The Fruit of the Spirit: kindness

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

– Gal. 5: 22-23

We come now to KINDNESS, the fifth of the nine-part fruit of the Spirit. While most Bible translations use the word ‘kindness’ for this part of the fruit of the Spirit, the Authorized Version uses the word ‘gentleness’, and that broadens the scope of this part of the fruit.

WHAT IS KINDNESS?

To be kind is having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others.

To be gentle is having or showing a kind and quiet nature; not harsh or violent and this is both in quality or effect (Merriam-Webster).

In The Message paraphrase, the word ‘kindness’ is rendered as “a sense of compassion in the heart.”

Putting all that together, we can say that kindness (or gentleness) is a state of being that is quiet, not strong or harsh in its essence, and it manifests or extends this to others through compassion, the kind that loves to bring good things to others.

SPIRIT-ENABLED KINDNESS

It is not impossible to find snippets of the traits we are discussing here in natural people. But what we are dealing with is the result that is produced in the life of a believer following the work of the Holy Spirit. The use of the word ‘gentleness’ for ‘kindness’ by the Authorized Version is interesting. Whereas we mostly associate kindness with goodwill extended to others, gentleness is essentially a nature, a controlled mien. Therefore, what the Spirit does is to make this fruit first a part of the believers life before it becomes an expression from their life. You become kind (gentle) in your essence before you show kindness to others. You don’t just show acts of kindness, you become kind. The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition renders the initial part of Gal. 5:22 like this: “But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence accomplishes] is…” The work which His presence accomplishes – that is the key. When the Spirit in-dwells and works in the believer’s life, the inevitable result is the fruit, and kindness is one such manifestations. Whereas for others, there could be momentary bursts of gentleness and kindness, these become the nature of the Spirit-filled Christian. Kindness doesn’t happen as a struggle but flows out from the life within. It is “a sense of compassion in the heart. This is the essence of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, recorded in Luke 10:25-37. Two types of religious folks, a priest and a Levite, passed by the man who had been attacked by robbers on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho, but did nothing. Later, a Samaritan, who had cultural and religious reasons not to help, stopped and did just that. Where others could choose when to switch on and switch off their milk of kindness, the Samaritan had a sense of compassion in his heart. That is what the Spirit produces in the believer. Where others are harsh and hard-hearted, you find yourself both wanting and willing to do good things and bring happiness to others.

One other characteristic of this kindness is that it may not express itself pleasantly one hundred percent of the time. The Psalmist said “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness” (Ps. 141:5). Kindness sometimes may be expressed as rebuke to a fellow believer to set them on the right path. It may be the correction of a parent to a child. Unlike the Psalmist, the recipient of this form of kindness may not appreciate it. That doesn’t change the fact that it is still kindness. It is the child that the father loves that he disciplines (Heb. 12:5). What matters is that it was motivated by love and done with kindness.

THE CHARACTER OF GOD

But when the kindness and love of God our savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. –Titus 3:4-5

The kindness we are dealing with is the God type of kindness. That is why it can only be produced in the life of the believer by the Spirit of God. Naturally, people tend to be kind to those who are kind to them or have done something deserving of kindness. Not so with God. First, it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. At that time, we were of no use to Him whatsoever. Secondly, he didn’t wait for us to ask for His kindness in salvation, He saved us anyway. Thirdly, as the scripture above says, it wasn’t because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. Beyond salvation, we all, saints and sinners alike, are daily recipients of God’s kindness. Let’s not even begin to draw up a list we couldn’t exhaust. God doesn’t just ask us to be kind, He both enables us by the Spirit and exemplifies kindness for us to follow. Some erroneously think that God’s generosity and patient mercy are weakness on His part. But what is the purpose of His kindness? It “is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Those who are strong among men win others by strong-arming them. God wins people over through kindness. When He led the Israelites, He “led them with the cords of human kindness” (Hosea 11:4). God’s kindness is a magnet. He says in Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” How many times have we sought to draw people to our causes but ended up alienating them because we chose the wrong methods, not kindness? For our kindness to be said to be the product of the Spirit’s work, it must have the character of the kindness of God.

CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH KINDNESS

Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

– Col. 3:12

To clothe, as used here, is to be and practice. When the Bible gives this command, it is clearly something that is beyond you as a person to do. It requires dependence on the Spirit and His work like was mentioned earlier. As God’s chosen people, cooperate with and allow the Spirit in you to make you become kind, and practice kindness. Whereas the parts of the fruit such as joy, peace and self-control are mostly beneficial to the believer himself, kindness is mostly beneficial to others. It must be expressed in a desire to help; a wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others. Why does the Bible make this demand of believers? Because they are “God’s chosen people” and possess the Spirit who produces the fruit. Your kindness must bear the marks of God’s kindness, some of which were mentioned above. It should among others be unsolicited, extend to the unworthy and be magnetic. Like the Samaritan’s, it should be able to break religious, cultural, social, racial and other barriers. That is the kind of kindness that the Maltese showed to Paul and his co-travelers. They reported that “the islanders showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2). They were so kind to the missionaries with a kindness that was unusual. That’s how your own kindness too should be. When this becomes your clothing, you no longer select when and who to show it to or not. It flows to everyone.

GROWING IN KINDNESS

Muscles grow through exercise. A muscle that is not used becomes weak and flaccid. You will grow in kindness as you practice kindness. How else can you say you have grown in it if there be no expression? To grow and strengthen kindness in you, God will bring your way people who will require you to be gentle and kind to them. You could come across them like the Samaritan. The Spirit will prompt you to act kindly even when it may not be convenient for you. The Samaritan could have been concerned about his own safety. He obviously had only enough for his journey, as evidenced by the instruction he gave to the inn-keeper for further care to the robbed victim beyond what he paid for. It is your obedient response to the nudging of the Spirit within that will lead to growth in this area. Whereas the Samaritan can say he grew as he showed kindness to the needy stranger on that road, the same cannot be said of the priest and the Levite. They both missed an opportunity to grow. You will need the Spirit’s help to be sensitive to such opportunities and the grace to respond correctly.

And finally, some motivational help with being kind:

In Lk. 6:35 Jesus said: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

In essence, Jesus is saying ‘imitate God’s kindness.’ And he adds that “your reward will be great.” The practice of kindness draws great reward from God Himself. “If you try to be kind and good, you will be blessed with life and goodness and honor” (Prov. 21:21, CEV).

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