Jan and I were recently in Northern California for a meeting. The next day, after the meeting was over, we departed for the drive home. As I navigated the city streets I saw a homeless person across the lanes of traffic on the sidewalk. This person was pushing a grocery cart filled to overflowing with what appeared to be all their earthly belongings.
I looked several times, but couldn't tell if this was a man or a woman. It wasn't the distance that made the identification difficult – it was their appearance. This person was either a coarse-looking woman with male characteristics or a coarse-looking man with female characteristics. I couldn't tell. This person was wearing high-waisted pants and a long sleeve top. Their blonde hair was done in an Afro-hairstyle, even though this person was obviously not African in ethnicity. What confused me even further was the garish orange-red lipstick that had been unevenly applied and was smeared far outside the boundaries of this persons lips.
As I was processing all of this I saw the cardboard sign he/she had put on the front of the grocery cart. The sign read, “Mean People Suck!” At that moment the light changed and we were forced to make our way onto the freeway on-ramp for the drive home. I thought about this person several times that day and had to agree with the sign, mean people do suck!
The word “suck”, when used is this persons context, is a colloquial usage of the word that means, “to be inferior or objectionable.” It is used to indicate a particular area of deficiency – in other words, a lack.
As I thought about this homeless person, and the reason for the sign on the grocery cart, I could only imagine what might have been shouted out to him/her as this person navigated the city streets. Sometimes it is easy to be cruel at a distance when we don't have to hang around to see the other persons response to our hurtful words. It is akin to a drive-by shooting without bullets, but with words.
I have come to realize that not only do mean people suck in general, but mean Christians suck especially because meanness is not part of God's Kingdom or our intended character. I have noticed that mean Christians can gather other mean Christians who create a mean theology to speak mean words to the world. Sometimes these mean sounding Christians create mean ministries and even ask for our financial support to project their mean version of God.
The Church should be the least “sucky” and mean people on the planet. We were born into God's family because God didn't drive by us, define as hopeless and then blow us away. He saw how hopeless we were and then gave us Jesus to show just how kind He is to very guilty people like us.
The opposite word from “mean” is the word, “kind.” Paul used this word in Roman 2: 4 where he said that the kindness of God leads us to repentance. This word for kindness has been defined as something, “useful, excellent in character, gentleness, goodness.” Meanness is a deficiency of usefulness, excellence of character, gentleness and goodness. If God's kindness lead us to repentance, how can I use meanness to introduce people to the God of heaven?
Paul used this word “kindness” in several places in the New Testament.
In Galatians 5:22, Paul said that kindness was one of the fruits of the Spirit that a Christians life should produce. Fruit is what our life-style, words and actions leave behind as evidence of what vine we draw our life from. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” Fruit falls from our spiritual tree to identify what kind of life I am living and what kind of source I am drawing from.
In Ephesians 2: 7, Paul said that God's kindness in us is an advertisement to the world that He is real. Our life should become a living billboard that God should be able to write in big, bold words - “KINDNESS FOUND HERE!”
In Colossians 3: 12, Paul describes kindness as a garment we wear because we have been made into a holy people who wear God's personality. God provides His garment of kindness, but we must choose to wear it. Some people are naked of kindness and walk around exposing other people to conversations and actions, in the name of God, that we would rather not hear or see.
The Church can't be responsible for people who don't know God who drive by a homeless person and say stupid and hurtful things. But the Church can stop when we see signs of pain in another persons life and simply say, “I agree with your sign. Mean people do suck. I just wanted to stop and tell you that God loves you and so do I. You don't suck. Thanks for reminding me today to become a kinder person.”