|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
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About the Author
A native of Boston, Dr. Barry H. Corey has been president of Biola University since 2007. He previously served as vice president for education at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Corey received a BA in English and biblical studies from Evangel University and an MA in American studies and a PhD in education from Boston College. As a Fulbright scholar, he lived in Bangladesh, where he researched educational programs for children of the landless poor. He and his wife, Paula, live in Southern California and have three children: Anders, Ella, and Samuel.
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Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue
By Barry H. Corey
Tyndale House PublishersCopyright © 2016 Barry H. Corey
All rights reserved.
A FATHER'S PROFOUND LESSON: THE WAY OF KINDNESS CALLS US TO BE RECEIVABLE
* * *
Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. — MATTHEW 10:40, ESV
For my father's final days, we checked him into a Boston hospice center, referring to it as "palliative care" to mask the gravity of his last home. It was a welcoming room housing a welcoming man, and visitors sensed in this antiseptic environment the purity of my father's affections. As long as he was cogent, he was also kind.
Loving-kindness was my father's greatest way to help others see their greatest yearning: knowing the grace of God the Father. For him, it always began by making himself what he called "receivable." When he went into the receivable mode, he would reach out to others with love that could only be described as divine. That life of being receivable is the starting point for the life of kindness. And as his life flashed before my eyes on that last night, I recalled one of the most profound lessons he ever taught me.
My father lived the receivable life, but he talked to me about it only once. One somewhat ordinary conversation on an early morning walk with him in Bangladesh stands out as that transformative moment when I began to grasp how his acts of being receivable were the first steps toward kindness.
I was researching in Bangladesh for several months when my father visited for a few days, traveling with my mother between missionary stops in Madras and Singapore. I was in my late twenties, ponytailed and single. Each morning before breakfast, he and I descended the staircase from the small flat I leased and stepped onto the streets of Dhaka, one of the world's poorest and most densely populated cities. On our walk we passed half-constructed homes framed by bamboo scaffolding. Dumpsters were permanent, not portable, made of brick and rummaged through simultaneously by dogs and children and widows. Open drains on each side of the street reeked of human waste, and rickshaw peddlers dodged us as we walked our morning route.
For the three or four days we were together, we spent much of our time catching up on all that was happening in each other's lives. He was particularly interested in what I was seeing and observing. This was nothing new.
But one morning our walk seemed different — quieter and more contemplative. As we turned the first corner, he shared with me that five decades after he began his pilgrimage of faith, there was so much about God's wisdom and ways that he still did not know. He held no seminary degree. He never completed college. But as we walked, Hugh Corey — the follower of God — began to share with me what his life in Christ had taught him.
"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me," he spoke in his native King James language, recounting the words of Christ near the end of Matthew 10, "is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Finally, he camped on the next sentence, the point of his recitation: "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me."
Then he stopped talking for a few minutes, and I considered the last part of Christ's words my father had just recited: "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me."
I'm not sure my father grasped the full context of what Jesus was saying in that verse, but I'm certain he did understand what Jesus modeled in the Gospels: a receivable life. Love your enemies. Receive a child in Jesus' name. Pray for those who persecute you. When you're slapped on the cheek, turn the other. Listen to the shunned harlot. Talk to the scorned tax collector. When someone takes your coat, give him your shirt. When someone tells you she wants you to walk a mile with her, walk two.
Whoever receives you receives me. These are the instructions Jesus gave one day to his disciples, prescribing for them what it means to be a faithful follower.
Knowing I was the student that moment as we turned onto the next street, I waited for my father to continue. He told me that in everything he did, he would choose to make himself receivable to the people God placed in his life.
He actually used the word receivable. This was the word that made him tick. I don't know if I've heard other followers of Jesus refer to themselves that way, but the word works for me. My father gave me the vocabulary to articulate his way of life and to help me understand it in mine.
He stopped walking and turned to me. "Barry," he said, "if the lives God intersects with mine don't have the opportunity to receive me, how will they ever know the love God has for them?" I nodded.
What he was saying made sense in light of everything I'd seen him say and do in all our years together. He started walking again, and I fell in beside him.
"I've got to live my life so strangers, friends, aching, lonely, family — they receive me," he said. "And through me they see God's inexhaustible love."
We finished our walk in silence. I knew that although he wanted to share with me his musings as he had so many times before and would do so many times after, this moral was different. It was as if he had traveled halfway around the world just to find me and bequeath a truth. Maybe it was different because I had not heard his voice for many months. Maybe it was different because I was trying to make sense of my life in Christ while I lived among crowds of the world's poorest. Maybe it was different because I was ready to hear what he had to say. Maybe the Holy Spirit was speaking to me through a holy mouthpiece. I don't know.
This I do know: I have gone back to that walk many times. And as I have, I know that God ordained that moment when I would receive a cherished gift. On the fetid streets of Bangladesh — as from the local mosque the muezzin was calling Muslims to prayer — the bedrock of Hugh Corey's Christian faith was passed on to me, my father's son.
Two days after he spoke, I witnessed his demonstration of the profound power of the receivable life.
Shamsul was a poor Bangladeshi man of twenty-one who rented a bed in the servants' quarters behind the house where I lived. He spoke little English and, like many others, left his family in their village to seek work as a day laborer in Dhaka, Bangladesh's largest city.
I noticed my father begin to build a relationship with Shamsul in the few days since he arrived, something I honestly had not done. For my father, this was nothing new. All my life I saw him show love to schoolteachers, wayfarers, disgraced pastors, dentists, tailors, attorneys, and on and on. But it was not until after our walk earlier in the week that I had pondered how his life imitated the transforming power of Christ's words: "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me."
Then it happened. The receivable moment occurred between Hugh Corey and Shamsul when the words of Christ, as they had so often before, called my father to show his radical kindness.
I was transfixed as this sixty-eight-year-old Canadian preacher reached out his hands in a moment of outpouring compassion and — as I had witnessed many times before — held another person's face in his grip. I was willing to bet on what was coming next, and I would have won.
"Shamsul, my friend," the Canadian preacher said, "I love you." Then pulling my father's face to his, Shamsul leaned forward and kissed him right on the head. On one day in Bangladesh my father told me what kindness looked like. A few days later he showed me.
Over the years I've been quick to relegate the way of kindness to someone who is simpler, who is less of a leader than I am. I'm quick to conclude that some people have the knack for kindness, but it's not my thing. I'm too busy, too proud, too shy, too apathetic, too fearful, too macho, too passive, too oblivious. When I do this, I'm missing the point that for followers of Jesus, it's not an option but a mandate, not an occasion but a lifestyle. This has been my struggle for the better part of my life.
We're okay with occasional acts of kindness, but a life of kindness? That's for those less burdened by the strains of responsibility and who have a lot more margin to pencil kindness moments into their schedules. Kindness is too soft for leaders.
But the Bible never talks about kindness as a gift you either have or you don't. It describes kindness as a fruit of the Spirit, a virtue that is meant to grow from all Christians, even when other people don't like the kindness they see in us.
This may sound counterintuitive, but the objective of the receivable life is not to be received, but to be receivable. The goal of the kind life is not to be thanked; it is to be obedient. Whether or not the grocery clerk or the college professor receives my overtures of kindness should not be my concern. Jesus never said we would be received. He simply said we need to make ourselves receivable — that is, to remove the distance or the obstacles that keep others from seeing Jesus within us. In fact, Jesus said that sometimes, despite our lives of grace, we will not be received. We can expect, then, to be ignored, rejected, or even persecuted. He even assures us of solidarity with him when we are snubbed, affirming in the Gospel of Luke that "whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me" (10:16).
I sometimes confuse living to be received and living to be receivable. Living to be received focuses on how others respond to my kindness. This is out of my control. Not only that, but living to be received ultimately inflates my ego. Living to be receivable is different. It decreases the ego because it's kindness that is not awaiting a thank-you. Living the way of kindness should not be measured by how people perceive me. Living the way of kindness calls us to a posture of humility, and humility is most authentically lived when I accept that my kindness will sometimes be rejected. Kindness focuses on how I open myself for others to receive me, whether they choose to or not.
Those who live the receivable life make it easy for some to love them. They also make it easy for some to despise them. But they don't make it easy for anyone to forget them. Kindness always stands out.
The alchemy we need as Christians to impact the world for the cause of Christ is to make ourselves receivable, to live the way of radical kindness. Even our enemies will know we are Christians by our love, though we may continue in the crosshairs of their scorn. To many around the world, Christ's love for us and through us is offensive.
Sometimes Christians raise eyebrows in our own faith communities when we engage in conversation with people or groups who believe far differently than we do. My father himself certainly raised a few eyebrows. It's easier — and sometimes more fun — to cast stones from the outside than to engage winsomely through building friendships, what Jesus models as the way of kindness.
I hear myself telling university students that they need to live in this humble posture of being receivable, of being kind. Of course we need to stand up and fight for convictions that are under attack, but more often combative and defensive posturing ought to give way to listening and civility, even with those we see as ideological opponents. Kindness means being more concerned with what we are for than what we are against. Kindness means taking off the steel-toed boots used to kick Jesus into our culture or to kick heresies out of our brothers and instead walking barefoot, the very position Jesus' disciples took when he washed their feet and told them to do likewise. We need a firm center and soft edges. We need to tone down the saber rattling, the fist shaking, the scowled conversations, the voice raising.
The way of kindness is not just having right theology; it's being the right kind of people. It's understanding that our lives as Jesus' followers mean we have a common humanity with everyone, and therefore there's no need for exceptionalism. We owe all human beings the honor due them as beings made in the image of God.
Being receivable is Rick Warren saying yes to an invitation to address a gathering of Muslims, or Chuck Colson reaching across the aisle with Catholics, or Focus on the Family's Jim Daly initiating a quiet conversation with prochoice activists to promote foster care. Being receivable happens when pastors stand up against the bullying and the harsh discrimination against those in their communities who identify as LGBT. To many in the church, this kind of kindness is awkward and risky. It makes some of us uneasy. It sometimes backfires. But erring on the side of being too kind is far better than never trying to build a bridge at all. The isolationism and overconfidence often characteristic of Christian fundamentalism can be relaxed without relaxing the gospel on which we stand.
My father took a risk that erring on the side of kindness was worth it. I still find myself stopping to think about what Jesus meant when he said, "Whoever receives you receives me" and then went on to say, "Whoever receives me receives him who sent me." By extension, when we make ourselves receivable in Jesus' name, representing him, those who receive us receive Jesus and the Father as well. This doesn't mean that by receiving us, they receive forgiveness for their sins. But it does mean that by receiving us, they get a taste of what it's like to know God's boundless and unconditional love.
The receivable life is the risky way, the Jesus way, the way of kindness. It becomes a habit of the heart, a fruit of the Spirit that is abundant and ripe. We are called to make a difference in the world for the good, and we will not go far making a difference without embracing and being embraced by the power of kindness.
Excerpted from Love Kindness by Barry H. Corey. Copyright © 2016 Barry H. Corey. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 A Father's Profound Lesson: The Way of Kindness Calls Us to Be Receivable 1
Chapter 2 A New Job, a Road Trip, a Father and Son: The Way of Kindness Is Messy 11
Chapter 3 The Security Officer on Day One: The Way of Kindness Looks like Humility 35
Chapter 4 The Gay Conversation in Dhaka: The Way of Kindness When We Disagree 53
Chapter 5 Unsuitably Intolerant: The Way of Kindness Often Takes Time 75
Chapter 6 A Song for the Bereaved: The Way of Kindness Is the Power of Presence 91
Chapter 7 "But Leah Had Weak Eyes": The Way of Kindness Sees Beauty in Ashes 103
Chapter 8 The Religious Man in Seat 29E: Hypocrisy Spoils the Way of Kindness 121
Chapter 9 The Fiddler and the German Boy in Waiting Room A: The Way of Kindness Mentors 135
Chapter 10 Nehemiah and the Banquet: The Way of Kindness Comes with a Hot Meal 157
Chapter 11 The Little League Game Gone Wrong: The Way of Kindness Is Sometimes Rejected 173
Chapter 12 My Patron Saint of Kindness: The Way of Kindness Is Often Awkward but Always Right 187
Chapter 13 The Kindness Experiment: Seven Thoughts on Softening Our Edges 195
About the Author 235