The fifth in the list of the fruit of the Spirit is “kindness” (NKJV). Whereas the works of the flesh are to be put off, the fruits of the Spirit are to be put on. This is the life of sanctification for every child of God.
What exactly is “kindness?” The Greek word which is here translated as “kindness” is translated elsewhere in the New Testament with the words: “goodness” and “gentleness.” Its first meaning is “to be fit for use,” and it is to be fit for use especially when dealing with people.
Secondly, it has the meaning of being mild and pleasant over against being harsh, hard, sharp, or bitter.
“Kindness” is that fruit of the Spirit which is the virtue of being eminently approachable, of being humble in demeanor and kind in speech so that others will not be afraid to come up to us. It is to be tender and sensitive to others, to be considerate and not offensive. This is a great attribute for men as well as women.
God is kind. This virtue is ascribed to God in Romans 2:4; 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; and Titus 3:4. The tremendous riches of the grace of God toward His people are manifested in His kindness to them through Christ Jesus. It is God’s kindness and gentleness which are evidenced in His gathering His lambs and gently leading those which are with young (Isaiah 40:11).
Jesus also is kind. It was this virtue which made Him approachable by Nicodemus and Zacchaeus. While He spoke scathingly against the hypocritical Pharisees, He had obvious compassion on other sinners.
God’s children are the recipients of God’s kindness. They are renewed in regeneration by the Spirit so they also are able to be kind and gentle. The apostle Paul says that, as a minister of the gospel, he made every effort to be kind (II Corinthians 6:6). This virtue is urged especially on ministers (II Timothy 2:24). In dealing with people, they are to be “fit for use,” that is, pleasant rather than hard or harsh. But all of God’s people, just because they are God’s, are to put the virtue of kindness (Colossians 3:12; Titus 3:2).
How are we to put on kindness? How can we as Christians be kind?
First, it is good to remember that we do not have a choice whether we are going to be kind or not. God commands us to be kind. While the unregenerated cannot obey this command, you, who confess yourselves to be regenerated and converted, not only must be kind, but you also can be kind. God, in giving you the gift of the Spirit, gives you the ability to be kind. This means that you cannot say, “I cannot be kind” or “I cannot be kind to so and so.” You can. For a Christian to deny the presence of the ability to be kind is a lie. In all honesty, when we are unkind, we must say that we did not want to be kind. We have been given the ability to obey this command of God; so we can be kind!
Second, an important part of obeying the command to be kind is to pray for help from THE Kind One. After all God promises to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him (Luke 11:17). To grow in the fruit of the Spirit we must ask for the Spirit.
Third, think about why you want to be kind. Every Christian is moved by the Spirit to be kind whenever they consider how much they are the objects of God’s kindness. As we consider God’s kindness to us, His kindness becomes greater as our awareness of our unworthiness increases. We are often mean and critical, but God never ceases to be kind to us. God’s ever-faithful kindness to us is the stimulation for our being kind. See how our kindness is to be motivated by God’s kindness to us, according to Titus 3:2-4 and Ephesians 2:4-7.
There is especially one time when Christians are to be kind. That is when we face opposition. When others oppose us, then kindness is not only commanded, but it is greatly needed. Kindness is the Christ-like response to our personal enemies and to all ill-treatment. When we are kind to those who take advantage of us or oppose us, then we reflect Christ, Who did not threaten when He suffered at the hands of men (I Peter 2:23). Being kind is not returning evil for evil, but on the contrary, blessing (I Peter 3:9).
In the church, with our fellow-saints, kindness is also required. “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Rev. Ron Van Overloop is the pastor of the Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.