The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness
Kindness is easily pondered, but not so easily carried out. We live in an age of velliety, where simply publishing our desires for kumbaya and world peace are lauded as good deeds, and nice intentions are stated as if they are triumphs. However, we struggle daily to be kind across the internet, across the aisle, and even across our own dinner tables. Any honest couple will admit that as time goes on and familiarity with each other grows, the kindness that seemed so effortless in early days becomes more difficult to convey.
Our world is cursed with cruelty and hatred, and the grain of our hearts towards others is bent towards selfishness. The fruit of the Spirit does not flourish naturally in humans. It is supernaturally planted, and blooms as it is grounded in the Spirit. The word “kind” in Galatians 5:22 translates most accurately to “useful,” and represents the gentle disposition we should have towards meeting the needs of others, that God Himself has shown to us. In light of how half-heartedly kindness is practiced today, it is often forgotten how precious and rare these fruits of the Spirit are, and how carefully they must be cultivated.
Without the Spirit, although our kindness may look as if it is directed towards others, it is brimming with self-love and fueled by pride and fear of man. Without a connection to the True Vine, we can only show false kindness. What is false kindness? False kindness is being useful to others only when it is useful to me. False kindness has contingencies. It will appear at advantageous times, such as when we are being observed, or around those we like, or to get what we want. False kindness is touted by the world as a slogan or a feeling. False kindness is Judas Iscariot feigning concern for the poor while skimming off the top of the money bag.
But true kindness is generous. It flows freely and impartially to those we disagree with, those we hardly know, and those who cannot thank us. True kindness looks odd to the world. It means meeting the needs of others, without the need for recognition. It means self sacrifice, without the thought of self preservation. True kindness is the Samaritan, who reached into his own pocket to meet the needs of a suffering enemy stranger.
In God’s true kindness, He meets the needs of His creation and He even provides for those who hate Him. But though He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, God’s kindness extends to His covenant people in a particular way. Titus 3:4-7 reminds us of this, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” We did not need to be kind people for Him to save us. God knows exactly what type of unkind people we are and met our needs in Christ.
Our Savior’s kindness is not tepid, selfish, or utilitarian. This is demonstrated clearly in the moments of His greatest suffering. Jesus, while bearing the curse for humanity, made arrangements for the care of His mother after His death, prayed for the forgiveness of those who killed Him, and spoke kind words of comfort to the dying criminal next to Him.
The saying “kindness begets kindness” is true, for as Christ showed kindness to us, His grace makes us kind people, and calls us to continue in that kindness. Ephesians 4:32 admonishes Christians to, “[b]e kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We reflect the character of God by abiding in Him and obeying His commands. In this fertile soil, the fruit of kindness will grow and the dispositions of our heart will be turned towards meeting the needs of others.
The call to kindness is a call to action. Not only does it require the transformation of our hearts, but our desires for goodwill towards man must translate into real efforts to fill the needs of those around us and to be useful towards our brothers. As kind people, we will stand out to the rest of the world, and that will give us the opportunity to adorn the gospel of our kind Savior (Titus 2:10).
Megan K. Taylor earned her MA in Theological Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Joel, live in Sanford, Fl where she works for Ligonier Ministries.