An Exploration of Galatians: Fruit of the Spirit Part 6
Galatians 5:22-23 - Be kind and leave the unkind judging and opinions behind.
”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB1995
The fifth fruit of the Spirit, and the second that is between us and others, is kindness. Kindness comes from the Greek word χρηστότης or chrestotes. I prefer the Strong’s definition from the Blue Letter Bible that kindness is usefulness or moral excellence (character or demeanor). It can also mean integrity.
Having been more concerned (usually) in my life with being right rather than being kind, how is this virtue further defined? Here’s a decent explanation from Gotquestions.org:
Kindness is the characteristic that led God to provide salvation for us (Titus 3:4-5; Romans 2:4; 11:22). 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 (Psalm 17:8; 36:7; 61:4; 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 6:34; Mark 7:29; 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).
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). That is why kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.
So true kindness MUST come from the Holy Spirit, because it is hard enough to be kind to those we love, but God also wants us to be kind to our enemies. I can say without reservation that I have been many things in my life - intelligent, effective, creative, knowledgeable, hard-working, and interested in many things and ideas. I can also confess that I have been many other things in my life: Unkind (in fact, downright mean sometimes), arrogant, impatient, unhappy, self-centered, controlling, and always wanting to be right about something (to the point that I have lost friendships). I also excel in “worst-casing”, thinking that something that may happen will immediately be a disaster or a major burden on my life.
I truly admire people who are kind to others first before revealing anything else in their character. My Dad was one of those people - everyone loved him from the first minute they met him because he was kind. He quietly put up with my Mom and her temper and desire to start arguments about everything (I know I inherited some of those tendencies). My hubby is also kind - he is very gracious to others, even when they are making mistakes and causing problems. He is kind to me (and a wonderful helper) and I recognize that his longsuffering kindness has been about the only thing between me and utter isolation in this world. People don’t want to be around the snarky mean ones, even if they have reformed to some degree. You’re always expecting the dynamite to blow up, even if you think it has been temporarily disarmed.
Kindness also means doing things for others without expecting anything in return. You may not even get a thank you. It means being useful, in a way that brings God’s kingdom to Earth, not in a way that advances worldly interests. It means being mannerly, treating all with politeness and calm, regardless of the circumstances. Kindness means thinking about being in the other person’s shoes before reacting intemperately. Perhaps that rude clerk has an inner battle that you can’t see (a family problem, a serious health problem). So treat her with kindness regardless of her disposition. Perhaps that car rushing through traffic is taking a sick child to the hospital, so why salute them with the middle finger? Perhaps that impatient and seemingly unkind policeman who pulled you over has just worked a fatal accident and doesn’t want to see another one on his shift. Thank that officer for his selfless dedication to public safety. Kindness is indeed a form of grace!
Is our world kind? It seems like it is becoming less and less kind. The advent of the internet and social media have given forums to every person with an opinion (pretty much everyone) and, by gum, you are going to hear those opinions, on everything from politics to religion to social issues to restaurant quality. I have seen rudeness and arguments on every conceivable forum and Facebook page, about issues that have no relevance or meaning except someone said the “wrong thing”.
My tendencies to want to be right about everything has been a thorn in my side my whole life. I used to engage in those forums and some of the arguments and would carry over my aggressiveness at work and with the few friends that I’ve had. The ad hominem insults would fly (directed at the person, not the issue) and things would always deteriorate, leading to sleepless nights for me laying there re-arguing the argument.
This is a pivotal year in our history in our country, with an election that is quite important, regardless of which side of the aisle you occupy. I think a little kindness for your opponents is probably difficult to prescribe, because it is easy to say that they would not be kind to you. But charity starts within our own hearts, so we can at least try. I think it also helps to look at others as God’s cherished creation rather than as incompetent fools who are wrong.
One more thought, from C. Norman Bartlett, author of “Galatians and You” as quoted on Precept Austin:
[Kindness] is the spontaneous overflow of love in the heart. It is the spirit that would rather be hurt by others than hurt others. Would that more of us were as tenderhearted as we are thin-skinned, as impulsive in kindness as explosive in anger. We need to cultivate resourcefulness in kindliness, to gain proficiency in the artistry of applying Christian love to the hearts and lives of those with whom we come in contact in the multitudinous activities and relationships of life.
Kindness must be asked for from the Holy Spirit, practiced daily and applied often in our Christian lives. Always remember how kind God has been to you and act accordingly.
My next devotional examines the sixth fruit of the Spirit and the third between us and others: Goodness.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - I pray desperately for the fruit of kindness. It is never too late in this life for me to emerge as a completely different person thanks to the Holy Spirit. I also pray this stanza (referenced in Precept Austin) from the Isaac Watts hymn “What Shall I Render to my God”:
What shall I render to my God
For all His kindness shown?
My feet shall visit Thine abode,
My songs address Thy throne.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 1/15/2024 to review the lexicon for the word kindness.
Gotquestions.org was accessed on 1/15/2024 to answer the question about the fruit of kindness.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin, can be found Here.