Book Review: Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue, by Barry H. Corey
Those outside the church will never be won over by watching evangelicals clad in razor wire lobbing accusations at each other or at the secular culture. It’s a new day for a winsome Christian witness without a diluted gospel message. The most effective witness will be done by those who blend conviction and courage with civility. We need both a firm center and soft edges.
These thoughts summarize the message of Dr. Barry Corey’s new book, Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue. Dr. Corey is the President of Biola University, a Christian liberal arts university in Southern California. As an alumnus of Biola and as a parent of two Biola alums, I was curious when I saw this book posted for review. I was both encouraged and challenged by the message of the book.
The title of the book comes from Micah 6:8 (ESV). “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
As the author explains,
I wrote the book out of frustration that those who represent the gospel are often caustic and harsh, picking fights with those whose views are hostile to theirs. In other words, Christians are often starting with unkindness. Unkindness has little effect beyond marshaling other Christians to admire our toughness and raising our own profile. This has gotten us nowhere in the cause of the gospel, our Christian call to be redemptive voices to that which is broken.
Our increasingly shrill sounds in the public square are not strengthening our witness but weakening it. Bullhorns and fist shaking—mustering armies and using war-waging rhetoric—are far less effective than the way of kindness, treating those with who we disagree with charity and civility. That doesn’t mean we don’t stand courageously for what we deem right, true, and just. But kindness is not incompatible with courage. Kindness embodies courage, although courage does not always embody kindness. Too often our centers are firm on conviction, but our edges are also hard in our tactics. This way is characterized by aggression.
And on the other hand there is the way of “niceness.” Whereas aggression has a firm center and hard edges, niceness has soft edges and a spongy center. Niceness may be pleasant, but it lacks conviction. It has no soul. Niceness trims its sails to prevailing cultural winds and wanders aimlessly, standing for nothing and thereby falling for everything.
Kindness is certainly not aggression, but it’s also not niceness. … Kindness is fierce, never to be mistaken for niceness.
In today’s polarized culture, we are often pulled toward one extreme or the other, soft centers or hard edges. I’m proposing a different approach, a third way. Rather than the harshness of firm centers and hard edges, and rather than the weakness of spongy centers and soft edges, why don’t we start with kindness? Kindness is the way of firm centers and soft edges.
Dr. Corey opens the book with stories about his father. His dad was the one who taught Barry about the difference that showing kindness can make in the lives of people. In addition, his father modeled the character quality for his son. Barry is now doing the same in the lives of his family and the students of Biola.
Rather than merely talk in vague generalities, Dr. Corey gives specific examples of where kindness is needed today and the difference it makes. He describes how kindness can smooth the communication process between differing opinions, such as the issue of gay marriage. While not compromising his convictions, Dr. Corey engages in civil dialogue with those who take a different viewpoint. The author describes how kindness shows up and is present when people are suffering during times of grief and difficulty. He models how to show kindness to those who are unattractive in the world’s eyes and how to demonstrate kindness through the process of mentoring others. Dr. Corey also deals with how one responds when kindness is rejected.
Throughout the book, the author weaves together personal stories about his family, interaction with the community, conversations with students, and biblical principles to flesh out what kindness might look like in daily life. While you may not agree with everything Dr. Corey says, you will be challenged by the need to love kindness.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.