I have long argued here that Christians should work a whole lot more on kindness than love. Love, I've argued, is too amorphous and abstract. Christians have lost the meaning of that word in day to day interactions. Even worse, some Christians use the word love to justify being harsh and exclusive. Love becomes doing what is "best" for you and, by the way, you don't get to decide what is best for you. I do.
But it seems to me, when you look at the Christian virtue lists, that kindness comes before love. So we start small. Work on kindness first and then graduate on to love. If you are a thoroughgoingly kind person odds are you have a great shot at becoming a loving person. But if you skip the lessons of kindness it is very unlikely you'll learn how to love. It's about baby-steps. And they start with kindness. To capture this Jana and I have a saying we share with each other quite a lot:
Kindness is the tutor of love.I found support for this view recently in a very unlikely place. In Nietzsche's Human All Too Human he says this about "goodwill":
Among the small but endlessly abundant and therefore very effective things that science ought to heed more than the great, rare things, is goodwill. I mean those expressions of a friendly disposition in interactions, that smile of the eye, those handclasps, that ease which usually envelops nearly all human actions...It is the continual manifestation of our humanity, its rays of light, so to speak, in which everything grows...Good nature, friendliness, and courtesy of the heart are ever-flowing tributaries of the selfless drive and have made much greater contributions to culture than those much more famous expressions of this drive, called pity, charity, and self-sacrifice. But we tend to underestimate them, and in fact there really is not much about them that is selfless. The sum of these small doses is nevertheless mighty; its cumulative force is among the strongest of forces.