This is posted as a resource for Redeemer Church and those seeking to learn more. Do not plagiarize.
Kindness – Galatians 5:22
God is a God of Kindness; he has shown kindness to us, and so as recipients of his kindness we ought to show kindness to others.
So, what is “kindness”?
Often hear people say that “kindness is not “being nice”.” Helpful in some sense, but at the same time it can be unhelpful.
Because maybe it’s true that kindness is not just “being nice”; but, you know, a lot of us would probably be a lot further along on the path towards kindness if we’d at least be nice. Kindness is being kind – being nice in our disposition, being nice towards others – having a personal warmth about you that is relationally attractive rather than a coldness or abrasiveness or rudeness that is relationally repulsive.
If kindness at least involves what we generally think of as “niceness” – friendliness, politeness, personal warmth, thoughtfulness, respectfulness, courtesy & consideration of others, more smiles than scowls, more laughter than anger, more encouragement than scorn – certainly I think kindness is more than those things – but probably many of us could benefit from striving towards this low-bar “nice-ness” level of kindness.
Christians should be known for their kindness – but, are we? Is “kind” the first thing that people think of when they think about you – or does it come up in the register at all?
Unfortunately, Christians are often known for other things instead of kindness. We’re often seen as people who are arrogant; argumentative; judgmental; condescending; insensitive; uncaring; aloof. We’re often known as people who lack compassion & concern, and whether or not you think that’s a completely true and accurate impression in general – that impression exists; and so, we ought to at least consider – in which ways might it be true? More so, we ought to consider, is that true of me?
Or, is kindness so evident in my life – so at the forefront of my interactions – that even though people may want to fit me into those stereotypes they simply won’t be able to.
Is kindness evident in your life?
Are you kind towards those with whom you disagree? Are you kind towards those from whom you are different? Are you kind even towards those who might despise you – or those whom you might be tempted to despise?
Is kindness evident in you from the moment you meet someone, as opposed to only after they’re first kind to you? Or only after they’ve earned your kindness? Is kindness evident in you long after you’ve known someone and they’ve had plenty of chances to un-earn your kindness?
See, kindness has a high standard. And, that’s probably the reason that people want to distinguish it from “niceness”. (Ryken): “we need to avoid putting kindness on a level that we all can easily reach, and thereby giving the idea much less praise than it deserves.”
Kindness is minimized, toned-down, undervalued, belittled, and drained of it’s Christian content if it’s merely being nice; or if it’s reduced to every once in a while doing some “random act of kindness”.
Anyone can do a “random act of kindness”, even if they’re not a kind person. It’s not hard to step out of yourself for a minute and show pity or charity; it’s not hard to put on a show of kindness to impress that person who may be watching at that moment; it’s not hard for the one who lives in luxury but fails to be generous to do something here or there to quiet their guilty conscience; it’s not hard for the narcissistic, self-absorbed, self-consumed person to, in a moment of self-righteousness or pride, to step out of their world of self and do something thoughtful for someone else.
Anyone can do a “random act of kindness”. But, it’s much harder to have kindness pulsating through your veins, overflowing out of your life, clearly seen and undeniably felt by all around you.
Because, it’s possible to do kind things out of an unkind heart, from unkind motivations. It’s possible to do kind things out of the motives of fear – “what will people think of me?”; of pride – “what will people think of me!” – the need to impress people or prove myself; or of guilt – the need to try to atone for my sins by doing an equal or greater amount of good things in order to earn the praise of others and the love of God – but ultimately, those motivations betray a greater desire for and commitment to myself, than others – and so they will fail when the pay-off to self isn’t as high as the cost of doing something for another – and so, what we need isn’t kind actions masking over an unkind heart, but a kind heart that overflows with kindness.
And, what the fruit of the Spirit is aiming for, is kindness which flows from a kind heart. And a kind heart, is the heart that has been overwhelmed by the kindness of God, and which seeks to show that very kindness to others.
Because, when you’ve known God’s kindness, those other motivators weaken and disappear; because when you’ve known God’s kindness, you don’t need to live for the praise of others, or in fear of what others think, because you know the acceptance and love of God. And when you’ve known God’s kindness, you don’t need to live in guilt and attempts at self-atonement because you’ve known the forgiveness of God. And so, knowing the kindness of God replaces those other motivations with the motivation of love – no longer needing to do things for others out of self-love; but freed to be kind to others out of genuine love for others.
- God’s kindness to us
- Our kindness to others
The NT speaks of God’s kindness in the context of God’s saving actions towards his people – of his gracious response to his rebellious creatures.
God’s kindness is the common-grace love that he shows to all people – even those who hate him – his enemies (Luke 6:35): But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
God’s kindness is what leads us to him – draws us after him in repentance: Romans 2:4 – Romans 2:4
 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (ESV)
God’s kindness humbles us, it teaches us that it’s not our goodness that drives us to God, but it’s his kindness that draws us to him.
God’s kindness is what led him to save us:
Titus 3:4-7 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Phil Ryken writes that this Titus passage shows us that God’s kindness is a “saving kindness; merciful kindness; life-changing kindness; generous kindness; and, it’s an eternal kindness”
Ephesians 2:7 “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.
It never runs out, but it is immeasurable, and he continues to show us the riches of his grace and kindness all through the coming age – all through eternity – for all time.
Everything in your life – whether you’re a christian or not – every gift, every good thing – all of that is in your life only because of the kindness of God.
Have you experienced the kindness of God? If not, then you may want to consider that God is kind. You might want to consider how God has been kind to you. He shows kindness even to the undeserving – because undeserving is the only kind of person there is. But the opportunity to receive the kindness of God – is a “limited time offer” – because there is a judgment day, and when the opportunity to find God’s kindness runs out, what is left is his severity & judgment: Romans 11:22
“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” There is a day when God withdraws his kindness, and then only his severity is left. Don’t miss the opportunity to find the kindness of God and to enjoy merciful, generous, perfect, divine, kindness forever.
And, if you’re a Christian – the only reason you are a Christian is not because of your goodness or inclination to turn towards God or fix your life up or whatever, but only because he is kind; and only because he in his mercy decided to show kindness to you.
And, if you’re a Christian, then all the inestimable blessings and privileges that you have – have been freely given to you not because you are good but because God is kind.
God in his kindness looked at your desperate, hopeless condition of being dead in your sins; of being lost; of being helplessly unable to save yourself; God had compassion upon you and showed mercy to you.
You – all you have and all you are – is from God’s kindness. You ought to know what it is, what it means, to be in need of the kindness of another, and to receive – be shown – kindness – and you see how a deep understanding of how we’ve been shown kindness, leads to a heart-desire to extend that same merciful kindness we’ve received to others.
- God’s kindness to us
- Our kindness to others
Ryken: “Knowing the kindness of God enables us to start showing the kindness of God.”
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit – God’s Spirit is seeking to make you into a person of kindness.
More than just being “nice”, or friendly, or thoughtful – kindness is the act of doing good to others; it’s to act with benevolence;
“kindness is active goodness on behalf of others”; “kindness is to provide something beneficial for someone.”“Kindness is love’s readiness to enhance the life of another person.”
Edwards: “Kindness is that disposition which leads us to have a desire for, or a delight in, the good of another”. And, “the proper and conclusive evidence of our wishing or willing the good of another, is to do it”.
kindness is awareness of the need of another; compassion for the need of another; action to meet the need of another.
Most basically, a kind person cares about other people, and seeks to do good to them and for them. Bridges – “We tend to be concerned about our problems, our plans, our agendas. But the person who has grown in the grace of kindness has expanded his thinking outside of himself and his interests and has developed a genuine interest in the happiness and well-being of those around him.”
In fact, I think kindness is best summarized as: “Doing unto others as you would have others do unto you”; or, the related: “loving your neighbor as yourself.”
And, I think kindness is best pictured in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan:
“Love your neighbor as yourself” – and someone, seeking to justify himself, asks “well who is my neighbor?”
Jesus tells this parable of a jewish man on a journey, attacked by robbers and left for dead, left half-dead; and a Jewish priest – someone you’d think would certainly help – happens to be walking by, but passes by on the other side – probably pretending to not even notice. Then, a levite, approaches (involved with priests in working in/ maintaining temple of God) – and he likewise, passes by on the other side – possibly much too busy to help. But then a samaritan – who would be someone despised by Jews and so the least likely to offer help – but when he saw this man – unlike the others, he took pity on him; and that pity led him to help: he poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them up; he put the man on his own donkey and he himself walked, taking the man to an inn; he took care of him there, but then entrusted him to the inn-keeper until his return, leaving money and promising to pay back any extra expense.
Samaritan saw the person, and had compassion. Others passed by – though of course they saw him they looked the other way – he was a problem, a hassle, a hindrance, a nuisance, an inconvenience. But, To the samaritan, he was a person – a person in need, a neighbor to love.
The others perhaps thought: “Ah, I’m late for work; or, have to get home to watch the game; or, oh, I have my nice clothes on and he’s all bloody and I don’t want to get his mess on me by helping… you know what, kindness is always messy, because it means stepping into someone’s messiness to help; it’s always inconvenient and can never be packaged nicely and neatly into our comfortable convenient schedules.
Or perhaps they thought, “what if the danger isn’t gone? Better to rush by.” They are unwilling to risk in order to help.
When you look at the life of Jesus, you can’t help but notice that Jesus was full of compassion for needy people – he noticed them, and he cared for their needs. He stopped, he delayed, he changed his plans, and he took criticism from helping those who others thought were unworthy or hopeless cases.
“Jesus never regarded the sufferer with indifference, still less with loathing and disgust. He regarded the sufferer and the needy with compassion which issued in help.”
It’s no accident that those who pass by are a priest and a levite – the most religious people of the day – no doubt, certainly, Jesus is saying that religion that lacks kindness is worthless – just as the apostle James says:
James 2 – “faith without good works is dead”;
and, just as the apostle John says: 1 John 3:18 – “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Kindness has compassion, and helps – it meets the need of another.
Samaritan helps in an incredibly costly, generous, sacrificial way. He takes all the costs of his healing upon himself – and it isn’t cheap. That is kindness – not asking what’s in it for me? but how can I give life / be a blessing / bring benefit to someone else?
And, not only sacrificial but surprising:
And, when this half-dead person lying in the road sees the priest coming, “certainly he’ll help”. Levite, “certainly he’ll help”. Samaritan? “Certainly not. I’m a goner.”
But, the samaritan treats him like his neighbor, even though it’s his enemy – because we were God’s enemies, and God showed us kindness.
We were not half-dead, but fully dead, soon to be eternally dead, no hope, no way to help ourselves – we were that person lying in the road – dead in our sins – hopeless – until Jesus walked by.
And, samaritan – oil and wine – costly – but Jesus – body and blood – most precious commodities in all the universe – the body of the Son of God given for us, the blood of the eternal Kind shed for us –
How can we show kindness like that? Because if in Christ, we have received kindness like that. We were in the deepest of need; the most hopeless of situations; at the mercy of the one we had despised, and he could have passed right on by, but he did not; he had compassion on you. If you’re in Christ, you know what it is like to receive undeserved kindness; go and do likewise.
Applications of kindness:
- Show spiritual kindness to others: this is the highest form of kindness. God’s kindness led to his saving action of us; we of course can’t save people, but we can point them to the savior. That is perhaps the greatest act of kindness – because it meets their deepest, most significant, most urgent and eternal need. We can point people towards Christ who don’t know him; and we can encourage in Christ those who do. We can set an example of Christ, we can pray, we can encourage, we can weep with or rejoice with them in their pains or gladnesses, we can counsel someone not in the way of the world’s wisdom, but in the wisdom of God’s truth – God’s word; we offer someone accountability when they need help in their spiritual battle; we can give them warning when they are straying in their walk. All these are ways to show spiritual kindness to others.
- We can show “worldly” kindness to others: we can meet a need, we can offer a helping hand; we can seek to promote their welfare, we can offer resources that we have and they lack, we can be generous, we can give of our time, talents, and treasure in order to do good to the lives of those around us.
- We must remember our call to show kindness to the good and bad; to friend and enemy; to the thankful and the unthankful – because that’s how God shows kindness: “Many make an objection against doing good to others, saying “If I do, they will never thank me for it; they are undeserving; they will repay me with injury”; and they are thus ready to excuse themselves from the exercise of kindness. But such persons do not sufficiently look at Christ – and remember the type of kindness he showed to them.” Parable of samaritan told in response to someone who asked, “sure i’m supposed to love my neighbor – but who is my neighbor” – and that q not asked out of a desire to love, but to limit my obligation only to those who i like or are easy to love. But Jesus tells the parable to remind us that our neighbor is anyone who has a need that we can meet.
- Show kindness freely – mercifully – not only after someone has earned your kindness, or so long as they deserve it. Not in a mercenary spirit – not hoping to gain something as a result of my kindness, but in a gracious spirit.
- Show kindness gladly – not bitterly, not begrudgingly; but gladly – rejoicing in the kindness of God that is mine through Christ.
- Show kindness generously. “Not scantly or sparingly, but open-heartedly and open-handedly.”
“God’s kindness to us in things pertaining to this world has been very great. The divine mercies are new to us every morning, and fresh every evening: they are ceaseless. And still greater good things has God bestowed for our spiritual and eternal good. He has given us what is of more value than all the kingdoms of the earth. He has given his only-begotten and well-beloved Son – the greatest gift he could bestow. And Christ has not only done, but has suffered, great things, and given himself to die for us; and all freely, not begrudgingly, and generously: Though he was rich with all the riches of the universe, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that through his poverty we might become rich. And what great things hath God done for those of us who are converted, and have been brought home to Christ; delivering us from sin, justifying and sanctifying us, giving us an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away,”, and all this, when we were not good, but evil and unthankful, and in ourselves deserving only of wrath.”
Ryken: The word for “Christian” in Greek sounds very much like the word “Kindness” in Greek. Tertullian – one of the early church fathers – wrote that outsiders confused those two words when referring to Christians – such that instead of calling them “Christ people”, they called Christians “Kindness people”. Could have been just a mispronunciation, or it could have been from confusion about what they were truly called – because Christianity became so synonymous with people in whom genuine kindness was present in their hearts and evident in their lives.
“Our calling is to live with such kindness that the word itself becomes synonymous with the label “Christian”. Do we?”