Within the Church, we have made doctrine and kindness enemies to each other. To the disservice of all, we cause complementary elements to seem confrontational.
Many people have grown frustrated with the Church due to a lack of sensitive concern for those struggling in life. Unfortunately, many congregations are known for adhering to correct orthodoxy but lack a proper orthopraxy. We do not practice what we preach.
Some have grown more hesitant to meet tangible needs because of the growing danger of the social gospel that seeks to address physical needs while neglecting the spiritual ones. You would think that biblical doctrine would catalyze biblical practice, but that is not always the case. In fear of looking like “those people” who meet needs but lack correct doctrine, many people have walked away from meeting needs altogether.
- Some unbiblical theologians have proper kindness but lack correct doctrine.
- Some biblical theologians have correct doctrine but lack proper kindness.
Is there another way? I sure hope so! And I believe Jesus showed us to have kingdom kindness.
Kingdom kindness is the type of compassion that points to Christ.
Despite the stereotypes we use to separate each other, you can actually be compassionate toward those in need and not be in danger of possessing unbiblical doctrine. We’ve got to stop acting as if truth and kindness are enemies to each other.
In John 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000. He was concerned about their physical needs. He had been meeting spiritual ones, but he wanted to care for them practically as well.
What happened as a result?
The people came back to seek him again, and Jesus used some shocking language to describe them:
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”John 6:26
They came back looking for another meal. They wanted the gifts instead of the Giver. Instead of another meal, Jesus gave another sermon, and most of them left, and Jesus didn’t seem surprised by it (John 6:66-67). People probably talked about how unloving and uncompassionate he was. He lost followers. The crowd thinned out. And Jesus kept going.
Jesus met physical needs but not the exclusion of the spiritual need.
Jesus wasn’t going to simply care for their physical bodies and endanger their spiritual conditions. He would not leave them with full bellies and empty souls. You can love someone enough to give them a meal, but if you don’t love them enough to show them the gospel, your actions actually reveal hatred toward them.
A handout won’t serve anyone in hell.
To follow in Jesus’ footsteps is to show kindness, but it is to show a Kingdom kindness that is fitting them for eternity more than the momentary.
- As a Christian, as a ministry, or as a church, are you able to show truth and kindness?
- Are you able to maintain compassion and conviction?
- Can you possess a type of kindness grounded in the Kingdom?
- Can you be so present in the Kingdom that you can’t help but portray kindness?
This grace and truth of Jesus are not enemies to each other; so let’s stop trying to get them to square off.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.