Sunday, November 05, 2017

Kindness, the Overlooked Spiritual Fruit

(Each month I write a column for the Town Talk's "Guest Pastor" column. Here is my November, 2017 contribution. I pray it blesses and encourages you to intentional acts of kindness!)

I'm a huge fan of kindness! I think it's the overlooked fruit of the Spirit, maybe because it gets lost in the middle of the list that Paul gives us in his letter to the Galatian believers:

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! " (Gal 5:22-23 NLT emphasis mine)

Paul lists nine different evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life, and right in the middle of the list, with four before and four after, appears the word “kindness.” Unfortunately, it sometimes seems to get lost in the crowd!

Maybe kindness is overlooked because people view it as a sign of weakness. Or perhaps people think that if you're kind then you're a pushover, or a doormat. For some reason kindness is seen as being soft. But the reality is that God is kind! He's so kind that the Bible speaks of His kindness as lovingkindness! And while God is kind He's certainly nobody's doormat!

It was God’s kindness that motivated Him to rescue Israel from Egypt, according to Ex 15:13. That same teaching is carried forward into the New Testament. In Tit 3:4-5 Paul explains that God’s kindness and love were the reasons He did not turn His back on fallen man, but instead acted to save him by sending a Redeemer, namely Jesus.

In his letter to the Roman Christians Paul shared that it is actually God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). We should never mistake God’s patient kindness as a sign of weakness because we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). There is a judgment coming. But God’s kindness calls us to repentance, that we might be rescued from the judgment to come!

God is kind, but He is not soft! He’s not a doormat or a pushover. He knows that the result of our ongoing rebellion against Him, and our selfish choices to sin, will result in our own suffering. So in His kindness He acts to save us from ourselves.

Kindness in action goes by another name – it’s called “compassion.” Often in Scripture we see that Jesus was moved with compassion and acted with kindness to heal and deliver people who were oppressed like sheep without a shepherd. Kindness is not an empty feeling, it is an expression of love.

Perhaps that’s why Paul described love as both patient and kind in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians (also known as the “love chapter”). Love that is unkind is no love at all!

But kindness is also a choice! In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he said that kindness is something we “put on,” not unlike our morning routine when we go through our closet trying to decide what to wear (Col 3:12). Just as you chose the shirt you’re wearing today, reacting with or without kindness is a choice we make in every situation. 

After Kind David was established in his kingdom he reflected back on his earlier friendship with his wonderful friend Jonathan and asked if there was anyone left from his family that he could show kindness to, in honor of that friendship. When told of Jonathan’s son who had been crippled in both feet during an accident, David reached out to Mephibosheth and brought him into his family, fed him at his table, and provided for him for the rest of his life. That was a choice David made, a choice to be kind, to show compassion and to put love in action.

Perhaps that’s a question we need to ask ourselves today. Is there anyone in my life that I can show kindness to today? What a wonderful way to start our day, asking God, “Who can I be kind to today?” 

If we want the fruit of the Holy Spirit to be abundant in our lives, perhaps we shouldn’t overlook the opportunities to demonstrate simple acts of kindness each day.

(This article appeared in the November 5, 2017 edition of the Alexandria Town Talk.)