equal. If I consider myself better than someone, and offer them something (say, for example, giving a money to a person who sleeps outside) and do it not out of equality but out of my position or privilege, I am not being kind to that person, I am having pity of them. Pity is a posture of difference; kindness is a posture of solidarity.
I am not saying that gift is a bad thing to give. But for it to be a kindness, it has to come from a place of empathy and co-suffering. One persons suffering is all of our suffering; we affirm this when we look at Jesus on the cross, who took on the suffering of the world, not to relieve it, but to release it. Jesus’ suffering on the cross is an identification with the deep suffering of the world, and Jesus’ resurrection reveals the pattern of suffering and death—new life is born from it.
To live a life of kindness, to live a life of solidarity with everyone (especially those on the margins, a key reason why Scripture continually points us to the immigrant, the orphan and the widow) is to live a resurrected life. Jesus’ suffering on the cross was a kindness to us: an identification with, a sameness. Let us go forward and show that same kindness with the world around us.
Grace and Peace,