THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5: 22-23)
Oh yes – yet again there is a clear command to be kind to others:
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4: 31-32)
BUT, WHAT IS KINDNESS?
Now we are going to look at this again later – when we look at the word in Greek that Paul uses.
For the time being it is good to understand “kindness” by putting it into context with the “fruit of the Spirit” that has gone before:
“Love, joy and peace” are essentially, at the simplest level, inner attitudes that shine through for others to see in us.
“Kindness”, however, is an outward action.
It is, essentially, “love in action”. It is the love that we put into practice, quite simply, because we have the love of the Holy Spirit within us. It is what we do that is the evidence of the faith that has changed our lives totally.
Without kindness – the “works” of love – there is really no evidence that we have the Holy Spirit within us. This is put so clearly by James when he says:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2: 15-17)
So kindness is:
- “saying” – kind words (“you did really well with that cake that you baked”)
- “doing” – kind deeds (“let me pay for that shopping”)
- “being” – kind attention (being with someone when they are hurting or sick or sad)
- “going” – kind time (going with someone who needs a companion)
WHERE DOES KINDNESS COME FROM?
It will come as no surprise to again hear that the source of all kindness is God Himself – for kindness is good. Paul tells us of the “riches of His kindness” in Romans 2: 4.
And again, it should come as no surprise to realise that kindness can be shown by all mankind (whether or not they are Christians) as we are made in the image of God and so all manifest His attributes to some degree or the other.
Once we surrender our lives to God and allow His Spirit to live with us and in us then we should see the “fruit” of kindness developing in us and showing itself to all around us. It should impress those who see us SO MUCH that they say “I am amazed by your kindness! I want to have what you have – tell me what I must do to be saved”.
So…is there any difference between “natural” kindness (that which is common to all mankind) and “supernatural” kindness (that which is the fruit of the Spirit)?
NATURAL KINDNESS – NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS!
Well, some commentators have put it like this: that “natural” kindness is a “lower-level“ kindness. This is love-in-action to those who DO deserve our love and care and help – those we are close to (like our family and friends), those to whom we have a natural affinity (like the poor or the sick), or those who are kind to us (“they have been very kind to me and now I will be very kind to them” – a kind of “pay-back”). There is nothing wrong with this – and it is quite Biblical. The Book of Ruth is full of references to “kindness” shown by Ruth to Naomi and by Boaz to them both (as their near kinsman).
SPIRIT-LED KINDNESS: “OUR GREATEST EVANGELISTIC TOOL”
These same commentators say that “supernatural”, or “fruit of the Spirit” kindness is at a much “higher level” – in that it is unnatural.
This is love-in-action to those who DON’T deserve our love and care and help – people who we don’t know or people who might be our actual enemies – those who want to hurt us!
Listen to what Jesus had to say (as recorded in Luke 6: 27-36):
27 ‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 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 children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
And study His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). In this well-loved story the Samaritan showed love-in-action to the Jew who hated him. He gave of his time and his money, he showed him love and care – kindness. This was a story designed to make people “sit-up and stare” – it just was not natural to show kindness like this!
And, of course, we return once again to our dear friends Paul and Silas in their Philippian prison cell (Acts 16: 16-34). When the earthquake struck, and the cells burst open, the jailer would have expected them to seek revenge on him for his part in their suffering. How shocked he was to experience their kindness towards him – a kindness that he well-knew was totally unmerited. What an evangelistic tool this kindness was! It directly led to his crying out “sirs! What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16: 30)
Biblical kindness comes out of a pure, loving, heart. There is no selfishness involved – it is selfless love.
SPIRITUAL KINDNESS IS “POWERFUL”
We often use words like “nice” and “pleasant” when we think of “kindness”- nothing wrong with that. However, “kindness” is a word that is INCREDIBLY powerful. The Greek word translated as “kindness” is “chrestotes” and is used of the kindness of God towards us. Let us remind ourselves of what Paul says of this kindness:
4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2: 4)
God’s “kindness is that of loving us and caring for us…and, most of all, forgiving us when we were still His enemies. The ultimate power of kindness is in forgiveness.
Also, the Bible makes it clear that “kindness” is NOT always nice…sometimes it literally hurts! Psalm 141: 5 tells us:
Let a righteous man strike me – that is a kindness; let him rebuke me – that is oil on my head.
This takes the form of what is sometimes termed “tough love” – a good father will show his love towards his child by telling them off when they need it – maybe even chastising them. This is, according to the Bible, doing them a kindness – it really is love-in-action.
Thus, we have it – the best meaning of “kindness” is this: being loving, being forgiving and seeking the good of others at all times
CONCLUSION: CULTIVATE THE FRUIT OF KINDNESS
It is often said that “kindness” is the most under-rated of the 9 ways in which the “fruit of the Spirit” is manifested – because people are deeply moved when they see us being kind to them. And when they know that this kindness is undeserved then it does indeed become our greatest evangelistic tool.
It is not natural to be kind to those who are not nice to us. So, it is again “fruit” that has to be cultivated.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, the three simplest ways to cultivate kindness developing in your daily life:
- Get right with God
- Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) – put Him first in every aspect of your life.
- Know that He is with you always (Matthew 28: 20) and so allow your trust in Him to develop as you become more like Him.