The Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness
“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The dictionary defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” That’s not a bad starting point. But as I was researching for this article, I found some astonishing information. More on that later.
Let’s begin with some verses that speak of God’s kindness.
- Romans 11:22 – Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
- Romans 2:4 – Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
- Ephesians 2:6-7 – And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Clearly God’s kindness to us is not simply because He is kind (although He certainly is); rather, His kindness benefits us in some pretty incredible ways. His kindness secures our salvation and our eternal destiny. His kindness leads us to repentance. His kindness reveals His incredible grace toward us. We could go on.
Well, obviously our acts of kindness will not pass the same benefits along to those we encounter. We can’t. On the other hand, the simple fact that this is listed as a fruit of the Spirit indicates that we cannot be kind in the way God intends in our own power. We can only do so in the power of the Spirit. So let’s look at an example of kindness.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, we see two examples of people who should have been kind who were not. The priest and the Levite saw the man in need, but hastened past without stopping. They were more concerned about themselves and the effect on them should they interact with the injured man. To be sure, the road they were on was incredibly dangerous, and thieves often used the ruse of an apparently injured man to ambush unwary travelers.
But the Samaritan saw the man, recognized his need, and regardless of the dangers to himself, regardless of the interruption to his schedule, stopped and rendered aid. He went even further by taking the injured man to a place where he could receive further treatment and leaving money to pay for it. (Read the story in Luke 10.)
This is kindness. This is doing something that may be inconvenient to me simply because it is what is needed by the other person. This is what Jesus would do. That phrase, by the way, comes from a novel by Charles Sheldon entitled “In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?” It’s an interesting read if you should happen to run across a copy.
This type of behavior is not optional for Christians, for Christ-followers. In fact, in the New Testament we read:
- Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
- Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
But let me get back to that mind-blowing fact I discovered as I was researching for this article. It seems that in the Old Testament the word frequently translated “kindness” is “hesed.” Sound familiar? This same word can also be translated “mercy.” Now, mind you, I don’t want to press this too far, because doing so could lead us far afield. But I think there’s something to be said for combining “kindness” with “mercy” in the context of kindness as a spiritual fruit.
You see, when we display the spiritual fruit of kindness, we are showing kindness not because the recipient is necessarily worthy—in fact, they may be, in our opinion at least, very unworthy. You can fill in the blanks of someone who you don’t think deserves mercy/kindness. I have no doubt someone or some group of people has already popped into your mind.
Those are the very ones Jesus wants us to treat with kindness. Not because they “deserve” it, but because He requires it of us. If you stop and think about it, we don’t deserve the kindness, the mercy, of God either. Yet God extended it to us:
- Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy [some translations use “kindness” here] and to walk humbly with your God.
- Isaiah 63:7 – I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us…according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
By what right do we withhold kindness and mercy from others who are made in God’s image? By what right do we accept mercy from God yet fail to show mercy—and kindness—to others?
Here is Jesus’ command to each of us who claim His name; “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
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