Have you noticed that on every cover of Oprah’s magazine she is smiling? Think what you want, but I believe her smile is sincere. She does nothing for financial gain—that point in her life passed long ago. For Oprah, it’s about spiritual meaning.
Measuring America’s Spiritual Hunger
If spiritual health is measured according to outward matters, the decline of the Roman, Protestant (you name it) empire is upon us. But maybe spiritual health is not so one-dimensional as 30-second phone polls can measure when we are disturbed in the evening hours.
Attendance, size, the counting of heads is not the sole barometer most “Influentials” in history have relied upon to measure the state of true spiritual affairs.
Jesus did not pay one spit of attention to the fluctuating attendance of the crowds who showed up when He spoke. If He had bought into this emotional roller coaster of such passing silliness, confusion would have perhaps ensued.
If we insist on counting something, Jesus might encourage us to count backward—to measure what we divest ourselves of. America has had it with “come and see” spirituality. Now is the day of “go and do.” And Jesus launched that movement some time ago.
Does Oprah Understand What Others Don’t?
Oprah has vast spiritual influence over most of the Western world. When Oprah speaks, things happen.
This is no news flash, though. Oprah’s vast influence extends beyond the media scene and into the deepest parts of the spiritual heart of the United States. How? you wonder. She is in touch with non-complex heart leanings in each of us—inclinations that have been placed in us by God.
On her hit prime-time show, Oprah’s Big Give, Oprah has noticed the power generosity has to change lives. Like every reality show, this one has an abundance of adrenaline-filled contestants. Jumping abounds. There is an unnatural amount of smiling going on. But her show is unique as well. The winner is the one who gives away the greatest amount of money over several weeks—in as wise ways as possible.
Ms. Oprah has tapped into the depths of all of us. It’s the “if money were no object” dream we talk about—and this dream is becoming viral. Everyone is chatting about it. This virus might just get out of control, in the best sense.
Kindness, Schmindness. So What?
Kindness is a word that has been bandied about in recent years. We confuse it with similar words (like niceness), but it stands head and shoulders above synonyms.
You might wonder, Why bring God into this consideration? The “God factor” is what distinguishes kindness from niceness or other even less powerful encounters. Any of us can be nice when the mood strikes us when we are feeling rested, well, etc. Kindness is another matter completely. Kindness, to be clear, is only possible when God shows up.
You and I don’t know each other, but this I suspect about you: Regardless of how broken your upbringing may have been, there were moments when kindness occurred along your journey.
I did not grow up attending church (to be accurate, I was downright skeptical of all things church-ish), but I can now see the seeds of kindness that were scattered into my soul, which led to a profound conversion during college. Those seeds were slow-growing, undetected, but they eventually bore fruit. It was God at work beneath the surface.
When our lives have been touched by authentic kindness, we tend to never forget those moments. They are everlasting, living encounters. Only the God of the universe can orchestrate such.
Friend or Faux?
In recent years, many have begun to notice the latent power of kindness, serving, and generosity. More than a small percentage of spiritual organizations have sought to use kindness as a tool—something to promote a message. In that equation, the understanding is: We serve; then people will listen. Kindness is not a tool one can use to gain an advantage over others!
Any thinking in this direction is to manipulate both God and His people. Neither God nor most people will put up with such nonsense. People are not oblivious when agendas are present. To be kind but not genuine is to destroy the possible conveying of any positive message.
Indeed, a message will be conveyed—a tragic one where cocooning occurs. That is, those in the community isolate themselves further and further away from anything down the road that is real.
When God’s kindness is loosed, a culture begins to build. Each day I connect with many people in simple ways that ease their burdens—much like Oprah. One hundred percent of them ask why I am showing them practical kindness (paying for their Starbucks drink, showing them respect by remembering their names at the places I frequent, getting cashiers a bottle of water and insisting they take it).
There is plenty to chat with people about when kindness is afoot. Let’s just go and do with a clean heart.
Originally posted 2008-05-07 09:26:33.