Friday, 2 January 2009

Random Acts of Christian Kindness?

There seems to be a secular movement that Christians have picked up on and claimed at thier own. Most of us will know it as "Random acts of Kindness". I first came across the movement in the book by Danny Wallace, which if you've not read it is hilarious. However, I was horrified when I heard a Christian Leader speak on it and advocate it at a well known Annual conference. The icing on the cake however was his example: Once he stopped at a toll and paid for the person behind......Won't Jesus be proud?! It seems that in these particular circles there seems to be a similar aim to the majority of men in the world: Find a big RACK. In the rest of this entry I'd like to try and summerise why I feel that "Random Acts of Kindness"Theology should not been enouraged.

Before I start I'd like to note a disclaimer. I am in no way saying that we shouldn't help those in need. As Chrstians we should have Mercy and Compassion on those in need: Friends, family and enemies, as this is emulating God and we are called to do so. A large amount of judgement God gives on people in the Bible is because of thier lack of social concern. What I am quesioning however is the motivation we have and I would like to look at the dangers of this Theology and what our motivation should be.
Well, here we go:

1)As Christians should our actions be random? I do think so. Now this is not to stop spontaneity but rather lack of commitment. Yes, when we see people in need we should try to help when ever possible but the danger here is that instead of people devoting 1 day a week, an hour, a week a year or whatever they will replace it with randomness. Those in true need rarely need random acts but consitency. The danger of lack of commitment is that people will feel like a project. Relationships are necessary for people. For some the thought of seeing you at the end of the week, or whenever, may be the only thing that gets them through, or the thought that every week food is available if they cannot afford it themselves. Further more, although spontaneity is good, it is better to have pre-meditation. This means both setting aside specific times to serve, as above, but also leaving the house each day ready to serve. In this way Spontaneity becomes Pre-meditation.

2)Should Christians be kind? In all my years of reading I have never read that a Christian is to be kind. I've heard sermons, read books and heard it at rallies but I have never read it in my Bible. What I read is that we are to emulate God: Loving, Merciful, Compassionate, gracious, generous, Long-suffering, to to name a few, but never kind. In fact I would say that doing the kind, or as it is so often synonymous in this case, nice thing can actually be sinful. I believe the best word to describe the Christian attitude to those in need is love. Love.....your neighbour, your enemy, the LORD your God, one another, does no harm, fulfills the Law, covers a multitude of sins, forgives all. Therefore we should Love each other. This then means that those who need help get it but foolish fancies like paying a toll are exculded for thier foolishness. 1 Cor 13:13 "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." Lets make sure that our acts gain us treasures in heaven and that we dont recieve our reward in full now.

3)What is our motivation? "To help others" is they cry of most Christians. Many others will give answers such as "To be good humans", or "To earn points with God". Jesus of course told us to. The often quoted verse of "Love your neighbour as yourself" rings in our ears and our minds spring to verses where Jesus heals people, or talks to prostitutes, or one of the other humanitarian actions he does. What we have to ask is why. The Bible is rife with good acts like this but are bracketed with stories of converts, or crouds appearing to listen to teaching. Here are two examples of a famous quote of Jesus':

Matthew 7:12"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.": Bracketed by verses 7-8 and verses 13-14, both of which are about becoming and living as Christians. Matthew makes it quite clear here, and throughout his whole Gospel that acts are a natural outworking of faith and that our acts should lead people to Jesus.

Luke 6:31"Do to others as you would have them do to you.": becuase (V35) it emulates God and (Vs 43-45) it is the outworking of our new nature. Following these teaching Luke writes this "When Jesus has finished teaching all this in the hearing of the poepl, he entered Capernaum" (7:1). Queue the first gentile convert, the centurion, then the widows son is raised from the dead in Nain of which Luke writes this: "They [the Large crowd] were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country."(7:16-17)

Our motivation then should be Evangelism. Our good acts are to show God's love, to convict of sin (Prov 25: 21-23) and to open an opportunity to share the Gospel. Now this is not to say that we force feed the Gospel to people, on the contrary! We do good works to open an opportunity to share the Gospel.

Finally, St. Francis of Assisi famously commented, "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words", and although I appreciated the sentiment I believe a Christian should instead say "Preach the Gospel at all times and where possible use words"

What then should we do? I suggest PEAL: "Pre-meditated, Evangelistic acts of Love". Let us go with the intent to Love as God loves, so that we may call as we were called.
Till next time
Keep PEALing
(Like a Bell, not skin!)