The Practicality of Kindness
Who was the kindest person you have ever known? The kindest person I’ve ever known was my late maternal grandfather. He was a devout and Godly Christian, a lay musician and choir conductor in his church. I don’t remember him ever uttering a harsh or brash word to anyone.
Kindness is one of the overlooked fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In our day and age, we may mistakenly believe that kindness is impractical and that it implies being a doormat or a pushover. We may even value the absence of kindness if it suggests the presence of other more practical abilities like assertiveness or firmness; even if it means treating people less than they are as God’s image-bearers.
Interestingly, none of these other practical abilities are mutually exclusive to kindness because Jesus is all these things — and kind! Likewise, in the New Testament, the word we translate as “kindness” (some translations: “goodness” or “loving-kindness”), chrēstotēs, is used primarily for God. Chrēstotēs refers to God’s benevolence and undeserved love towards us — even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And therefore, imitating God, Paul calls us to bear this fruit of the Holy Spirit, to be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
What would it look like to be kind to one another? At the very minimum, it would require that we see and treat others as Christ sees and loves them — made in God’s image, valuable with inherent dignity. Furthermore, we would treat people kindly even if we feel like they don’t deserve it. Why? Because God shows us His loving-kindness despite our sins and trespasses towards Him. Even when we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
However, being kind doesn’t mean overlooking peoples’ flaws and wrongs. God doesn’t do that either! Being kind empowers the other person toward transformative growth each day. God has fashioned each of us uniquely and desires us to attain that perfect human image revealed in His Son Jesus Christ.
When we are kind to others, not only are we transformed further into Christlikeness, but we are also participating in God’s transformation of the other person toward whom we are being kind. Kindness doesn’t get more practical than this!
The Rev. John D. Sundara
Vicar for Worship and Evangelism
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