This week we are studying kindness, so let’s go back to our definition of kindness. Kindness is “to provide something beneficial for someone as an act of kindness.”
My college, Lancaster Bible College, has an annual mission conference. During the years Michelle and I were students, the mid 1990s, one feature of the mission conference was a session where students would drive all over Lancaster county and city practicing Random Acts of Kindness. “Random” is perhaps a bad word choice, as it carries the idea of thoughtlessness. Instead, students were trying to be thoughtful and intentional, hoping that an act of kindness would lead to honoring Jesus and demonstrating his love in the community. We put coins in parking meters. Cleaned restaurant bathrooms. Swept sidewalks. We’d then give out cards explaining that the acts of kindness were being done because of Jesus’ love and to demonstrate his love.
Notice the flow of thought in that, a flow of thought that is rooted in biblical teaching. Our kindness reflects God’s kindness. In Isaiah 54:8 God says to Israel, “with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you.” Similarly in Isaiah 63:7, the prophet says, “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—yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses.” The prophet wasn’t simply declaring that God is kind. The prophet was remembering how God demonstrated kindness to Israel over and over and over through the centuries. He rescued them, kept his promises to them, forgave them, and provided for them. When Israel was a jerk to God, God was kind to Israel.
God shows us what kindness looks like. Then he says, “Go and do likewise.” We are kind because he first was kind. And, we are benefiting from knowing and living in the kindness he gives. Furthermore, God is love, and we read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 that “Love is kind.” We’ve seen in previous weeks in our study of the Fruit of the Spirit how there is a correlation between some of the qualities in the Fruit of the Spirit. Love is patient, love is kind. The Fruit of the Spirit is best understood, I believe, as flowing from God’s nature to us, and therefore flowing from us to other people. We are kind to others because God was kind to us.
In our interactions with people, then, we Christians should be known for our kindness. Do those who know you best know you as kind? Or is your appearance of kindness just a veneer you put on for the outside world? Is it just politeness? Kindness includes polite, for sure, but it also goes beyond politeness. We can be polite to the outside world, but not show kindness to the people closest to us. Consider, for example, the following questions and scenarios. Are we showing kindness to those who are difficult for us? Kindness when we are confronted. Kindness when we are upset. Kindness when we are hurt. Kindness when we disagree. Kindness when all we feel like is being unkind. Controlled by kindness rather than controlled by meanness. Kindness in our tone. Kindness in our word choice.
If you are reading all those descriptions of kindness, you might wonder if being kind the way God wants us to be kind is impossible. On our own it is. That is why these things are fruit of the Spirit. We need his help. We need to be connected to the Spirit, praying, reading the stories in the Bible of who he is and the way he interacted with others.
When we dig into Scripture, we see that Christians are people who do everything with kindness, even when we are concerned that kindness will be ineffective.
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul writes about his perspective on ministry, and he talks about how important it is to pursue kindness, even when it hurts. In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, he writes, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Do you see what Paul is saying? The way of Jesus is the way of kindness at all times, and that means your practice of kindness might not lead to worldly success. If you study the stories of Paul’s ministry in the historical account in the book of Acts, or if you read his letters, you’ll observe that Paul tried to practice kindness in all circumstances. I can’t say for sure how well he did with that. There are at least a few stories where he seems to have failed in being kind. But Paul clearly attempted to demonstrate kindness, and it cost him. Kindness can be costly. Kindness might hurt the one being kind. But it is still the best way of life, by far.
Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash
 Ibid, 749.