Columnists > Voices

A little kindness

Opinions are fine, but hold them loosely

Issue: "Don't fence me out," April 21, 2007

A saying on the office door of a professor here at seminary: "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, easy, elegant, and wrong." Methinks it should be taped over every classroom, nailed to the lintel of every domicile, and sandblasted into the granite of church porticos across the land.

Not always right but never in doubt, that's us. Name an issue and we line up with an opinion. Organic eggs versus nonorganic? Not only do I have a view on this, but if yours is different from mine, I like you a little less somehow.

Silverware up or down in the dish drainer? I used to be a big "down" person-because of the obvious danger of self-impaling. At age 54 I became a big "up" person-because of the obvious hygiene considerations of blades in contact with accumulated dinner detritus at the base of said drainer (and because my friend told me he does it that way).

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No controversy is too small. But the bigger they are the harder our unity falls. Here's a medium-sized issue that came up before Valentine's Day. I asked my daughter if her boyfriend has ever sent her a Valentine. She said no in a way that I discerned-notwithstanding her militant anti-commercialism and subscription to Adbusters magazine-that she lamented the annual oversight.

So, do I phone Tim with a hot tip that could save a relationship? Or do I refrain? I can argue it both ways. Scripture says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Well, if I were Haelinn, I would absolutely not appreciate FTD flowers forthcoming from a feckless suitor who needed prompting by Mama. On the other hand, if I were Tim, I would be most grateful. Which is the way of love? (I'll bet you have a firm opinion on that.)

I see in the papers that a federal lawsuit has ignited over a local schoolboy's donning of a Jesus costume in a school parade last Halloween. The principal said to ditch the paper crown of thorns and call the robe a Roman toga. The boy and mother demurred, reasoning that if devils and vampires could prance the corridors of public education, why shouldn't the Lord of Lords? How say you, reader?

Do you give a handout to a street beggar? I thought it was a good thing till a woman I respect who works in a private city shelter told me that it undermines her colleagues' efforts to coax service-resistant homeless to give up their alleys and parks. What say you, reader? The situation is a bit more complex than I thought when I was cocksure.

On a Thursday I had dinner with a couple who persuaded me by the end of the chicken cordon bleu that it's insanity to support a U.S. missionary to the tune of $100,000 when we can help a dozen indigenous gospel laborers who already know the language and culture. On a Friday I had dinner with a former missionary to Madras who persuaded me that though it might seem more cost-effective to just send money, there are good reasons to also send warm bodies abroad: (1) It is important for our affluent American souls to guard that personal connection to the Great Commission and not a mere arms-length, monetary one; (2) it is important for cross-pollination of insight to have culture sharpen culture. What say you, reader? Complex and inelegant, eh?

On war, what say you? I used to say it was wrong for us to get into country A because we're not offering the same help to countries B through M, which also have evil dictators. Then I recognized the false antithesis in my argument: Just because we can't help all doesn't mean we shouldn't help some.

In The Great Divorce, the shining Spirit divulges one of heaven's secrets to an earthling still stuck on loveless opinionism: "That's what we all find when we reach this country. We've all been wrong! That's the great joke. There's no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living."

The Lord "knows the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44:21) and that's what He cares about. Doctrine is good and love is better. How about a little kindness, please?

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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