Formations 09.15.2019: Kindness for Kaitlyn

Impromptu memorial at Kaitlyn Skidmore’s locker, from the Gray, GA Facebook page (Ash Nicole).

1 John 3:11-24

Kaitlyn Skidmore was a high school senior, less a month away from graduating, when she was killed in an automobile accident this past April. Obviously, her family and loved ones were devastated by the loss, and her classmates at Jones County High School in Georgia decided to honor her memory in a way that seemed especially fitting.

Kaitlyn’s friends described her as kind, giving, and ready to help anyone in need at any moment. They decided that the best way to honor her was through random acts of kindness performed in her memory, an initiative they dubbed “Kindness for Kaitlyn.” One friend, Courtney Eilson, remembers, “If you ever had a bad day, she was always right there with you, making you laugh.” That was the loving spirit they hoped to embody.

But the kindness doesn’t stop there. Kaitlyn’s aunt was a principal at my own daughter’s high school. Since Kaitlyn had planned to become a teacher, her aunt and uncle thought it would be fitting to award a one-time scholarship in her name to a graduate going on to study education. I’m proud to say that my daughter was the first recipient of the Kindness for Kaitlyn Scholarship.

This week’s passage explores the theme of mutual love in the church. Indeed, the church rises or falls on its ability to love one another, help one another in times of need, wash one another’s feet…in short, to be kind to one another in ways both big and small.

Our example for this campaign of kindness is Jesus himself, who loved us so much that he laid down his life for us (v. 16). Ultimately, the elder summarizes the gospel in a single twofold command: believe in Jesus and love one another (v. 23).

Tiffany Thompson, “‘She Was Wonderful’: Friends Remember Jones County Teen Killed in Wreck,” WGXA.tv, 29 Apr 2019 <https://wgxa.tv/news/local/she-was-wonderful-friends-remember-jones-county-teen-killed-in-wreck>.

Discussion

• Who has inspired you to greater acts of kindness?
• What does it mean to love “not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (v. 18)?
• Whom do you find it difficult to love—even in your church family?
• What is the relationship between believing in Jesus and loving one another?

Reference Shelf

Cain and Abel

Recorded in Gen 4:1-16, the story of Cain and Abel reflects universal concerns characteristic of the narratives that comprise the primeval history—Gen 1–11. The story of the two brothers, addressing themes of temptation, rebellion, denial, and alienation, displays a crime-and-punishment motif similar to the drama of the man and woman of Genesis 3. Adam and Eve, followed by their firstborn son Cain, are presented canonically as parents and offspring; they also portray humanity’s involvement in disobedience against a backdrop of the divine intentionality for creation.

Kandy M. Queen-Sutherland, “Cain and Abel,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 126.

Cain or Christ

Prime Minister Lloyd George, addressing the British House of Parliament after the First World War, said with no little passion, “It is Christ or chaos for the world.” A lesson or sermon could pose the alternative lifestyles of one who hates his brother or sister and may even kill in contradistinction to one who loves his sister and brother and may even die for her or him. The Cain principle reminds us that murder is no minor matter but a sin of malice. Envy and anger often invade family systems, and many murders are domestic as in the biblical example. Murder itself represents an arrogant act of willfully taking the life of another. Murder is one of the worst pages in the book because murderers steal something that they cannot give back. The church needs to heighten consciousness regarding the profound awfulness of murder/taking life, particularly given the prevalence of domestic abuse and killing of spouses, frequently women.

Our text reflects on hate in its kinship to murder, as did Jesus. Someone put it memorably: “Hate is like acid. It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured.” Menninger took the measure of hate, writing, “[i]f one wanted to find a germinal word to link sins, perhaps hate would do it. In terms of action, however, the long term consequences of hate are self-destruction. Thus the wages of sin really are death.”

Lewis Smedes reckoned there were two kinds of hatred: passive hatred and also aggressive hatred. “Passive hatred is the grain of malice that robs us of energy to wish a person well. With aggressive hatred, on the other hand, we are not only drained of the positive energy to wish someone well. We specifically wish them ill.” He went on to note that we are poised to attack. “When you hate passively, you lose love’s passion to bless. When you hate aggressively, you are driven by a passion to whip someone with a hurricane—or at least a stiff March wind—of hostility.”

David Mace, storied student of marriage, concluded after much research that unresolved anger causes distance that leads to divorce. He stated realistically that the relationship of being married generates more anger in the average person than any other social situation. He reckoned with the damaging effect of the suppression of anger as well as the destructive effect of venting harsh hostility and went on to devise methods of “processing” as a far better alter- native.

The splendid alternative of the Christian community is at its best not with an exclusionary but an inclusionary love for all people. New people joining a church need to be stitched into the social fabric of the community, not merely formally received. People of other races and nationalities need to be accepted lovingly. This rep- resents a gospel worth spreading, a vision worth espousing, a community worth living in all of its redemptiveness, worth imagining and then incarnating, even with a modest beginning in smaller groups.

Peter Rhea Jones, 1, 2 & 3 John, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2009), 143–44.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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