Norms of Kindness
Christopher B. Harbin
There is a motif circulating in our society about random acts of kindness. The idea is to take people by surprise by doing some that is kind, but unexpected. The movie Evan Almighty was crafted around just such a motif, as were some others that recently played along similar lines, like ''Pay it Forward.'' There are websites dedicated to promoting random acts of kindness and there have been movements to use random acts of kindness to promote positive attitudes in the larger community. Edwin and Clara were part of a church in Knoxville using motifs of random kindness toward strangers as an outreach methodology. Those are great initiatives. Wouldn't it be better, however, if kindness did not stand out so much as being the abnormal attitude of our lives? What would it take to make acts of kindness the norms of our actions and attitudes?
Paul had been writing about the inclusion of Gentiles into the body of believers. They were added into the body of Christ on the very same grounds of grace, mercy, and forgiveness that opened the doors for the inclusion of the Jewish believers. Their acceptance into the fold was without reservation and found itself fully under the plan and will of God. God granted them the same status as any Jew coming to faith in Christ Jesus. There were distinguishing aspects of their lives, cultures, and social norms, however, and it is to these distinguishing marks that Paul finally turns his attention in this passage. He no longer concerns himself with the fact that all are accepted by God on the very same basis. That has already been firmly established. He now concerns himself with the fact that the redemption to which we are called should transform every aspect of our existence.
Paul turns to issues of personal transformation. He had recognized the cultural divide between Jews and Gentiles. That was, after all, the underlying issue in this letter so far. The Jews did not want to ...
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