Kindness in Action

I love the Passion Translation of Galatians 5:22–23, which refers to the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.

As we allow the fruit to be developed within us, we are allowing His divine love to be expressed through our unique lives in unique ways. I’d like to focus on the fruit of kindness and especially “kindness in action!” Ephesians 4:32 states: “But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love” (TPT). Kindness is defined by Dictionary.com as: “tenderness, sympathy, goodness, gentleness, forbearance, courtesy, grace, patience, compassion.” Kindness is especially highlighted when it is given to someone who might not particularly deserve it!

Pastor Bobbie Houston from Hillsong Church stated on her Instagram page, “There’s an urgency in the air for kindness.” I can echo, “Yes and amen,” for if ever the fruit of kindness needs to come forth out of the Church, surely it is now! In a season in history where we find ourselves increasingly angry, offended, and divided, there is a world that needs to see the Lord’s body express kindness in genuine, heartfelt ways. Politics have left many angry, wounded, and unable to treat anyone well who does not agree with their own party’s beliefs.

We live in the South, and there is a stereotype connected with people in our region. We pride ourselves on southern hospitality, courteous behavior, and kind speech. At our best, we are all of those and more. At our worst or most insincere, our Southern charm can take on a different flavor entirely. We can mutter, “Bless your heart,” while simultaneously thinking terrible things about the person we just blessed. (Remember Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind?) We can drift into flattery and insincerity. Have you ever sent the wrong text to the wrong person? Worse yet, have you ever spoken badly about someone via text and then sent it to them by mistake? Oops!

I was in middle school before I truly understood the concept of “mean girls.” At age eleven or twelve, we were caught up in episodes of childish behavior that demonstrated no evidence of kindness whatsoever. During this tumultuous season in my life, I learned that you can apologize for unkind words that you unleash against others, but you can never unsay them. How much better to hold your tongue to begin with! Many of us find ourselves dealing with the wounds caused by unkind words—some going back many years to our childhood.

On the opposite spectrum, being kind sometimes calls for us not to be silent and instead to voice our sincere opinions. We are familiar with the saying, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” How painful when someone you thought had your back doesn’t spring to your defense!

On a much more superficial, trite level, I learned the hard way that sometimes the silence of my friends didn’t mean that I hadn’t done well, but was a sure fire indication that I might have done a bit too well! Many times, especially we as females, have been guilty of withholding sincere praise and appreciation for someone because of our own insecurities! One of the surest signs of God’s power at work within us is the ability to voice sincere praise and give truthful compliments. It takes nothing away from us! Others’ achievements don’t negate or diminish ours.

The Holy Spirit has many ways of convicting us when the stress of our everyday lives makes us insensitive to the needs of others. We can get self-absorbed with our own problems and be blind to what is going on right in front of us. I had a humbling experience with this recently. I’m an avid college basketball fan, and so March Madness is like Christmas in our house! Perhaps like some of you, I am a true-blue fan of my team and have been known to do quite a bit of trash talking upon occasion. I probably would have used the occasion to taunt and boast. But I decided not to and chose instead to be kind.  Many people have a lot on their plate. The difficulties of everyday life are compounded by a bitter loss from their team. Yes, I could certainly afford to show kindness. (Side note: the next night when my team lost as well, I was certainly glad I had!)

This is a practical area and I’m all for being competitive. But I’ve come to see that my unexpected kindness in areas where I’ve not been kind in the past is something that God can and will use!

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  (Unknown) Cinderella’s Mother: “Be kind, have courage.” 

Luke’s Gospel says, “For your Father is famous for His kindness to heal even the thankless and cruel. Show mercy and compassion for others, just as your heavenly Father overflows with mercy and compassion for all” (6:35b–36 TPT). 

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