A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: INDISCRIMINATE KINDNESS
As most of you have realized, music of all kinds is very important to me in terms of my life and faith. Music is one of the most powerful ways that I experience God’s gifts of beauty, truth, meaning, love, and power; whether I’m listening to it or playing it myself; whether the music speaks directly to or about God, or simply references those gifts of God in speaking to something about human life.
One of my favorite current artists is a singer-songwriter named Foy Vance. He’s from Ireland, but spent much of his childhood in Oklahoma as the son of an itinerant Baptist minister who was an evangelist there. So his music is shaped by that experience and is a wonderful amalgam of Irish poetics and Southern soul. And he is a person of faith whose values show up periodically in his songs, both positively and in terms of a concern about superficiality and hypocrisy in religion that echoes some of Jesus’ in the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18) that we often read on Ash Wednesday.
So with that in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that one of his songs is a story song that is essentially a reworking of the Good Samaritan story, with the roles of the Samaritan and the innkeeper rolled into one. It tells the story of a homeless and drug-addicted woman who comes to a hotel and asks the concierge if there’s any way she could get a room.
Realizing she can’t afford any of their rooms, he offers to give her his own room for the night so she can get cleaned up and rest. He even offers to sit with her through the night so she won’t be tempted to use drugs. Moved to tears, she asks why he’s helping her, and he responds, “consider it an indiscriminate act of kindness.” (You can listen to the full song if you’re interested.)
Ever since I heard the song, I have preferred his language to the more common “random acts of kindness.” Random means truly random, with no consideration of the object of the kindness. And that, in itself, is good because it pushes us beyond acts of kindness simply to those whom we already know and love.
But “indiscriminate” acts of kindness go even further, directing us to those who are most in need of kindness and are often overlooked or rejected by others, and refusing to discriminate against them because they’ve somehow done something that means they no longer “deserve” kindness.
That, of course, is contrary to the heart of the Christian gospel, which is founded on the fundamental truth of God’s grace: that nobody “deserves” it, and yet everyone may receive it, because that is who God is.
The Discipleship Committee has started a wonderful Lenten initiative highlighting the idea of taking on additional practices of faith during Lent. This is specifically about a practice of daily acts of kindness through Lent. I encourage you to take on this Lenten practice, and to try to find different kinds of acts to do: intentional, random, and indiscriminate, and reflect on the impact of those acts both on the recipient and on you, the giver.
Now, they will probably not be as dramatic as the ones in the song! But the point isn’t the drama; it’s the kindness. And in a time of great anxiety and isolation and pain and division, acts of kindness of any kind can be a powerful, even dramatic, ministry of healing and hope.
Grace and peace,