Skip to content

02.26.12 Fruit of the Spirit—Kindness, Luke 6:27-36

by on February 28, 2012

Most of us would like to think of ourselves as kind people, but are we according to the biblical standard?

Summary Points

  • Two main factors that keep us from being kind
  • Three strategies for practicing more kindness
  • How “weakness” is actually preferred, and how kindness relates to Christianity
  • Thoughts for reflection and discussion

The deadly sin of Pride is the attitude that everything we have accomplished is the result of our own effort. When projected outward, Pride assumes that the success or failure of others is also entirely attributable to their own efforts. Perhaps more than anything else, Pride keeps us from being kind in the biblical sense.

The biblical standard of kindness is essentially helping people in need. Pride, reinforced by our cultural values of self-sufficiency, independence, and competition, inhibits not only our helping others, but also receiving help ourselves. In other words, Pride and American culture work against our bearing the fruit of the Spirit which is kindness.

Think about how difficult it is for us to ask for help. Why is it so hard? Pride is one reason—we want to be the one who accomplishes things ourselves. Also, given our cultural values, when we ask for help we can often feel like a failure for not making it on our own. Another reason we don’t ask for help is we feel guilty burdening someone else with our problems.

And all these dynamics come into play when we see someone else who needs or asks for help. Often we judge others in need as failing to work hard or to prepare enough. We sometimes resent the needy for imposing on our own pursuit of success.

And so there is a lot of psychological momentum working against our showing kindness to ourselves and one another. And yet God clearly wants and expects us to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit of kindness. How can we do that?

(1) Besides resolving to find opportunities, small and large, to give kindness, one of the most helpful steps we can take is to receive it. We all know people who are “hard to buy for.” Mostly it’s because they have the resources to purchase what they want and need when they want and need them. Or sometimes it’s hard to give to someone because they overgive back. What such people are doing is robbing us of the chance to show them kindness—that’s why it’s hard to buy for them.

To help generate more kindness in our lives, we need to be humble (the opposite of Pride) and allow others to give to us. It’s hard for us to do. It was also Peter’s problem. He didn’t understand that Jesus came to reveal a kind God, a God who served others. When Jesus tried to teach him this, at first by predicting his crucifixion and later by washing the disciples’ feet, Peter refused. Peter was hard to buy for.

(2) In addition to giving to others, and receiving from others, practicing more gratitude will help us cultivate kindness in our lives. Pride and our cultural values form us to think in terms of consumer rights. When we purchase something, our assumption is that once we pay for it, our relationship with others is complete. We don’t think to give thanks for someone for doing what they’re paid for. Even when we do feel especially grateful, we give tips as our way of saying thanks.

But we can generate more kindness by actually giving thanks, and meaningfully reflecting on all the people who make it possible for us to purchase the products we enjoy. In other words, again, we can cultivate more kindness by humbly recognizing that everything we do is interconnected, and so we should be grateful for others.

In Paul’s letters, he uses the metaphor of the Body of Christ for the community of faith. Each person is called and equipped by the Holy Spirit with unique gifts and opportunities to serve the common good in the mission of Christ. Paul’s understanding of our interconnectedness and interdependence is so real as to say that when one part of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers, and the same with rejoicing. We are baptized into one Christ, share one table with him, and drink from the same Spirit. According to Paul, there are no isolated, independent, self-made Christians. Since this is the case, like members on a team, we must give and receive kindness amongst one another. Our survival and health depend on it.

(3) Like being more grateful, remembering more often the kindness others have shown us will generate kindness in our lives. In Deuteronomy 8 Moses warns the ancient Israelites not to forget the kindness of God. The time will come, Moses says, when the ground will yield its harvest in abundance and the people will live in nice houses and the nation will be secure—and the people may forget all that God has done for them. So Moses imposes a regular schedule for remembering God’s kindness to the people so that they will not forget to be kind to others.

And this is the thrust of Jesus’ sermon in Luke 6. As hard as it is to love our enemies, do good to others, and be generous to the needy, Jesus says we can do so because God himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. In other words, God is kind to ALL, including us. And so those of us who recognize it can and should be kind to all as well.

Conclusions. Our pride and cultural values can make us feel, and view others as, “weak” for needing help. But in reality, in this “weakness” is the perfection of the Spirit. For as Paul discovered very personally, God delights in showing strength through such perceived weakness. In such weakness we overcome our Pride and delusional independence through humility, gratitude, and remembrance. We are forced to rely on one another’s kindness and function together as the Body of Christ.

As we give and receive kindness, we participate in the life of the Spirit. Kindness manifests God’s activity and thus God’s presence in our lives. It reveals just how involved God is throughout our lives. In the passage from Galatians, the word translated “kindness” is Crestotes. In Luke, Jesus says that God is “kind.” Chrestos. These words sound enough like the Greek word for Christ, Christos, that in the early centuries people didn’t know if Christ’s followers were “Christians” or “kind ones.” May the kindness we show as Christians to others cause that kind of confusion again today!

Thoughts for Reflection or Discussion

  • What feelings do you have when you think about asking for help? Or when someone asks you for help? In what ways are these feelings rooted in Pride or American culture? What can you do to overcome these feelings and let kindness flow more easily in your life?
  • Identify some things you take for granted. Think through how many people and processes are involved in your actually having these things. Are there people you can thank for being part of those processes?
  • Think back on some of the kindness you have received throughout your life—from God or through others. Can such remembrance be a motivating source for you to show kindness to others?
  • How likely is it that someone would confuse your being a Christian with your being a kind person? What can you do to make it more confusing for them?
Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: