The fruit of the Spirit is … kindness
If you want to change the world, learn to be kind to others. This is the work of the Spirit in our lives: to produce genuine kindness within us.
The point of the Spirit in having inspired these words, I believe, is to help us to understand the motivating principles of the Christian life that influence our thinking and our acting. We can never be shaped in the image of Christ by merely not doing the bad things; there must be a positive movement and shaping in our hearts by the Spirit that makes us redeemed into a new person, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
We will never raise children properly if all we do is tell them not to do bad things. It is not enough to yell at our children, “Be nice to your sister!” There must also be good behavior taught and set as an example before them. The Christian life especially is lived from this positive perspective of the life of Christ changing us on the inside.
The fifth aspect of the fruit guarantees that the fourth, namely longsuffering, continues. We cannot have peace without patience, and we will not be patient unless we are genuinely kind people. We may feign patience for a while, but eventually we will get weary or irritated. We need to become through the Spirit what we are not in our own flesh alone – genuinely kind.
The word is chrestotes in Greek and was used in Romans 2:4 stating that “the kindness of God leads you to repentance.” God did not treat us as our sins deserve, but was kind, merciful toward us, and it is specifically His kindness than has the most profound impact on our lives. The Spirit sands off the rough edges of our personalities down inside our spirits and makes us genuinely kind. This contrasts with the harshness of the works of the flesh of “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions” (Gal. 5:20). In Ephesians we read, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
A wise observation of human behavior has acknowledged that people really do not want to be treated fairly or equally. They want to be treated as exceptional, as more important than others. Kindness is the trait that often gives this impression, that others are special and highly valued.
How we need this in today’s world. We see people polarized from one another in their positions on any number of issues. Harshness in dealing with opponents is the trait of too many people. The Lord has set upon this earth people who are being made to be kind and they are Christians. This is a trait that should shine out in all situations. We believers should be the kindest people on earth, treating others graciously, considerately, even when they do not deserve it.
Many of our modern fictional heroes are rough and mean, demonstrating punishing vengeance. For example, the television show Dexter, not an episode of which I have ever seen, is about a man who takes matters in his own hands to put to death bad people. Our fascination with police shows where the bad guy is caught and punished has more to do with the acts of the flesh than the fruit of the Spirit.
But it is kindness that is most powerful. I do not deny that there are some people who must be arrested and placed behind bars, for society’s safety, but violent retaliation gives birth to revenge and more violence. “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and soft words can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:15) is the scriptural understanding of the power of kindness. The kind people around us are those who make the greater impact and do the most good.
Let the Spirit build in you His kindness. Desire in all situations to see how to benefit others, and we will reap benefits as well. It is much better to live with a kind person than an unkind, and in the sense that we “live with” ourselves, we enjoy our own company more when we are kind.
Lord, as You are kind toward us through Your mercy and grace, let us learn to be kind toward others, tender-hearted and compassionate, forgiving one another just as You have forgiven us. Amen.