the shape of leadership

Firm Center, Soft Edges

Review of "Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue" by Barry H. Corey

George P Wood on February 2, 2016


Few things set off heated arguments on my Facebook timeline like posts about politics. Never in my lifetime have disagreements among friends—well, Facebook “friends”—been so sharp, so heated, so personal, and so deep. Even the language used is extreme: People aren’t just upset, they’re outraged. They don’t just disagree with someone else’s beliefs, they destroy her arguments. They don’t think she’s a nice person in the other political party, they think she’s a fool who belongs to an evil organization. And the vast majority of my friends are Christians!

In Love Kindness, Barry H. Corey writes that Christians’ political aggressiveness is counterproductive. “Our increasingly shrill sounds in the public square are not strengthening our witness but weakening it.” He contrasts aggression (“firm center, hard edges”) with niceness (“squishy center, soft edges”), and concludes that neither should be our objective. Rather, with Micah 6:8 in mind, he urges us to “love kindness,” to combine “firm centers” and “soft edges.” We need, if I could paraphrase his point, both conviction and civility, both good principles and good manners. 

Kindness is much more than manners, of course. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And it keeps company with other virtues, such as humility, hospitality, and authenticity. Christians who want to change the world might keep in mind that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). If we haven’t changed people’s minds, perhaps it’s because we haven’t followed God’s example. Through poignant storytelling, self-deprecating humor, and insightful biblical analysis, Corey points the way to a lifestyle of kindness. 

In the final chapter, Corey outlines what loving kindness means in seven statements. He writes, “A firm center and soft edges means…”

  1. we become more involved in the culturally unfamiliar
  2. we are creators of goodness and beauty
  3. we approach the growing opposition in our day by leading with humility
  4. we fear not when our grace is met with humility
  5. we remain even more deeply rooted in biblical faithfulness
  6. evangelism is at the heart of why we live this way
  7. we need to remember that Christ-centeredness means we will never be marginalized

If you’re tired of reading (or writing) heated Facebook posts that don’t seem to change anyone’s minds, I encourage you to read Love Kindness. And then to do it.

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