Kindness: this is one of the so-called “Fruits of the Spirit” that constantly eludes me. I can do “kindness” for a while; but then, impatience, weariness, exasperation and downright nastiness take over. Unfortunately, these responses are not included in the list of approved “Fruits of the Spirit”. Granted, I can be kind for a while, especially if I want people to like me. However, at home or in the market place, where I think no one watches or cares, I can be rather unpleasant at times.
In fact, to my credit, I can express kindness randomly and quite well at a distance. Someone comes to my door asking for a donation for some people in a far away land, and I respond with a random act of kindness and give them money. I can usually be kind to those at work, even the person who serves me at the restaurant or gas station. But get up close to me daily and the kindness wears off like make-up at the end of the day.
The word used in the New Testament for kindness is a rich one. It translates as “useful”, “benevolent”, ” easy to wear”. It describes an article of clothing that was easy to put on for work. In another location, the word “kindness” describes superior wine. Kindness leaves a good taste in the mouth. It makes the troubles of life a little easier to wear and helps the bitter taste of experience go down easier.
In the Old Testament, “kindness” is often a translation of the very popular word HESED, a word often employed to describe God’s grace: “The loving kindness of the Lord endures forever”. In fact, when we show kindness, it is in response to the kindness shown us by God through Christ.
A seminary mentor of mine modeled this form of kindness. Dr. Carl Henry, along with his friend and college classmate, Billy Graham, founded Christianity Today. Dr. Henry almost single-handedly defined “Evangelicalism” in the 20th Century; and, one of Henry’s favorite phrases was “to strike a blow for the faith.” One might expect such a passionate person to be dogmatic, strong willed and overpowering; and yet, despite his fiery commitment to truth, he modeled “Kindness”. We never heard him speak in a bitter or disparaging way about anybody, not even those with whom he disagreed. I am convinced that it was a lifelong enthrallment with his own salvation through God’s grace that enabled this man to continue taking a prayerful interest in our lives. Even in later life, Henry reveled in the kindness of God shown him as a twenty-year old newspaper reporter who needed salvation.