Are Christians called to be KIND?
I feel like people who have made habit out of quick, witty retorts (during middle school it was more of a defense mechanism), should get a spiritual hall pass on kindness. But alas, the Bible says otherwise. Why is it so hard to be kind? Why are people so fed up with people and is that cultural sentiment opposing the Great Commission? Perhaps kindness isn’t a struggle for many of us but over the years it has gotten less sincere. What do we do with that and how does God get the glory?
We find the list for the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, specifically 5:22-23, The list, cultivated by Paul being moved by the Holy Spirit, speaks to the resulting character of someone (who by way of the Holy Spirit) is developing maturity in his or her life. The fifth characteristic of the nine mentioned is KINDNESS. It is a bedfellow to love and takes plenty of self-control. The Greek word for “kindness” is chrēstotēs. Roughly translated means “benignity, tender concern, uprightness.” It is kindness of heart and kindness of act. What do we know off the bat?
Kindness is the characteristic that led God to provide salvation for us (Titus 3:4-5). Kindness leads God to give us green pastures, quiet waters, and the restoration of our souls when we’re weary (Psalm 23:2-3). It is God’s tender care that makes Him want to gather us under His wings, to protect us and keep us close to Him (Matthew 23:37). God expressed kindness when He provided for Elijah and the widow of Zarephath during a drought—and He showed more kindness later when He raised the widow’s only son from the dead (1 Kings 17:8-24). When Sarah exiled Hagar and Ishmael, God gave the outcasts kindness in the form of water and hope (Genesis 21:9-21). On multiple occasions, kindness induced Jesus to stop what He was doing and help others in need (Mark 10:46-52). And kindness leads the Good Shepherd to rescue us when we stray (Luke 15:3-7). In kindness He “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
Church, when we exhibit the kindness of God, we are tender, benevolent, and useful to others. Every action, every word will have the flavor of grace in it. To maintain this attitude toward those we love is hard enough. To express kindness toward those who are against us requires the work of God (2 Corinthians 6:4-6).
What is Cultural Kindness and why do we need to know?
Cultural kindness is more about tolerance (what some have referred to as the gospel of being nice) and the decision to accept differences without complaining than it is about actual, truth in love. What’s the problem? It asks us only to be pleasant to those who are different from us before it becomes controversial, but it doesn’t call us to love them. Big problem here. When kindness exists without love, it quickly becomes insincere, something we do because it’s a forced obligation from a place of tribal acting and virtue signaling. But kindness without love isn’t kindness at all. It’s merely an imitation. And people see through imitations.
This is the main problem with cultural kindness as opposed to genuine biblical kindness. It offers niceness and acceptance of others while putting on the mask of love. But tolerance can mask a hatred. A smile can have contempt behind the teeth. Cultural kindness is built from a base of insincerity, and often points to a “Music Man-esque” phoniness that can fool the town for awhile, but always ends up backfiring.
Acts of cultural kindness have become compulsions to avoid insulting someone, and even when paved with good intentions can still seem contrived and even patronizing, and if done enough will lead to subliminal behavior of the same ilk. I’ll give you an example: why do we text the way we do? Why does a grown man have to end his questions or blatant statements in a peacekeeping “Ha” or a “smiley face” or a “laughing until I cry face” just to make sure the person on the other end knows “It’s all good.” It’s a lie, by the way. I am not doing any of those things on the other end of the phone, I just deep down don’t want you to be offended by what I have said. Let’s be honest. Why this neutering of speech? Why this odd signaled softness? Why abuse our emojis because people have stopped letting their “yes be yes and their no be no?!” Yes our culture is far too quick to be offended. Yes, text lacks tone or context and is now our main way of communicating. But it is the COMPULSION to be insincere or even lie that lead to dangerous changes in the way we interact with others. Which, full circle, is how people will KNOW whom we serve. See Galatians once more, Padawan. Digressing…
The apostle Paul told the Ephesians to put away six sinful attitudes and behaviors: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. Bitterness is an inward frame of mind that refuses to forgive. Wrath and anger are combined here to refer to violent outbreaks of uncontrolled human rage. Clamor speaks of shouting and loud quarreling. Slander means evil speaking, and the Greek word translated “malice” implies wickedness, which is at the root of all the other sins listed here. To accept Christ is to reject these practices.
In place of these things, through the Word, prayer, fellowship and accountability, true believers are to put on kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. These three virtues also deal with interpersonal relationships. In the original Greek, the phrase rendered “be kind to one another” literally means “keep on becoming kind toward one another.” The graciousness of God, which is also found in Jesus Christ, shows us what it means to be kind to one another. Because God acts kindly toward us, we are to behave the same way toward others. Because Christ offered grace as the basis for our forgiveness, so too should we.
Being kind to one another is not optional for the people of God. Walking in love means following the example of Jesus Christ. And if we have been saved, transformed and changed by the blood of Christ Jesus, Christlikeness is on our MINDS.
“I am not a kind person. That is just how I have always been.”
This never works as justification for a Christ-follower because the whole premise of Christianity is God changing who we are! The biggest barrier to kindness and often the reason for our endless excuses? The second-greatest commandment.
Being kind to one another involves caring for others, bearing their burdens, and valuing them above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Kindness motivates us to speak life and encouragement to others instead of death and discouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Expressing support and affirmation instead of condemnation is a characteristic of kindness (Proverbs 15:4).
Being kind to one another means finding a way to forgive rather than blame. Perhaps the most stunning example of this is found in God’s supreme act of kindness that provided for our forgiveness and salvation when He sent His Son to die for us on a cross. Like Paul said to the Romans, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
So what is our lesson? We can’t fake sincerity and the fruit of the Spirit of God won’t be counterfeited. We have to cultivate our conscience, choose to walk in those spiritual disciplines prescribed to us as the Church and seek to put our love for God over comfort and convenience. May our prayer always be: Lord, give me all the mercy you were going to give me today. I am going to need it! Be Kind, Rewind, and then be kind again!
— Pastor Adam —