I have been blessed for the last ten years to pastor a church that has been particularly kind to me. Now, to some people that may sound odd. “Aren’t Christians supposed to be kind to one another,” they might ask? Yes, but an odd thing often happens to a person when he or she becomes a pastor: church people sometimes will treat you in ways they never would treat another Christian.
For ten years my congregation has been patient with me, gentle with me, and encouraging to me. I have never deserved it; they treated me that way because in their minds that is how God’s people ought to behave, for kindness is of God. This consistent expression of kindness does not mean that we have not had our disagreements or that no unkind word has ever been spoken, but that unkindness is rarely shown to me and consequently I have been able to move through my days here without fear of nasty comments and boorish behavior aimed my way. A bit of that does come, but it is overwhelmed by greater kindness. That this is exceptional stands out to me every time I attend a meeting with other pastors. Typically I will hear a pastor express frustration or pain or whatever over some parishioner treating him in ways that bring shame on the church and violate the love command like a man who beats his wife violates his marriage vows. True, I only hear one side of the story, but the accounts often chill me. I listen to their stories while having a difficult time relating because I have so few instances of people being mean to me in in my congregation. Needless to say, my gratitude for the demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit in my present congregation is very high.
The effect of this kindness in no way makes me lax in my duties. Some might think that peace and kindness might make one soft, lazy, or sluggish because there are no people you are trying to prove wrong about you, no one that you are trying to earn respect from, etc. No, their kindness has consistently made me want to become a better pastor. Like Jack Nicolson’s character in As Good As It Gets, I think, “You make me want to be a better man.” Their kindness leads me to repentance and a redoubling of my efforts. True, a healthy degree of tension is good for the corporate body and maybe I am not being prophetic enough to stir up discomfort and thus the occasional harsh comment from them. But I tend to think that sometimes, because God is so powerful and can truly change hearts and grow his people in love, a pastor is blessed with a wonderful core group in his charge.
In the end, true kindness is not the result of a lack of tension or conflict, but a result of the Holy Spirit growing a congregation in personal holiness.