I saw a bumper sticker the other day that should be banned. I imagine that the owner of that car had the best intentions when she stuck the sticker on the back of her blue hybrid. She’s probably one of the kindest, warmest, most peace-loving persons in all of North County. For all I know, she is a member of my church, or a member of some church. I bet she likes yoga, limits her weekly red-meat intake, and brings her own re-usable shopping bags to the grocery store. I already like everything about her – except for her bumper sticker.
You’ve seen it before, I am sure. “Practice Random Acts of Kindness.” Even the font is gentle and kind.
I’m a big fan of practicing kindness. It’s the random part that I find problematic. Random doesn’t work anymore. The problems of the world are too big and complex to be random about anything. Random suggests that kindness is optional, that our response to human need is voluntary, that love is discretionary. Take it or leave it, if you have the time.
Jesus considered kindness, or love of the neighbor/stranger, a deliberate act of the human will that requires intention, determination, and focus. Kindness wasn’t something he got around to in his spare time, or in the right circumstances. Every day of his life, Jesus had a plan and ordered his life according to the plan: heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the hungry, forgive sins, restore the outcast to the community. These human needs presented themselves to Jesus in random, unexpected, unscheduled ways, on a daily basis. But his response was never random.
In Mark 1:40-45, a leper reaches out to Jesus and says, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus replies, “I do choose. Be clean.”
A random, unplanned need, met by a determined savior, whose conscious choice is always to love.