Dr. Barry Corey: It’s easy to be nice to the barista, right, when she gets your (Laughter) coffee right. It’s easy to be kind when there’s harmony in your family. But try kindness when there’s dissension. Try kindness when you have a strained relationship with your husband or your children. Try kindness when you’re not getting along with your neighbor. It’s a lot more difficult.
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John Fuller: Well, that’s Dr. Barry Corey, the president of Biola University and he’s with us today on “Focus on the Family” with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and of course, here in the U.S., it’s inauguration day and our country formally swears in a new president for office and Jim, there’s been so much political tension.
Jim Daly: Well, there really has been, John and I’d say we’ve just come through perhaps one of the most contentious political seasons I think in our nation’s history. Many people now have strained relationships with their friends, family or coworkers as a result of the outcome.
So, I felt that it would be timely today to take a break from our Sanctity of Human Life Week and talk about this issue of kindness and how regardless of what is happening around us, we can show kindness to one another. I’m really lookin’ forward to the conversation today because it’s going to help all of us learn how we can better love God and love people, to live out that Scripture found in the book of MIcah 6:8, which says, “He has told you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” I think that’s an awesome statement. I think so often we’re missing those admonitions to love kindly, to project kindness, because somehow the human heart opens up when we do it.
John: It’s kind of a lost art, but we do have ways for you to learn more about doing that in the conversation ahead and also resources at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And we’re visiting today with Dr. Barry Corey. He’s president of Biola University, has been since 2007. He’s the author of a couple of books, including Love Kindness and he and his wife, Paula live in Southern California and have three children.
Jim:Doctor Corey, Barry to your friends (Laughing)—
Dr. Barry Corey: Thank you
Jim: –it is great to have you here at Focus.
Barry: It’s great to be here, Jim and John. Thanks for havin’ me on your show.
Jim: Now you and I have had many discussions about this theme, about love and kindness and those virtues that sometimes get lost in the fray of battle, if we want to call it, the spiritual warfare.
Barry: Right, yeah.
Jim: Describe for me where you’re comin’ from, what kindness is and that true definition and why you believe we need to re-emphasize it.
Barry: Yeah, well, I remember the very first time I met you, Jim at Biola years ago. We immediately started talking about how can we be more civil in an increasingly uncivil culture? And those conversations continued to kind of germinate in my mind and in my heart. And as I’m looking at this rising generation of students and like, what are we modeling for them in a way that they’re gonna have an impact on our culture and in politics and entertainment, in the arts, in commerce, whatever it might be?
And increasingly I believe that the antidote to all of the division and the skepticism and the anger and the polarization is for Christians to lead the way in living lives of profound kindness. It is what you mentioned in that Micah 6:8 verse, that we are called to, we say, “Love mercy,” sometimes, but it literally means to love kindness, not just to do kindness in some Nike-esque kind of way. We don’t do kindness. We love kindness and that means kindness is not a random act. It’s a radical life.
And this book that I wrote is about how revolutionary our lives could be in our families, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our culture, in our politics if we lived out this profound sense of kindness that the Scriptures call us to.
Jim: Why is love and kindness and I put those together, ’cause usually when you’re looking at the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, it’s love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, mercy.
Jim: Why did these things get lost? I mean, why do we acknowledge them almost with our head, but sometimes they’re hard to deploy with our heart, because there is that fight in us. We don’t want to see injustice.
Jim: We don’t want to see things go against the Word of God, especially in a country that has historically embraced Christian values. And now things are changing and we’re in an environment where we don’t have that singular social cohesive approach. Why does the ugly side of us show up, rather than the God Spirit in us, that loving-kindness that He possesses?
Barry: Yeah, you know, I’ve been using a phrase recently about living a life with a firm center and soft edges. And too often I think Christians have had firm centers and hard edges. We’ve gotta stand up for this and we’ve gotta defend ourselves. And so, the hard edges are what we lead with.
Or we think that, well, if you have soft edges, that means you have a spongy center, that you don’t really have any firm convictions or beliefs. But if you look at the fruit of the Spirit, kindness is right there, right in the middle and I think it is, you know, one of the keys. It’s not a gift of the Spirit. Like it’s not optional. You have to live this way if you are a follower of Jesus, that we somehow mistake kindness for niceness.
Jim: What’s the difference?
Barry: Well, I think niceness is spongy in the middle and kindness is radical and powerful. You can’t find the word “niceness” or “nice” in the Bible, nowhere. It’s not there. But kindness is all over it, Old Testament, New Testament. Scriptures are full of the word “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “kind hearted.” As a matter of fact, Paul in Romans 2:4 says, “It’s kindness that leads to repentance.”
Barry: He says it right after all the words about judging. Don’t be overly judgmental. And sometimes we think judgment is what changes it, and so we’re quick to judge and quick to be angry and quick to be combative. And because we think kindness is too soft, it’s what Boy Scouts and grandmothers do. We need to stop telling our children to be nice and start telling them to be kind and then tell them the difference between the two.
Jim: Yeah I like that. In fact, that Romans 2:4 verse is something I quote often and it’s not just, you know, for us. It says, “God’s kindness leads one to repentance.”
Jim: So, the question that I always ask people that are struggling with that kindness idea is, why should we do something different from what God does with sinners?
Jim: And us included.
Jim: You know, He doesn’t just come at us simply with that judgment. I mean, being righteous is part of the package and that’s where we want to go with sanctification. But He starts the process by expressing His kindness toward us and that’s what leads us to repentance. So, I’ll often ask a crowd, who’s been beaten into the kingdom of God? I’d like to see your hand.
Jim: Who has said here, “Those Christians were so tough on me and were so hateful toward me that I decided to become one of ’em.
Jim: You never find anybody like that.
Jim: It’s always these Christians showed me such love and such kindness, it compelled me to kind of open my heart up to the message of God.
Barry: Right, yeah.
Jim: That’s what happens, isn’t it?
Barry: That’s what happens and I think we often assume that the opposite of kindness is meanness and I don’t think that’s the case. I think the opposite of kindness is fear. We’re afraid of the Supreme Court. We’re afraid of the President. We’re afraid of the immigrant. We’re afraid of the Muslim. We’re afraid of the gay person, whatever it might be.
And so, because of that fear, we put up barriers and those barriers become obstacles for our building relationships with those who may not see eye-to-eye with us. And that’s what Scripture calls us to do, when it says, “Love kindness.” You reach out to those who [are difficult]. It’s easy to be nice to the barista, right, when she gets your (Laughter) coffee right. It’s easy to be kind when there’s harmony in your family.
But try kindness when there’s dissension. Try kindness when you have a strained relationship with your husband or your children. Try kindness when you’re not getting along with your neighbor. It’s a lot more difficult then.
And what’s most offensive to us in our human side sometimes is, when we’re kind and we’re not thanked. We’re kind and we’re not received. But kindness is not about being thanked. Kindness is about being obedient. And sometimes you’re gonna get the cold shoulder or the fist or the finger or whatever it might be and that doesn’t matter.
Jim: Or verbal attack.
Barry: Or verbal attack.
Jim: Let me ask you this. You were a Rhodes Scholar, which congratulations.
Barry: A Fulbright.
Jim: A Fulbright.
Barry: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: And that is an achievement. I mean, that is really something. While you were overseas, your dad, who was a pastor, he passed away not long ago I think—
Jim: –but he came to visit you and you had quite a discussion with him. Tell us about how he modeled kindness for you and what you saw in your own father.
Barry: So, when I was a child, my father who had this profound love for Jesus and lived this life of unfiltered kindness. Even when people rejected him, he would do the most, in my mind, the most awkward things. He would hug the Islamic gas station attendant. He would hold hands with the cobbler fixing his shoes at the little shoe place and pray with him.
One time he had the audacity to hold the Jewish furniture merchant’s face in his hand and say, “Reuben, I love you” and I wanted to crawl under the desk of that furniture shop, ’cause I was so mortified that my father would actually do that.
But it was years later when I was this pony-tailed researcher, living in Bangladesh for a year that he came through for a few days and we had this walk this one morning on these fetid streets of Dacca, the nation’s capital. It was just crowded with rickshaws and beggars and poverty and stench. And as we were walking these streets and I was trying to figure life out, he said, “There’s a verse in Matthew, chapter 10.” He said, “I can’t get it out of my mind.” He said, “It’s right after Jesus says to His disciples, “Do you want to be My follower, you pick up your cross and you come with Me.”
But then He says to His disciples, “Whoever receives you receives Me. And Whoever receives Me, receives the One who sent me,” Matthew 10:40. He said, “I don’t fully get what Jesus meant, but this I do know, that whoever God places in my path, unless I make myself receivable to them, how will they ever receive the grace of God? How will they ever receive the love of Christ?”
And at that moment, all those memories began cascading down of the Islamic gas station attendant and the cobbler and the Jewish furniture merchant and I understood. You know, my father wasn’t being weird; he was being receivable.
Barry: And he was living that life of, you know what, whatever it takes, I’m gonna make myself receivable. And to me, receivable looks like kindness. But you may not be accepted with your kindness. You may be rejected, but kindness is never forgotten. There’s something powerful about kindness and the seeds of kindness that you plant, you may not see the results of those seeds for years or maybe even in eternity.
Barry: But you’ve gotta lean into kindness even when it seems offensive to people, even when you’re rejected.
Jim: Well, and Barry, what strikes me is how it is God’s tool.
Jim: I mean, I think that’s why He says, “Love your neighbor,” because it does something to that neighbor’s heart, especially if they’re at odds with you for some reason.
Jim: It’s that soft edges you talked about. You talk also in the book about the pain caused by hypocrisy. And of course, we have that in our culture all the time. You’re working as a college president at Biola. You have that rising generation with you ever day as a vocational reality. What do they tell you about what they see in their parents’ generation, their grandparents? What do they say and what are they trying to fix with their idealism?
Barry: Yeah, you know, I take 10 or so freshman guys every year up to Yosemite right when they’re on their front end of their time at Biola. And we talk about life and their challenges and their aspirations. And they are honest with me about this stuff in a very candid way about the stuff that they’ve been going through and are going through.
And to a certain degree, I want to be honest and vulnerable to them. I like to say, I don’t want to be transparent, maybe translucent, letting the light shine through, but not everything. But I do think that there is something about authenticity that this generation is looking for in leaders.
They don’t want the buttoned-up life. They want the opened-up life. And when you have the buttoned-up life, that is to them, that smells like hypocrisy and hypocrisy is the poison of kindness.
Jim: Let’s give this some context, because I totally agree. And the other thing is, I don’t frown upon what the Holy Spirit is going in this generation. I think generationally God puts these things in the hearts of His people so that they express it. And I think the younger generation is [that] they’re looking for that authenticity. I think it’s put there by God to kind of right the ship if you will.
Barry: Right, yeah.
Jim: And I think the thing that we’re observing here is that for a long time, for generational reasons, I think Christian leadership has been about projecting perfection, that buttoned-down metaphor that you talk about.
Jim: And what’s difficult with that is, it’s hard for people who are not living in that place to attach themselves to that. I’ve often heard, you know, yeah, that guy’s too perfect. I could never be like him.
Jim: Sometimes at Focus we’ve taken some grief because, you know, we’ve had supporters who have gone through divorce. And we’ll say, “Why didn’t you contact us to help?” And they said, “Well, I would be embarrassed because you guys, you know, you all seem so perfect.”
Jim: That’s not necessarily a good attribute, is it? When you’re authentic, you’re saying, “Okay, we’re broken, too. We’re sinners, too.” And yet, we’re trying to follow that path that the Lord has set out to live in accountability, to live righteously, to live humbly. But why do we as human beings want to project something we’re not and then give ourselves a badge of honor for it?
Barry: Yeah, because we’re broken sinful people, that’s why. When I wrote this book, I talk a lot about authenticity in there and what hypocrisy looks like. And in order for me and what I felt in my spirit was, I had to be open about my own issues in this book. And I actually leaned into being more vulnerable than I probably would have been when I started off writing this book.
Jim: I’ve gotta press you a little though, just to make it understandable, what was it? I mean, what are those Christian blind spots that we have? What did you have, if I could press you on that and maybe I’ll share a couple of mine, (Chuckling) but what did the Lord say to you when you saw something that wasn’t lining up with His Word?
Barry: For me, it was pride that I had been given the title of president of Biola University, one of America’s largest universities. My very first day on the job, I was pulling into campus at 5:30 in the morning and I noticed that there was a security vehicle, a campus safety car following me. And I thought, is this great to get escort service here at Biola. (Laughter) And then when I pulled into the spot, he came up and he said, “Stay in the car. Roll down the windows.” And I said, “Are you joking?” And he said, “No, I’m not joking. We take California traffic laws very seriously here and you’ve run a stop sign.” (Laughter)
And I said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” He said, “Are you here for a conference or something?” I said, “No, sir, it’s my first day on the job. I must have missed that. I apologize.” He said, “Well, here on out, you take the traffic laws of Biola University seriously.” I said, “Can I go to the office now?” He said, “You can go.”
So, I went up to the offices. But about an hour later there’s a knock on the door. There was another campus safety officer and he said, “Did you get pulled over this morning?” I said, “Yeah, I’m so sorry. I ran a stop sign.” And he said, “Well, someone was filling out the report on you of the incident when I got in and I asked this officer, “Well, who did you pull over?” He said, “I don’t know, some guy first day on the job, but I told him what for.” (Laughter)
And so, this shift supervisor opened up the website and said, “Does he look like him?” The guy goes, “Yeah, he looks a lot like him.” (Laughter) So, that officer works at Home Depot now.
Jim: Oh, yeah, right.
Barry: No, no.
Jim: Hopefully you sent him a note saying “Thanks for doing your job!”right?
Barry: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean, everything but Home Depot was true about that story. But that was God’s reminder to me day one that I prayed that I would begin this job with a sense of humility and God answered that prayer. And you know, I had taken a great deal of, you know, in my own mind that, look at this job that I have and God’s reminding me that you are here not because you’re good, but because you’re called.
And that was one of many areas in what I’ve written of my own fears, my insecurities, my pride, my lack of priorities, where I put it out there in this book because I thought, kindness means you open yourself up and you allow your imperfections to be exposed. And it’s not your job to be received. It’s your job to make yourself receivable. And that’s what’s so hard about living this radically kind life, because we want to be thanked and we want to be patted on the back. And we want to be recognized; we want to have those prominent seats at the table. And Jesus says, that’s not what I called you to be. You have to lean into that selfless, sacrificial, receivable kindness and live that way.
Jim: Yeah and you know, go after that a little bit, because I think for some people, that firm center and soft edges, when you look at that edge and you see softness, you see kindness and I’ve had these discussions with people, with Christian leaders, where you know, they’ll say to me, love and kindness, those are rather effeminate and you know, that kind of downgrading of those attributes of God–
Jim: –which really discourages me, because I think in the end, that’s what we see very much portrayed by Jesus Himself. And for me, that question, that concern is our inability to apply it, particularly in some very rough arenas, like political arenas. To be more specific, where we are losing ground maybe with the LGBT, gay and homosexual issues, you’re on a university campus. You’re kinda the point of the spear right not—
Barry: Oh, yeah.
Jim: –with religious liberty issues and what that community is doing to erode religious liberty on campuses, Christian campuses. How do you engage that community? How do you speak with them? How do you win with being kind rather than using the tools of the world to destroy them and to destroy their argument?
Barry: Right, well, I think we have been guilty of not being good listeners for one. Too often we’re listening while waiting to respond rather than listening while wanting to learn. And if we’re a learning community as the people of God should be, as a Christian university should in the community, then we’ve gotta realize that we may not have everything right.
So, as we’ve been through this past year, the Senate Bill 1146, which was going to be stripping from faith-based higher education institutions in California some deeply held convictions, and it was sponsored by some LGBT special interest groups, we realized that we had not done a very good job, A of telling our story and B, of forming relationships with those who are actually drafting this legislation.
And some of the legislators had some very real concerns. I think they had some misinformation, but some very real concerns about are students safe and flourishing on our campus, all students? And our students are, but that’s not the message that they had received. But we were just minding our own business and not leading those conversations with them.
And our intent, I mean, we’re doing this now, we’re having regular conversations even at Biola University with those who have authored these bills, because we need to move to a place where the next time legislation like this is considered, that we’re at the table.
The Scripture says, you need to gentle as doves, but also wise as serpents. So, there’s the wisdom in there that we want to make sure that we are, you know, defending what we believe, our scripturally held principles, but we need to do this in a way that is filled with gentleness and respect and we open up ourselves to conversations that we otherwise have not been having.
Jim: Barry, in your book, Love Kindness, you talk about a handful of things that are kinda the critical themes. In fact, you touched on some of them: soft edges and what that means, a firm center. You also mentioned some other attributes. Can you touch on a couple of those that mean the most to you?
Barry: Uh-hm, yeah. I think we have lost the gift of hospitality.
Barry: It’s easy to invite people into our homes, literally into our homes who are like us, same social, economic, family types, political party. That is easy to do, but if the kingdom of God ultimately will be every tongue and tribe and nation gathering around that great supper, then we have to reverse engineer that.
Barry: What does that great supper look like around our supper table? And how are we willing to bring people to eat with us who may have, you know, backgrounds that are very different ethnically, culturally, politically, religiously?
Barry: And I think this is the kind of community that God has called us to. What does kindness look like at your dining room table? The cross was the most profound kind moment of history. We think of it as bloody and rugged, but that’s where God’s grace took place for us. And it was flanked by two meals. You know, the Last Supper and then after that, Jesus, you know, cookin’ fish for His disciples at breakfast. We have lost, I think, the ability to think about what does it mean to invite someone to our home, to our table?
I mean, I’ve been invited [by] people–I lived in Bangladesh for a year–who didn’t have much money at all, but those meals were gracious because of the hospitality, not because of how fancy the meal was. It was interesting.
Back in 1995 when the Republicans took over Congress, one of the things that Newt Gingrich encouraged them to do, these new Republicans, was stay in your homes, back in your communities. Live there and then just commute to Washington.
And there are many that say that when that happened and the families didn’t move to Washington, the engagement that those on both sides of the party had with each other, at PTA meetings and local churches, that you know, in neighborhoods at cookouts, it stopped happening.
Barry: We have stopped being in community with those who are different than we are and you know, unless we’re having these conversations, we are not making progress. We have given up dialogue for diatribe. We’ve been so interested in, you know, rattling our sabers, that we haven’t been good neighbors.
And if you take God’s Word seriously, you know, Jesus never had a problem with associating with those who had fundamentally different worldview than He did. And He was entertaining at home. He was, you know, walking the road. He was sitting down on a side of a hill with those who disagreed deeply with the kingdom world that He was describing.
And if we are not intentional about establishing these conversations, again, we may get rejected. We may get our feelings hurt, because someone might betray us. They may act like they’re being hospitable and they might say something on a blog afterwards.
But that shouldn’t dissuade us from trying again. This is the antidote to so much that is wrong with our culture today. And it doesn’t mean that kindness is tinted in milquetoast and fluffy. It is powerful and it is radical and it can reconcile relationships and it can be at the key to racial reconciliation. It can bring nations together. We just underestimate it and we think it’s soft, when it is revolutionary.
And so, I believe we have no choice but to keep trying on these conversations. And we can do so in a way that we’re not compromising our stand for justice and God’s truth and the integrity that the Scriptures call us to. But for cryin’ out loud, like you can’t love with a bullhorn.
Jim: (Laughing) That’s exactly right. Dr. Corey, you have provided such great insights into the issue of living with kindness in our culture and I want to reiterate for everyone listening, that our goal here is to equip you, hopefully backing it up with Scripture the way we have today, that God wants us to be receivable. He wants us to, in essence, to get out of the way so that the offense can be Him, not us. And hopefully, in doing so, people see something so different in us that they’re compelled to lean in, not lean back.
Jim: And let me turn to each one of you listening today and say, what is it that you can do differently? Maybe you’re saying, okay, this resonates. I understand it and I haven’t done it so well. Why don’t you try that idea of hospitality? Invite somebody to your home for dinner that doesn’t think the way you think? And let your kids experience that and watch you love a person that may argue with you. That’s a good thing to do. And there [are] other great ideas in Dr. Corey’s book to move you in that direction. So, I’ll put that as a challenge to all of us, John, not just you who are listening, but us here at the microphone. We need to do, as well.
John: Well, I’d agree we do and to get your copy of Love Kindness and a CD of this conversation and that’s going to include some additional discussion with Barry, stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And if you’ve been impacted by our work here, please let us know by making a financial contribution to the ministry. We want to continue to provide you with the kinds of conversations we’ve had today and you can make that donation online or when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
And today when you make a generous donation of any amount, we’ll send a complimentary copy of Love Kindness to you. It’s our way of saying thank you for supporting this ministry and putting a great resource into your hands.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend, encouraging you to join us again on Monday when you’ll learn how to take your marriage to the next level by cherishing your spouse.
Mr. Gary Thomas: A cherishing marriage is so rich, it’s worth working for. I think one of the biggest lies is that infatuation is the pinnacle of marriage.
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John: Gary Thomas joins us to explain how and why a cherished marriage is the relationship you’ve been dreaming of. That’s next time on “Focus on the Family.”