June 28, 2012
A few Sundays back, a friend of mine was preaching on Mark 14:1-11 where Jesus is reclining at the house of Simon the leper when a woman comes to him and covers his head with perfume. He focused, in particular, on the words in verse 8 where Jesus, commending the woman before the disciples, tells them that “She has done what she could.”
In 1995 American writer Anne Herbert first coined the phrase that to improve our world we should all “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Perhaps that, my friend suggested over a post-sermon lunch, is what Jesus is calling us to.
But is that what the woman did in Mark 14? Is that what Jesus commended her for and, by implication, gave us as an example to follow?
Random kindness seems fashionable in the Christian world today. We’re told that it is our task to bring Shalom into the world (everything sounds more impressive and theological in Hebrew after all). We’re told that God is in the business of redeeming the world and so as his followers we should be too. And what better way to do that than by practicing random kindness and senseless acts of beauty? After all, isn’t God the one who shows kindness to all and isn’t he the origin of beauty?
And if you’re struggling to feel randomly kind of senselessly beautiful then never fear because there are a myriad of books and websites out there to help you think of ways you can do it. “Put a hundred dollar bill on the windshield of a stranger,” for example, or “Plant a flower in a nearby park, or on the side of the road.”
But is that what we’re called to do as Christians?
Is that what the woman in Mark 14 was doing? No. She wasn’t practicing random kindness. If she was, then it wouldn’t have mattered whose head she had covered in perfume: Jesus’, Simon’s or even Judas’. But of course it did matter. Her act wasn’t random; she did what she did out of love for Jesus.
The truth is none of our actions are ever random. Everything we do we do for a reason, and that reason matters. In fact, the Bible tells us that the reason we do anything changes everything.
In Hebrews 11 verse 6, we’re told that without faith it is impossible to please God. That is a staggering thing to say. Nothing someone does, no matter how kind or beautiful that action may be, can be pleasing to God unless that person has faith in God. Why is that? Because God doesn’t call us to random acts of kindness, he calls us to love him in response to his love. “Be holy,” he says in Leviticus 19 verse 2, “because I am holy.”
The problem with our random kindness and senseless acts of beauty is that they are ours. God calls us to something far harder and far higher; he calls us to imitate his kindness and his acts of beauty for him.
Am I suggesting that we stop practicing random kindness and senseless acts of beauty? Not at all (in fact if anyone feels the urge my car is the red Subaru outside C-Building, random kindness is always welcome). I’m suggesting that the woman in Mark 14 did something far greater and Jesus calls us to something far harder. He calls us to love deliberately, to love sacrificially, to love God with everything and to show his love to all people, all the time.
Dimitri (Dim for short) and his wife, Gayles, moved to the U.S. from England in 2011 to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell. He grew up in a little town in England called Sevenoaks and completed his undergraduate degree in Automobile Design at the University of Coventry. Upon graduation, Dim spent some time as a ski instructor, a church intern and an assistant pastor. When he’s not pretending to study, he’s usually dreaming about skiing.
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