“…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Kindness

Some things in life are more important than others.  Some things in our Christian lives are more important than others.  And sometimes we pick the wrong things to be the most important.  What often gets neglected is an emphasis upon character.  Matters of the heart.  The fruit of the spirit.  Yet that is what sanctification is all about, that is what holiness is all about.  That is what Christianity is all about.  Not the outward show.  Not the external display of gifts.  Not the intellectual prowess or theological precision of the mind.  Rather, the heart.  The spirit.

In recent years, I have learned the value of friendship in a new and fresh way.  The priority of friendship.  Sometimes that lesson has come through the pain of betrayal—having to come to terms with someone whom I would have previously called a friend choosing to inflict wounds of unkindness.  Sometimes, thankfully, it has come through the good actions of someone who has chosen to be a friend.  Surely a huge part of the healing process from the trauma inflicted by the former is the pleasantness of those who have chosen the latter path, those choosing to be a friend.  In particular, I am thankful for several specific people whom I have come to be able to call friend in the past several years.  I am also thankful for several specific people who have demonstrated their friendship over a period of many, many years.  I have learned not to take that for granted.  I have learned to value those whom I can legitimately call friend.

Chief among the characteristics of a good friend is that fruit of the spirit we would call kindness.  This same fruit of God’s grace at work in our lives should be prominent within the definition of our Christian maturity.  Chief among those human attributes which we use to describe the progress of sanctification should be this quality of friendship.  It is, after all, prominent in the list of qualities Paul identifies in the book of Colossians as the new clothing which we are to put on as Christians:  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering. (Colossians 3:12)  Likewise this grace of kindness is prominent in that list of the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Even further, when Paul would instruct the Ephesian Christians about the sorts of things they should put off, put away from their lives, he clearly identifies kindness among those new clothes we are to put on.  His instruction is this, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:31-32)

So what is it?  What is kindness?  The basic meaning of the Greek word is the idea of goodness in action.  Kindness begins with moral goodness, the goodness of the heart and the goodness of your attitude.  Your motive and your disposition is to do good to someone else, and then that good intention is put into practice.  That’s kindness.  Goodness in action.  It is not merely the quality of goodness that matters, but goodness expressing itself in action.


I should be quick to note that kindness will not earn for you a place in heaven.  Kindness does earn for you any brownie points in the sight of God such that you can claim any merit in his presence based upon what you have accomplished in your own life.  Our standing before God is a matter of grace.  It is all of grace.  We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus.  God alone is perfectly kind, and he saves us in the kindness of his grace.  But God’s grace is at work in our lives as believers.  God’s grace, both as a motivation and an enabling power, is the means by which we are enabled to practice kindness.  Indeed, what God commands of us he enables in us.  Thus we are called to live according to the law of kindness.  Goodness in action.

Sadly, often when the world observes the behavior of Christians, kindness is not the characteristic that shines forth.  Sometimes, as we struggle in our relationships with one another in the church, or in our families, there is anything but kindness.  There is mean-spiritedness.  Vindictiveness.  Self-advancement.  Aggression.  Harshness.  I could on with that list.  We make excuses.  We’re tired out, or too busy.  We’re under stress.  Or we hide our lack of kindness under a thin veneer of superficial piety.  We manipulate.  We abuse.  We demean.  We insult.  All of that should never be.

Instead, this fruit of the Holy Spirit should be that which is of most importance.  This law of kindness should govern the whole of our lives, in the personal and private relationship of family and home as well as the public relationships we enjoy in the church.  By God’s grace, this kindness should be the characteristic we enjoy in our communities as well, among our neighbors.  And sadly, though it is not a present reality, it should be evident in the highest places of authority and power within our country.  Kindness.  That is what matters most to our Lord.  That is what should best describe and define our lives as children of God—believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Goodness in action.

I am thankful for a good measure of kindness in our church.  That kindness to me was, from my very first arrival here nearly five years ago, such a balm, such a fragrant aroma of good will.  I will never forget that experience.  It is a debt I am eager to repay.  Although I don’t ever want to have to choose between the two (and we never should have to do so), if I had to choose between theological precision and personal kindness as characteristics of those whom I would call my friends, I’d choose kindness every day of the week.

I hope that we always remain a church defined by our convictions, our proper and accurate understanding of biblical teaching.  I believe that we will.  But I also yearn for the mark of genuine kindness to be unmistakable among us, goodness in action in our relationships with one another.  Kindness displayed in how we treat one another, how we speak to one another, what we say about one another.  And what we say to one another.  There is no substitute for such evidence of God in our heart.  There is suitable replacement if this matter of the heart is overlooked.  Ultimately, as a church, there is no hope for us without such kindness.

Therefore, please give thought to your own exercise of kindness, a consistent and honest self-awareness with respect to your calling as Christian to show forth kindness.  It may not bring you any prominence in the eyes of men, but it will bring you great honor in the eyes of God.  And it will be the great glory of our church.