But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-controlGalatians 5:22-23 [NIV]
Paul lists above what is called ‘The Fruit of the Spirit’, one of which is kindness. But what does ‘The Fruit of the Sprit’ really mean?
‘The Fruit of the Spirit’ is the fruit that is reaped when we allow the Holy Spirit to take residence in our hearts. The Greek word for ‘fruit’ usually means fruit in the sense of edible fruit, but it can also be translated as deed, profit action, result, or offspring. It is important to remember that fruit is a good thing! It is the result of the hard work and careful tending of your heart by the Holy Spirit. This verse becomes more personal when we realise this. The result of the work of the Spirit in YOUR life is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. So, the first step to showing kindness, moving forward from this moment, is to accept and ask the Holy Spirit’s transforming power to come into your heart to do good work within you.
As Christians we are called to manifest the character of God. In the Old Testament there is a Hebrew word, chesed. It means the combination of kindness with God’s steadfast agape’, which is perfect love that only God can give. While the English language has separate words for love and kindness, theologically they are so interchangeable they are treated as synonymous. God is both kindness and love. We see this also through Jesus’ life on earth. The challenge is: do our lives attempt to reflect the life of Jesus? It is hard to prioritise kindness and love in a culture that can sometimes be quite competitive and self-focused. Kindness can sometimes seem contrasting to modern templates of a successful action or characteristic. Kindness is counter-cultural, so it is an active and intentional process to cultivate it. But with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit kindness can be tangibly evident in our lives.
Harshness is the opposite of kindness and it means to turn bitter and sour. I think this sums up how I often felt during COVID-19 and quarantine. It was a super-hard time and as we move into this next year the last thing we should do is carry shame with us. You may have been a little harsher than usual, like me, and if you’re honest with yourself have someone who you know that you should apologise too. I know it’s hard to humble ourselves and admit we were in the wrong, but let’s remember the grace and kindness shown to us by God.
Ephesians 4:32 [NIV]
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
This person may even be yourself. Quarantine wasn’t kind to mental health and maybe you struggled to remember how beautifully and wonderfully created you are by God. So today declare Biblical truth, of your great worth, over yourself and give thanks to God for your amazing body that does so many incredible things for you, and your existence that bring such joy to others. Biblical kindness humanizes, not demonises. It sees a person not a problem. I know I’m guilty of seeing myself as the problem, not a person designed and loved by God. Sometimes it’s just easier to take whatever’s going on in our lives out on ourselves, but we need to be really careful about the danger of this habit. So maybe the kindness you need to show moving into this next year is to yourself. Practically I would urge you to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Secondly, I would encourage you to talk to others and ask for help, there is no shame in this, in fact it’s the complete opposite. It takes huge courage and bravery to take this step.
Maybe you are someone who would prefer to give gifts to others as a way showing kindness, so surprise someone with a coffee!
Moving forward we should be encouraged to act in kindness and love as we allow the Holy Spirit time to work within us to develop these fruits further. We should not hold ourselves to the standards the world sets, or even those of our Christian community, but to the standard God set. By sending His Son, the perfect sacrifice to die so we may have eternal life. What greater kindness and love is there?