Love Kindness, by Barry H. Corey
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]
This book comes at an interesting time, when Christianity in the United States and much of the rest of the Western world, especially those branches of Christianity that hold to biblical standards of personal morality, is becoming increasingly stigmatized and criminalized in an increasingly decadent world. The author happens to be the incumbent president of Biola University, and part of this book is a plug for the approach of the university (and its present) to be hard in the middle, but soft on the edges, in terms of engaging in friendly and kind dialogue with others, including others of very different belief systems, without in any way compromising what one stands for. It is disagreeing politely, in a civil fashion, while extending friendliness to everyone around as a fellow being created in the image of God, however much that image has been defaced by our common universal struggle against sin.
In terms of its contents, this book consists of thirteen chapters, the last of which is a social “experiment” designed for fellow evangelicals, that demonstrate kindness through various case studies. Most of them are awkward, and the author speaks often of the awkwardness of being kind to disagreeable people, or being friendly and warm to everyone one meets, and the author’s discussion of cultural debates and the need to disagree while also affirming common ground, where it exists, is certainly genuine and worthwhile, even if the author is clearly speaking to a Christian culture in a state of considerable vulnerability. The author gives plenty of praise to his father for modeling kindness and teaching him lessons, and the stories from his life and the Bible are very well done. For example, the chapters deal with such varied subjects as watching his father deal graciously with dying, a road trip where he bribed his son with baseball games so that he had someone to go with him on a road trip when moving to Southern California, his humbling experiences at the beginning of his time at Biola, awkward conversations and debates regarding homosexuality, comforting the bereaved after a ferry disaster in South Korea, the difference between the way God loves and the way man loves through the story of Leah, the hypocrisy and compartmentalization of so much of religious culture, a moving experience with a fiddler and a German guitar playing boy, the importance of hospitality, and so on.
There is much to commend about this book, for although the author focuses more on the need for soft edges than a hard center, largely on the belief that many professed Christians are prone to be harder edged, crying aloud and sparing not, but neither showing compassion for others, with the need to show love for sinners as Jesus Christ did because the world is full of us. The author provides enough examples of his own awkwardness to endear himself to those who seek to live open lives even if those lives can be a bit messy at times , and the author’s story about his relationship with his father and with his children, especially his oldest son, are touching. This is a book that is quick to read, at just over 200 pages of very smooth and well-written prose, but it is an eloquent and thought-provoking focus on a forgotten Christian virtue, namely kindness. The author does not wish us to be nice, but it is important to be kind, especially because being kind brings us out of our comfort zone, and allows us to grow in character and set an example of someone who struggles to do what is right and is not afraid to apologize when wrong, or to grow in grace and knowledge rather than appear as if one already knows it all.
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