See, Seize and Recognize Opportunities for Kindness

See, Seize and Recognize Opportunities for Kindness

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

What to do, when to do it

If you read or listen to the passage too quickly, your ear or eye will place the emphasis on the command to “do good to everyone.”

Yet perhaps the operative phrase in verse 10, the one that demands greater focus is, “as we have opportunity.”  You see, the verse not only tells us WHAT to do, BUT WHEN to do it.

There are plenty of opportunities to extend kindness to those around us.

Yet somehow, the decision about “opportunity” becomes subjective; that is, subject to our own ideas of when kindness is convenient for us.

Often, we wait for a supernatural, transcendental cue that prompts us to act kindly to one another. Sadly, this is a reflection of our human degenerate condition.

Not surprisingly, it is also a reflection of our current societal state.

Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin and others would describe what I’ve proposed as a symptom of our “total depravity,” when the selfish subjective us takes over the decision making.

Few could argue that we are selfish creatures who care only for our personal well-being, or when someone else’s well-being is directly tied to our own; children, friends, etc.

Unfortunately, we often disregard the second of the love commandments which requires us to think about our neighbor.

We often lose sight of the responsibility that God in Christ calls us to fulfill, to think and to live.

 

See, seize and recognize

The word kindness is generally defined as the state or quality of being kind[1].

This definition presupposes a state of mind, a predisposition to self and others to act in a gracious, hospitable manner to others.

Expanding on this definition, I see kindness as a de-facto result of piety[2].

However, our piety often is corrupted, or to use a softer phrase, short-circuited, or overridden by our human depravity.

Thus, I would argue that kindness becomes not a nondiscriminatory act, but the result of a decision we make to extend it to whom we please.

The call in Galatians 6:10 is to do good to everyone as we see an opportunity or an opening.

There are no conditions based on whether they are family or friend, stranger or acquaintance, Black or White.

The passage tells us that kindness is a decision waiting for an opening. 

Hence, the only challenge should be in “seeing,” “seizing,” and “recognizing” the Kairos moment, where we then partner with God to become tangible in the helping, welcoming, and being gracious with one another.

Regrettably, for us and the neighbor, our decisions to be kind are clouded by our individual desires and aspirations in service of self, by which we discriminate against those who appear when we see and recognize the Kairos moment, but don’t seize the opportunity.

We therefore lose an opportunity to have a moment with God.

 

Whatever it takes

Every individual has desires rooted in the instinct of survival, but which manifest itself throughout all stations of our lives, our thoughts and actions. The will-to-live often becomes the will-to-power.[3]

In the search for survival, our self-preservation clouds our vision to be kind because we are preoccupied with doing “whatever it takes” to get ahead.

Therefore, we miss seeing, seizing and recognizing the Karios.

We become captive to lies, to spreading negative rumors intended to damage the neighbor’s reputation.

Calvin refers to this as false witnessing, that includes not only lies but words spoken with an intent to harm a neighbor’s reputation.

On this road, we justify our sinful behavior by lying to ourselves; believing that what we do fulfills some obligation.

 

Kindness is a verb

Because of our toxic world, infected by the sins of racism, discrimination, sexism and all other ism that we use to separate ourselves from those that we seek to marginalize, our decision to engage in an act of kindness is dictated by allegiances to individuals who are members of our same tribes.

Have you ever wondered why someone who you know to engage in reprehensible conduct towards you, gets glowing reviews from others?

Chances are that you are not a member of their tribe, and the glowing reviewer is.

However, Christian piety means that we are living day in and day out in a state of being kind ready with a heart that is not driven by selfishness, or sexism, racism and all the other isms.

Kindness like faith is a verb, not a noun.

Being kind is a constant call to pause, take in that person before you who is a part of God’s creation, and then letting the Holy Spirit work and move in and through us, to bless them.

 

Kindness is an obligation

There is no such thing as a random act of kindness.

This phrase seems to see kindness as some kind of gift, and not an obligation, or a command.

Each circumstance, each interaction offers a unique opportunity to extend kindness, to share God’s love and grace in a tangible way. To be in a state of kindness requires preparation, unselfishness and love.

It requires spiritual practices such as prayer to help fight off the affects of total depravity.

It requires a close relationship with God, and love for ALL of God’s creation not just our segregated tribes.

Having a quality of being kind requires us to embrace the spiritual obligation to care for others, to sacrifice the self, to trust that God is in the midst of all these microscopic interactions.

We are motivated, eager even to follow the example of the ultimate unselfish act as seen through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

The Charge

Kindness requires grounding, intentional awareness, and connection with the collective.

Let’s confess our shortcomings.

Let us see God in all creation.

Let us develop and nurture a frame of mind where God is at the center.

Let us cultivate genuine piety.

Perhaps then, with God’s help, we’ll begin to show kindness, and hospitality, and no longer be guided by a fear of God, and not a fear of losing power, prestige or possessions.

 

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

 

Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens


Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens currently serves as Chief Enrollment Management Officer at Columbia Theological Seminary. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA. She has served as pastor and pulpit supply at various congregations of multiple denominations for 10 years.

She has also served the national Presbyterian Church, USA church on multiple committees and task forces related to issues of justice, advocacy, gender and racial reconciliation, visioning, vocational discernment, and strategic development for 15 years. She is married to Dr. Gordon Allen Govens who currently serves as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center of Law and Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law at Emory University. She is passionate about serving God by serving church and world. She enjoys preaching, teaching, traveling, warmer climates, tea, and walking along the shoreline.


[1] Dictionary.com

[2] Calvin defined Piety as the testimony of one’s knowledge of God and knowledge of self. John Calvin: Writings on Pastoral Piety, 67

[3] Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics, 18.

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