February 5, 2012
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
I love the fact that the Scout Law is printed around the top of the Scout bus. It serves as a reminder of the virtues that Scouting seeks to instill and develop through its programs. There are big ones, like trustworthy, reverent, courteous. And these are still relevant today! In a time of political ads and debates and name-calling and mud-slinging, we might talk about what it means to be friendly and courteous. When we keep hearing news of scandals and scams and scoundrels, we could talk about what it means to be trustworthy and loyal and helpful.
This morning I want to focus on a smaller word: A Scout is kind.
I was surprised to discover that back when William Baden-Powell was first developing Scouting, the word “kind” was not used. What later came to be the expression that “a Scout is Kind,” came from his understanding of being good to animals: saving animals from unnecessary pain, never killing an animal without reason. How we treat people was pretty well covered by being courteous, friendly, helpful, trustworthy.
The basis of this idea of kindness was that pets and farm animals look to us for food, shelter, and care. Dealing with wild animals needs to be done with respect, both for their life and for any danger they might pose.
So in 1911, the Scouting handbook defines the kindness of a scout as: “He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and protect all harmless life.” In 1972, it was changed to include, “A Scout understands that there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated.” Hmm. We’ve heard that somewhere before. The Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
So we are starting to see not only the original idea behind kindness in the Scout Law, but some development of that idea. Whether it is with other people, or with animals, let us look to how we want to be treated and start there. Especially when how we act makes a difference in their life.
Paul, the guy whose letter Andrew read from a few moments ago, grew up hearing the Golden Rule, although he would have heard it a little differently – that which you do not want others to do to you, do not do to them.
Paul had a message that he had to get out. It was working on him so much that he felt like the message he had was in charge of him, not the other way around. And it would be easy to imagine that someone who has something to say and just absolutely has to say it might be tough to get along with. We could imagine Paul as a fanatic. Winston Churchill once said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
But Paul says something intriguing here. When he goes out to talk with people, he becomes like them. When he is with the Jews, he is like them. When he is with those under the law, he is like them. When he is with Gentiles, he is like them.
At school, in the cafeteria, how many of you sit with the same people every day? Back in my day (wow, does that make me feel old!) the jocks didn’t usually hang with the bookworms; the bookworms didn’t get invited to the cool parties; band geeks hung out over here and the drama department hung out over there.
Paul didn’t care. He moved in and out of these different groups. Sometimes it was easy. He grew up as a Jew, so being with those folks was no big deal. But to go out to other people, who did not grow up like he did, this was tougher. The strange thing is that Paul was more successful out there among the people he was not used to than with his own people. He hung out with them, got to know them, ate with them, listened to them. He was, in a word, kind.
Paul was very clear about who he was and what he was about, but he was also able to go to different people and be kind to them. This got him in trouble with the folks back home. He welcomed people they don’t want to welcome. He ate with people who they don’t want to talk to, much less eat with.
Something happens when we sit and eat with people different from us. We start to learn about them, and we start to learn about ourselves. It changes us. We learn how we are the same, and how we are different. And maybe the similarities start to get bigger.
Which brings us back to the story of Jesus coming over to Simon and Andrew’s house. When he finds out that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick, he is kind to her. He does what he can to make her life better. And being Jesus that means he heals her. And when she is better, she does the same thing. She does what she can to make his life better, and, it says, “She gets up and serves them.”
To be kind is to do what we can, whenever we can, to make other people’s lives better. Maybe it is a smile, a handshake, a high five. Or maybe it is being willing to listen to them, to eat with them. It is to do what is in our power to improve things. Whether they are like us, or very different from us. I give thanks for a group like Scouting that lifts up the virtue of kindness, and then tries to learn how to do this on a daily basis.
Thanks be to God. Amen.