Are you starting to notice, as we walk through what it means to exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, that they’re all interconnected? One leads to another which can’t be cultivated without still another. When you begin to dig deeper into what it all means, you should begin to understand why Paul referred to the fruit collectively (like the segments of an orange, as Marissa explained) rather than an assortment of different fruits (like in a fruit salad).
Today we’re looking at kindness, which is another of those vague words we use a lot but that we are hard-pressed to define. I ask my daughter if her words were kind (usually because they were not), and I’m aware when someone is unkind to me; explaining what kindness actually is, though, is harder. In defining it, I – at least – talk in circles and sometimes make it seem even more vague.
“Kindness? Oh….that’s….you know….being kind. Being, well, nice. You know.”
But what did Paul mean? Did he mean that the Spirit just makes us nicer people? Grab your concordance (or use this one, if yours isn’t handy) and see what “kindness” means as Paul wrote it in Galatians 5:22.
If your concordance is like mine, that wasn’t very helpful. The word Paul used was chrēstotēs, and we’re back in the same place again: “kindness is…well…you know…just…being kind.” A dictionary (or Bible dictionary) is more helpful. Look up both “kindness” and “kind” to see what we can find out.
- Kindness : “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate; having a tender heart and nurturing spirit; a character trait of building others up rather than tearing them down.”
- Kind : “of a sympathetic and helpful nature; avoiding harshness in word or action; thinking outside one’s own needs to tend to those of another.”
Theeeere we go. Now we’re getting somewhere! A kind person isn’t simply “nice.” She is selfless. Considerate. Aware of other people and what they need, and willing to step outside of herself to care for them.
With that definition and understanding, it becomes clearer than ever that we can’t be truly kind people without the Holy Spirit manifesting Himself in our lives. We are not naturally any of those things.
The Holy Spirit cultivates the growth of kindness within us, but when is the seed planted? When is the soil of our hearts upturned and tilled and the seed of kindness dropped in? That’s worth looking into.
Read Ephesians 2:1-8. Verse 7 indicates that God’s grace is expressed in His kindness, which is expressed in His giving of Christ. How does the work of Christ on the cross personally show you God’s kindness? (Try not to answer too generically here. Think about how you experience God being sympathetic, tender, and considerate of your needs in the way that He saved you.)
What words does Paul use to describe our condition before we were saved? (Verses 1 through 3 paint a pretty vivid picture!)
Look at verse 5. Before Christ, we were _________. After Christ, we were made _________.
What words does Paul use to describe what God has done for us in Jesus? (Hint: it’s in verse 8.)
Have you ever been surprised by a gift? Perhaps a birthday present from someone unexpected, or a gift given for no apparent reason? How did that make you feel? Did you maybe feel the need to reciprocate?
The more I have studied the word “kindness” in Scripture, it seems that while we have done nothing to earn the kindness of God and can in no way repay Him, there are two ways He would like to see us respond to that kindness.
Read Romans 2:4, giving special attention to the end of the verse. According to Paul, the kindness of God leads us to do something. What is it?
God does not demand a response from us. However, an awareness of the extent of His kindness will naturally lead us to turn from the “cravings of our sinful nature” Paul described in Ephesians. True repentance is one of God’s goals in us, and it is through His kindness that He accomplishes it.
Read Colossians 3:12. What do you think might be the significance of Paul’s using the imagery of clothing to describe how we should act? If you need help, check your commentary. There may be some ideas there!
In our culture, clothing is significant in that it is one of the first things we notice about someone, and is a large part of how we identify ourselves and others. In that way, we as believers ought to be recognized and identified by kindness (among other traits).
According to Zondervan’s NIV Bible commentary, Paul intends for believers to take off the old clothing of the sinful life and put on “a robe of character with a texture of compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience.” (Note again how the fruit of the Spirit is intertwined!) In addition, it’s worth noting that throughout the Bible, robes are important. In ancient culture, not every member of society would wear a robe because they were expensive, extravagant, and often symbolized stately rank or even a royal status.
Why would we – in Paul’s eyes – be eligible for such a status symbol?
If we are instructed to be distinguished by a “robe” of kindness, what might be the second response God desires because of His extravagant kindness to us?
How have you seen the Spirit make you a more kind person? What might holy kindness look like in your life today?
But again, we cannot conjure an attitude of kindness from within ourselves on our own. It is through the work of the Spirit – drawing us ever deeper into a relationship with God and an awareness of His kindness to us – that we are able to display kindness toward others.
The more I learn about what the Spirit wants to accomplish in me, the more aware I am of my desperate need for His presence in my life. Praise God that He doesn’t expect me to make it happen on my own!