In the past two weeks, I’ve had a couple of people from two different schools say things—either outright or subtly—to let me know we wouldn’t be able to get along simply because of the high school my children attend.* I countered that just because we wear clothing from different teams doesn’t mean we can’t get along. I’m not sure I convinced them.
I’m not hugely competitive, and my personality craves harmony, so these exchanges wore on me. I wanted to take this personal example and turn it into a larger discussion, but I wasn’t sure how. Then, thankfully, former president George W. Bush and Ellen DeGeneres did it for me.
There they sat in the owner’s suite at a Cowboys vs. Packers football game. Two people who hold different viewpoints and cheer for different football teams were talking and laughing. Almost immediately, Ellen received scathing comments—none of them subtle—about how she shouldn’t be able to get along with that man.
Ellen countered: “I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay.” She added, “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
For people who believe in Jesus, this couldn’t be more true. Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It gives you the strength to be kind to the people who have different political opinions or lifestyles. Kindness allows you to live out the love of Jesus with the people around you—especially when it comes to friends, family, and strangers who aren’t yet in God’s family. There’s some advice in the Bible for wives who are married to men who don’t believe in Jesus: “If any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1,2). I think every believer can apply that. Are you trying to argue people into the kingdom or are you going to love them, speak God’s Word, and let the Holy Spirit bring them into the kingdom? As the song goes, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”— not because we’re jerks.
Kindness isn’t reserved only for those who are completely different from you though. It allows you to put aside rivalries within your church and the whole body of Christ. Sometimes it seems Christians are like siblings—no one else can pick on us, but we feel free to beat on each other.
That isn’t okay either.
Kindness gives you the motivation to be kind to the people in your church who drive you up a wall. It allows you to realize that your way of worship isn’t the only acceptable way. Kindness allows you to praise God (and overcome jealousy) because the church down the road is growing and yours isn’t. Kindness means that when one part of the body hurts, you hurt with it.
Kindness also gives you the motivation to speak the truth in love even (and especially) when it’s hard. See, kindness isn’t a pass not to talk about hard things, but it does mean that instead of looking at people as rivals, you see them as people God knit together and for whom Jesus died and rose.
Finally, kindness means continually checking your heart and your motivation. “Do not gloat when your enemy [rival] falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (Proverbs 24:17,18).
So be kind. To everyone.
* To be completely fair, there are supporters of both schools who are good and kind and friends of mine!
Linda Buxa is a writer and an editor. She happens to be a Packers fan. Her husband is a Minnesota Vikings fan. If they can get along, surely you can get along with your “rivals.”