I started reading The Kindness of God by Catholic theologian and philosopher Janet Soskice. In her examination of the etymology of the word kindness, Soskice helped me see it for the first time as a strong virtue rather than a weak one. “In Middle English,” she writes, “the words ‘kind’ and ‘kin’ were the same—to say that Christ is ‘our kinde Lord’ is not to say that Christ is tender and gentle, although that may be implied, but to say that he is kin—our kind.
This fact, and not emotional disposition, is the rock which is our salvation.” I paused after reading this sentence to try to take it in, to try to peel the sentimental layers off my definition of kindness and replace them with this fact: to be kind meant to be kin.
The word unfolded in my mind. God’s kindness meant precisely that God became my kin—Jesus, my brother—and this, Soskice said, was a foundational truth about who I was. Not only that, but for speakers of Middle English, Lord had a particular meaning—a lord was someone from the nobility, the upper social classes. To say “our kinde Lord” was to say the difference in social or economic status between peasants and nobility was also erased through Jesus the “Lord” being of the same “kinde” as all, landowners and peasants alike. Jesus erased divisions that privileged some people over others.
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