Thursday, September 22, 2016

The fruit of kindness

Image result for kindness
Galatians 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness".

Recently I had lunch with a chaplain of a local Christian ministry in our area. This man shared with me how he often will end-up ministering to some of the harder-to-reach people groups in tough situations. In meeting with this man, I noticed how he had a quality of kindness and gentleness that bespoke of an inner-strength within him. The kindness or gentle-quality of this chaplain went beyond human kindness. In the situations he talked to me about, the most effective way he seemed to build bridges to other-wise hostile people was through the Spirit-given fruit of "kindness" or "gentleness" spoken of by the Apostle Paul in the above passage. What makes such a virtue so precious in the Christian's life? What is meant by the fruit of "gentleness" or "kindness"? Today we want to briefly explore the fruit of kindness.

Christian kindness is connected to God's kindness
Whenever we talk about God's qualities or attributes, theologians often speak of those qualities which He shares with human beings, particularly His people. Such qualities shared between God and His people are called "communicable" attributes. Whenever we say God "communicates" a trait to His people, we are speaking in a comparative fashion, since human beings as His image bearers express those qualities in a creaturely way. So with respect to this Holy Spirit given virtue of "kindness", we find the Bible speaking frequently of God's "kindness" or "gentleness". For example, in Romans 2:4 and Romans 11:22 we read of the "goodness and kindness" of God leading sinners to repentance. At bottom, God is not only "Good", but "Kind". Such kindness or gentleness is far-from a deficiency in God. If anything, God's kindness to His enemies speaks of His goodness. As a matter of fact, God is so-good as to possess an overflow by which He can still show goodness even to those that have no desire to return the favor. The kindness of God speaks to the essence of His grace shown to all men in general and to those who respond to His overtures of grace in particular. 

Based upon what we observe of God's kindness, we could say then that this virtue of kindness or gentleness operates without any underlying motive of expecting kindness in return. Often-times, plain expressions of human kindness proceed on the basis of "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine". With the manner of kindness mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:22, the kindness or gentleness is an unconditional, no-strings-attached type of kindness. 

Christian kindness is connected to Jesus Christ
In Titus 3:4 we read of how Jesus Christ's incarnation as God in the flesh counts as the "kindness of God" making the ultimate appearance in our world. he whole text of Titus 3:4-5 reads: "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." Christ's very life was a total expression of kindness and gentleness. Again, we musn't conceive of this virtue as meaning Jesus to be some type of weakling. Far from it! To express this sort of kindness and gentleness in the face of situations that were anything but kind or gentle meant that Jesus had control over His response to those around Him. As God, the Person of the Son already had this particular Divine attribute of kindness. Whenever He came in His decisive revelation as the man, Jesus, this Divine quality of kindness was refracted and expressed in and through His perfect humanity. Jesus demonstrated this Spirit-wrought virtue of "kindness" or "gentleness" in its most purest form. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:12-13 "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."

So Christian kindness as a virtue of the fruit of the Spirit is connected to God's kindness and to Jesus Himself. Let's consider one final point about this Spirit-given virtue of kindness....

Christian kindness is needed in our churches and our world
Imagine how people would respond to Christians and the church if this virtue of Spirit-wrought Christian kindness was at the forefront of our dealings? Paul connects this to the task of evangelism, by first noting in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 "And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— 2 for He says,
“At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”. Paul then says later in a few verses in 2 Corinthians 6:4-6 "but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, 6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love." Such kindness can speak volumes in our evangelistic efforts.

Or how about in how Christians carry themselves in the culture? In the Old Testament we find the main character Ruth expressing her desire to ultimately marry Boaz in a custom where she approached him to be what was called her "kinsman-redeemer". In such a custom, whenever a widow's husband died, it was appropriate for her to be betrothed and married by her dead's husband closest relative (whether a brother or some other male relative). Such an arrangement meant that the "kinsman" would take on the widow's debts and property, hence "redeeming her". For Boaz, Ruth's expression of "kindness" spoke volumes to him. We read in Ruth 3:10-11 "Then he said, "May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. 11"Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence." Such an incredible virtue like Christian kindness can go a long way in establishing one's character and rapport before others. 

Our churches definitely need to have more examples of such a virtue like the fruit of kindness. If for anything, our churches ought to be characterized as centers where people can see a level of kindness unfounded in any part of the world. God's kindness expressed through the Spirit-wrought virtue of kindness can result in influencing others towards Christ. Jesus Himself reminds us in Matthew 5:16  "In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." Or again, the Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 5:25 reminds us - "Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed."  

Closing thoughts
Today we focused on the fruit of Christian kindness. We saw its importance in how it is connected to God's kindness, Jesus' expression of kindness as God in human flesh and then how our church and world needs this kindness.