Believers are to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of that fruit in Galatians 5:22-23. The fifth aspect of the fruit of the Spirit he mentions is “gentleness” or “kindness”(NIV).

The Greek word chrestothes means “a tender concern for others.” it can also mean “useful, outgoing, and benevolent,” as in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-27. It is goodness in action. Kindness is a kindly disposition toward one’s neighbors. It portrays the friendly and helpful spirit which seeks to meet the needs of others. Paul uses the word to describe God’s gracious view and actions to sinful humans (Romans 2:4; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4). As God demonstrated His love for us by giving His Son (Romans 5:8), so too are Christians to demonstrate kindness to others by concrete deeds (1 John 4:19).

Kindness is cultivated by first recognizing that God has made us worthwhile and useful through redemption. Kindness is developed through practice in the church–through prayers, time, money, gifts, and talents. It matures through practice in the world-in the Christian acting as salt and light. Wherever there is a desperate need, there kindness is in demand. Christians should ever be first in kindly acts toward all. Our attitude to others is a result of (or an indicator of) our relationship to God.

Kindness is selflessness, as opposed to selfishness. Selfishness puts personal concerns ahead of any others, leads to troublemaking (Diotrephes–3 John 9-10), rebellion (Miriam and Aaron-Numbers 12:1-3), and sulking (Jonah–Jonah 4:1-9). It is a product of pride.

Examples of kindness in the Scriptures are Joseph toward his brothers (Genesis 50), Boat toward Ruth (Ruth 2), the Philippian jailer to Paul and Silas (Acts 16:33), and the Maltese islanders toward Paul and the shipwreck victims (Acts 28:2).

Someone has said that ‘kindness is a language which the blind can see and the deaf can hear. Thomas Watson wrote, The more helpful we are to others, the more we are like God. We cannot be like God in omniscience or in working miracles; but we may be like him in doing works of mercy.

God remembers the believer’s acts of kindness (Hebrews 6:10; Matthew 25:35). Christ views the kindness done to believers as done to himself. Paul reminds us to “be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4:32) and “clothe yourselves with…kindness” (Colossians 3:12).

–Craig Alan Myers
July/August 1997