Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.(Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
In recent years I’ve noticed a proliferation of placards expressing the sentiment to be kind. It sounds so serene and makes me want to think of rainbows on a sunny day as I tilt my head back and forth while listening to the soothing sounds of the wind in my head. OK, a touch of personal sarcasm. I’m all for being kind. Unfortunately, I think the term has been relegated to the nonsensical ideology left over from the days of hippies and flower power. I’m not sure many people understand the implications of being kind.
Paul lets us know, kindness is not from us but from the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV) While we think kindness is an expression of our altruistic heart, it is actual an expression of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. But what is kindness?
Consider the synonyms for kindness. They include, benignity, benevolence, humanity, generosity, charity, sympathy, compassion, tenderness, good turn, and tenderheartedness. Kindness is more than smiling nicely and encouraging happy thoughts. It involves action on our part to those around. It includes the concept of helping, doing something for someone else, giving, generously and benevolently. (Giving is not just monetary provision by a physical interaction of compassion as well.)
In Proverbs we learn that expressing kindness has temporal and eternal benefits. “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindnesswill find life, righteousness, and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21 ESV) One implication here is that our life depends on our kindness to one another. We like people to look up to us and one response to kindness is honor.
As believers we want to be obedient to the Lord. We want to present His work in our lives to those around us, so they may turn their minds toward God and not themselves. We want to be good. Micah spells it out clearly writing, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV)
I want to be a faithful servant of God. How do I, we, do this? Timothy spells it out clearly and amazingly kindness and gentleness are part of the equation. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV) Our behavior can be instrumental in someone coming to their senses and turning to God and away from the devil.
In Ephesians (4:32) we are reminded to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. Thus, we have a trio of characteristics prompted by the Holy Spirit and illustrated by God through Jesus Christ. This is what inspires the world around us to wonder why we behave the way we do and provides an opportunity to share God’s grace in our lives with those we meet.
Are we inspiring the world around us to turned toward God with our kindness towards others? Or, are we distancing the world from God with our vitriolic condemnation of those around us and the world in general? Perhaps a little of both? We might want to consider our response to those around us both verbally, mentally and physically. Let us draw them to Christ with expressions of kindness.
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7 NASB)