The Fruit of the Spirit. Kindness
Jonathan Swift is well known for being the writer of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. The image comes to mind of Gulliver waking up from a shipwreck to find himself pinned down by hundreds of miniature people who haven’t realised their ropes are like threads to Gulliver who easily brushes them aside.
There are many humorous scenes where the pride and pretensions of these little people are shown for what they are to comic effect in Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was a great satirist. He wanted to expose evil, and as a satirist he would do that by ridiculing it. He was also a clergyman- made Dean of St Patrick Cathedral, Dublin- and he was consciously using humour to shame people out of their sins.
When I studied English at University the theory was that Swift became unbalanced in later years, to the point where he came to hate the human race, but it is now suspected his depression and fits of rage with certain people in his old age were brought on by Alzheimer’s disease.
We have a righteous anger too when we see truth and justice undermined, the arrogance of men and women building their own ideologies without reference to God and thereby accentuating decay. When we see the widespread promotion of immorality with the endorsing of sinful practices, to the detriment of God’s marriage ordinance and family life. When we see the abuse of every good gift He has given us.
It is right to be angry at sin and its destructiveness. It is right to desire justice and see proper punishment administered to evil doers. But then a subtle shift may take place in our thinking. As it did with Swift. We lose balance. We focus in on other people’s sins. We become fault finders. We forget about restoration or genuinely seeking the other’s good. In short we become unkind.
God, who is Holy and Just, is also Kind.
Yes, as Romans 3:12 states “All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one.” So what is to be our response as Christians? To hate those who wilfully rebel against our God and oppose His ways? Or to be like the secularists who want to ‘cancel’ and punish anyone who disagrees with them? No, on the contrary:
Jesus teaches us we must love our enemies. Not hate them. But love them, and He adds “Then…you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” (Luke 6:35)
God is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked”
God’s provision of “Common Grace” and laws in the Old Testament
God is gracious towards all people. Theologically this is to say all people share in His ‘Common Grace.’ All the material benefits we enjoy are of God’s Creation and for our benefit. Even unbelievers- atheists share in His common grace, though they do not acknowledge Him as their benefactor. Paul reasoned in Lystra “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:17).
We see God’s kindness towards the People of Israel, they were often faithless, but His Kindness was seen in His framing of laws for their benefit and well-being. Laws designed for their protection and given for limiting the consequences and spread of evil.
Take His command that Capital Punishment be administered to murderers “Whoever sheds human blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). This command was given before the Law was handed to Israel. It is a general ordinance for the human race. Why? To protect the weak and vulnerable from violent and oppressive people of course. And there is a kindness here to the murderer. For here is the opportunity to get right with God. Where all appeals have been scorned before and self-will indulged, the prospect of imminent death, as Samuel Johnson put it, “concentrates the mind wonderfully”. Here is the opportunity for the murderer to be brought to repentance and so enter into salvation, even at the eleventh hour, rather than be damned for all eternity.
Psalm 141:5 states “Let a righteous man strike me- it is a kindness; let him rebuke me, it is oil on my head”
Proverbs 13:24 and Ephesians 6:4 speak of necessary discipline for children. The latter states “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Every good parent knows that to discipline children in the short term is a kindness to them in the long term. Otherwise- unless the Lord steps in through a responsible adult in that child’s life- they will grow up ruled by self-will, used to getting their own way, unteachable, and have terrible relationships with those closest to them.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), are a kindness, because many of them function to protect people from the evil intentions of others and simultaneously encourage the promotion of the best interests of all as we live in community with one another. “Honour your father and mother” “You shall not murder”, “You shall not commit adultery”, “You shall not steal”, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour”, “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house…wife…or anything that belongs to your neighbour”
God is kind in the Old Testament in His provision of Common Grace and in the provision of His laws. Even His own people received “Many good things” from the Lord “according to his compassion and many kindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7)
Man is fallen and sinful, and according to the demands of Justice alone should not be allowed to exist anymore. But God is kind to man. He preserves his life, and gives him His truth to guard his ways, and for his protection.
The kindness of God overlaps with other of His attributes. His goodness for example. His framing of laws to protect speaks of His goodness.
Phillips translates ‘love is patient and kind’ (I Corinthians 13:4) as “Love looks for a way of being constructive” It carries that sense of how good can flourish. Probably we can all look back and think of our favourite school teacher. They would have been kind to us in this way.
Kindness also overlaps with sympathy. This putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Feeling their pain and hurt and acting in some way to seek to relieve it. At Christmas time we especially focus in on the truth of the Incarnation. God is not distant or aloof but entered into our world; experiencing our pain and hurt. In order to save.
God’s kindness is supremely shown towards us at the cross:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3: 4-7
We were in great spiritual need; ‘deceived’, ‘enslaved’, ‘disobedient’. But God’s kindness towards us is shown in providing us with Salvation. This kindness is something we do not deserve, cannot merit. It comes from the heart of God. A kindness so rich and so liberal in generosity: this salvation includes ‘renewal by the Holy Spirit’ and our being made ‘heirs’ of eternal life.
We experience Salvation because of the kindness of God.
Ephesians 2: 6, 7 states: “and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus”
Paul is saying we are raised with Christ now. Today we are raised from spiritual death into the new life we have in Christ. We are fixed on the values of the Kingdom of God, and judge worldly ideas as nothing in comparison; rather we anticipate the full coming of His Kingdom. And when we actually arrive in heaven, after death or should the Lord come before, we will be amazed at the kindness of God that has brought us there. From that vantage point we will see how He brought us through this life and has finally brought us home and so have even more reason to worship the Lord for all his kindness towards us.
Christ expresses the fruit of Kindness:
Christ expressed kindness at a wedding feast when the wine ran out (John 2:1-12)
Christ expressed kindness to a widow at Nain whose only son had died (Luke 7:11-17)
Christ was kind to a poor leper who hungered for health and affection. The Scriptures tell us that the Lord “touched him”. This touch indicated the kindness of his heart. (Mathew.8:3)
Christ was exceedingly kind to Zacchaeus, a tax collector who was hated and despised by his neighbours (Luke 19:1-10)
Christ expressed the kindness of his heart when he fed the hungry who followed him (Luke 9:12-17)
Christ showed kindness and compassion to a woman who was brought to Him charged with the sin of adultery. The Scriptures tell us that “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.” He would not embarrass her by staring at her in her humiliation. While not condoning the evil of her act, He did not condemn her, but told her to sin no more. (John 8:1-11)
Christ was kind to the thief on the cross who pled for consideration (Luke 23:39-43)
Christ was kind to his mother while He was dying on the cross. He made provision for her future care. (John 19:25-27)
Christ was kind to the apostle Peter following his resurrection. The three questions concerning Peter’s love were not intended to embarrass him but to provide him with an opportunity for restoration to fellowship and usefulness. (John 21:15-19)
Scripture highlights various ways in which we can show the fruit of kindness:
The poor, orphans and widows
Groups of people who are vulnerable. We show what God is like when we are kind to these:
Shortly after World War Two came to a close, Europe began picking up the pieces. Much of the Old Country had been ravaged by war and was in ruins. Perhaps the saddest sight of all was that of little orphaned children starving in the streets of those war torn cities.
Early one chilly morning an American soldier was making his way back to the barracks in London. As he turned the corner in his jeep, he spotted a little boy with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop. Inside, the cook was kneading dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts. The hungry boy stared in silence, with his nose pressed against the window, drooling and watching the cook’s every move. The soldier pulled his jeep to the curb, stopped and got out
“Son would you like some of these?”
The boy was startled. “Oh yeah…I would”
The American stepped inside and bought a dozen, put them in a bag and walked back where the boy was standing in the foggy cold of the London Morning.
As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat. He looked back and heard the child ask quietly, “Mister…are you God?”
Proverbs 19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” Galatians 2:10 “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do”. Isaiah 1:17 & James 1:27 exhort us to “defend the cause of” and “look after” orphans and widows.
I have been catching up with some old Doc Martin episodes. For those unfamiliar with this series, Doc Martin, or Doctor Ellingham as he insists on being called, is a brilliant surgeon who has changed course to become a GP in Cornwall. The humour of the series rests in the doctor’s complete lack of a bedside manner, he is so intent on correct diagnoses and prescribing treatments- at which he is faultless- that he sees any people skills as unnecessary. To enquiring or verbose patients His favourite phrase is ‘be quiet’, he is rude cutting others down to size, and while loving his wife and child is incapable of expressing words of kindness towards them.
Proverbs 15:4 states “Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush your spirit”
I remember attending a Ministers Conference where the speaker was an Australian by the name of Philip Jenson. One of his teaching sessions was based on the verse 2 Timothy 2:24 which reads “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful”
Jenson spoken about the importance of Truth; but ministers were not to come across and being ‘know- it- alls.’ He spoke about the importance of humility and this quality of kindness which would reveal a love for those in our care. The following year I remember receiving a further letter inviting me to this Minister’s Conference again. It reflected back on the previous years’ event and said that that particular session- about the Lord’s servant being kind to everyone- had been of most help to those who had attended. They had received very positive feedback about it.
The importance of brotherly kindness is shown in our choice of words, “Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush your spirit.”
Ephesians 4:32 states “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you”
God the Father has been showing kindness towards men and women throughout history
The Son has shown us God’s kindness by providing us with His Salvation. He has revealed the truth and kindness of God to us in flesh and blood. He spent his life doing this, and it is because of God’s kindness that the Gospel continues to be preached
The Holy Spirit wants to develop the fruit of Kindness in our speech and actions throughout our lives
However, life is short…but God has given us today. “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again” William Penn.
David Barnes 3/5/23