How do we even begin to define kindness? Is it simply doing something nice? Is it speaking pleasantly to people? Or maybe it is sharing? While all of the above may be evidences of kindness I would stipulate that Kindness in the biblical sense is more of an attitude than it is about actions.
Allow me to explain by example what I mean. When I was in college I was (some would say that I still am, although I hope that is not true) a rather vocal and proudly brash young man. This was not a good thing. I thank God that I had friends who were willing to call me out on it and rebuke me. You are probably thinking, “How is that Kind?” Well, it is kind in that, while it was not pleasant for either of us, it was what was in my best interest. They were looking out for me. I sadly recall that more than once they received some very harsh responses from me that were completely undeserved. Yet despite all of this they persisted in trying to help me grow, not in a spiteful way but in a caring and Christ-like way.
Let me give you another example. When my children disobey, I correct them. I do this not because I want to be mean, but to help them become well adjusted adults and godly people. This may be taken by my children as an affront but I do it because it is right and the kind thing to do.
So, how is this a fruit of the Spirit? Let’s face it. When someone walks up to you and tells you that there is something in your life that you need to change (even when they do it nicely) it is very difficult not to react harshly. It may be helpful here to refer to the more archaic term, longsuffering. The idea is one of not blowing your stack at every provocation. Kindness is not reacting the way we want to but rather the way we ought to. You and I well know that this is simply not possible without the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit.
This leaves me asking one question, “Is kindness simply not reacting badly?” I would have to say that while the answer may seem obvious at first it really is twofold. As with the illustrations above kindness has a proactive side, but it also has a reactive side. As with all of the fruit of the Spirit I believe that there is a progression in the development of each. For someone like me, who would naturally just lose it, the typical progression would be to learn to simply keep my cool first then to smile, then accept it kindly etc. But what about those who are normally calm, cool, and collected (at least in outward appearance)? The point I am trying to make is that Kindness is not simply about being nice, gentle, smiley, and cool. It is about being able to take life as it comes and reacting in a godly way. For some (those who are always in control) it may be an internal change in the attitude no one sees. For people like me (those who have no idea what bottling it all inside means) it may be answering people as we should and not as we naturally would.
I guess for me Kindness is summarized in the idea of Romans 12:1-2. I need to react as God would have me react, and I cannot do that myself. The only recourse I have is to yield to the Spirit of God and allow Him to renew me and transform me from the unkind person I am naturally to the person I should be (and am becoming) in Jesus.
That is not to say that there are not simple acts of kindness done every day such as visiting a neighbor and taking along some cookies etc. But for the most part these are acts of kindness that even the unsaved can do. For it to be a fruit of the Spirit it should be a constant in our lives both in the good times and in the adverse ones. As with all the fruit of the Spirit this is to be an all pervasive characteristic of our lives. Kindness is also part of being disciplined in our character. It is part of the Spirit’s control which is only available as we obey and submit on a daily basis.
Paul summarizes it well in Ephesians when he says, “Be ye kind one toward another tenderhearted forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)