Now, the week I found out that I was supposed to talk about kindness with you all was probably one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a while in struggling to be kind. So, the irony is not lost on me that I am telling these truths mostly to myself. My struggle that week wasn’t necessarily directed at just one person—it just felt like it was hard to be kind to everyone around me because I was so worn out. I’m thinking of those of us who are working in ministry in the schemes, especially, I’m sure you can relate to this.
There are just some weeks when I am all cared-out. We are surrounded by needy, broken, weary people week in and week out, and sometimes you can get to the cracking point. You spend so much of yourself caring for people and showing them the kindness of Jesus that you can get to a point where you are deeply weary – and, honestly, you begin to just not care anymore, you can’t do anymore, and it’s painful to even just sit down and listen to someone well - never mind lavish someone with kindness.
Maybe that’s you here today. Maybe you’re like me, hurting and weary. Maybe you’re all out of steam, you feel like you have nothing to give, and all you can do is keep plodding along. Maybe kindness is a struggle. Maybe you’re discouraged.
Well, if this is you, then I have good news for you.
Because it is only when you get to the complete end of your own kindness and are forced to rely desperately, wholly on God for the strength to be kind…only then is when you start to live out real kindness. That’s when you start to understand what kindness really is.
Remember, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. We cannot work up this kindness in ourselves; we strive for holiness with all the strength that God powerfully works in us. We grow by God’s power at work in us. Having been saved by God’s power we do not now carry on in our own strength.
So by ourselves we cannot be kind. But God isn’t looking for our perfection. Remember, this is about Jesus’ righteousness. He is looking for humble women who are surrendering their lives to Him. My dear friends, don’t you see that trying to transform ourselves is actually insulting to the Lord? It denies our need for the cross. And it takes God’s place as transformer and shaper in our lives…but He is the potter and we are clay. He wants our dependence; that is the only way we grow and thrive. And He is the one that transforms us as we trust Him.
Our lives are to proclaim the beauty of God’s loving kindness both through our reflecting of God’s kindness and through our inability to reflect His kindness without abiding in Him, depending on Him.
So growth in kindness is not something that we try to do on our own so that we look more godly on the outside. No, we’re done with that, we’re free from living like that. Instead, growth in kindness is about abiding in Jesus and depending on Him. As Jesus says in John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit [including kindness], for apart from me you can do nothing.”
The Whole Fruit
We should also remember that growth in kindness will not happen in isolation out of our growth in godliness as a whole. Kindness is a part of the whole fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-25 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
Interesting, right? This fruit that the Spirit works in us is a whole fruit… It’s not the FRUITS of the Spirit, but the FRUIT of the Spirit.
So it’s not like one Christian has the fruit of kindness while the other has the fruit of self-control. No, these all go together. So that means that not only is kindness worked in us by the Spirit but it is worked in us together with the other aspects of godly character.
So true Spirit-wrought kindness is a joyful kindness, a patient kindness, a faithful kindness, a gentle kindness. Or, to put it another way – and this is a good way to tell if you are walking in true, biblical kindness - you aren’t actually being kind if you aren’t also being loving. You aren’t being truly kind if you aren’t also joyful. You aren’t truly kind if you don’t have self-control. So as God works His kindness in our hearts He is doing so as part of working us to be in His image…reflecting His whole character, not just bits and pieces. So even as we think of the different aspects of character today and tomorrow in the weekender, they will all be linked to kindness.
So all that to say: not only is kindness a work of the Spirit but it also isn’t an optional fruit of the Spirit – kindness is a mighty piece of Christ’s character worked into us.
Now what does this look like practically, what are some examples of how we can live out this kindness to others?
Well, this will look different for each different person and situation you encounter as we walk by the Spirit. But there are some broad categories that we can think about, like
- Praying earnestly for one another
- Going out of your way to greet one another warmly
- Listening well to one another
- Encouraging and exhorting one another
- Being a good witness by being gentle in our words (Proverbs 11:6 says it is the kindhearted woman who gains honour)
- And for those of us who are discipling other women, kindness looks like teaching and discipling with God’s wisdom (as opposed to our own wisdom). As Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom” – what is another way to describe this wisdom? Next line: “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
But I think a big point we can consider is how kindness looks in the differences and disagreements between believers in the church. I’m not talking about disagreeing over the Gospel or things foundational to our faith in Christ. But I mean, can we have different opinions in life from each other and still move towards each other in love? Because that’s kindness.
It’s kind to keep being for each other, being willing to do the hard work of working through issues together and not grow cold or distant…to love each other and be for one another’s good in the midst of disagreeing. That is kindness.
So maybe we disagree about how to raise our kids. Maybe we disagree about whether we should be wearing masks right now. Maybe we have theological differences (I mean, just say the two words “covenant theology” and people start sweating). Or maybe we have political differences, and that’s a biggy. Or maybe there are cultural differences and you don’t see things the same as someone else, or maybe you even find things they do to be really annoying or even offensive.
These are issues and things that are dear to us, that mean a lot to us...things that we can get really emotional about. What do we do when we disagree? What do we do when this happens between us in the church?
Do we pull away from each other? Do we grow spiteful or bitter or hard? Do we become condescending? Do we write people off? Do we only talk to and invest in the people we get along with easily? I sadly see this often in churches where there become groups of people within the church separated out by who gets along with who, and then the church becomes more of a fractured social club than a blood-bought family. Are we in danger of this in our own relationships?
Or, do we extend kindness for the sake of Christ… saying, “You know, I disagree with you. And I actually might feel really strongly about this. And I actually might even be completely right while you are completely wrong. But my Lord Jesus shed His blood for you, and so I am going to follow His example and move toward you and be for you even in our disagreeing. In fact, my Lord Jesus shed His blood for me too, a sinner, and I don’t deserve His kindness at all, so there is no room for pride or being condescending. If Jesus gave His life for me, a sinner, how can I not extend this same grace in action to you, my sister? This doesn’t mean we’ll see eye to eye and everything will be easy – the church isn’t designed to be uniform…there is going to be disagreements. But it does mean we can have unity because the Gospel is what unites us. And that – unity not uniformity – that is kindness...extending God’s grace and love to one another.”