As with all the fruit of the Spirit, kindness is another aspect of God’s own nature. A wonderful expression of God’s character is in the Hebrew word “hesed”. This is a really rich word in the Old Testament and has a variety of nuances to its meaning. It is most often translated as “loving-kindness” and carries the idea of faithful love in action. In the Old Testament it was expressed in God’s covenant relationship with His people. His “hesed” denotes persistent and unconditional tenderness and kindness, a relationship in which He seeks after man with love and mercy.
Kindness is a treasured gift. In a 2003 study of 16,000 people (including 37 cultures around the world), when asked about their top priority character trait in a marriage partner, kindness came top. People love to be treated kindly, but find it a lot more challenging to be kind in return.
You may not agree with me but I believe that true kindness can only occur with God’s help. Human beings are not naturally kind; we are generally selfish. Even when we do see acts of kindness in society, they are often masked by selfishness. For instance, some people are kind because they want to be admired by others. Some are kind because they want to return a favour, some are kind because they are masking some deficiency in themselves and still others just because they want to feel good about themselves. God’s type of kindness wants nothing for itself. It is a giving of oneself, not wanting anything in return.
Kindness starts with caring, being tender-hearted and compassionate towards others. We must make it our goal and habit to be actively looking for opportunities to show kindness. The Greek word for being kind is ‘chrestos’. Part of its meaning is “useful”, which suggests that biblical kindness involves action:
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
The absolutely amazing thing about God’s kindness is that it is directed to His enemies. It is relatively easy to be kind to family and friends but to be kind to your enemy is a supernatural trait which we cannot achieve unless we are filled with His Spirit. When we are kind to our enemies we are showing that we are truly His children. We do what we see God do:
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (Luke 6:35)
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
This last phrase is so key. We see on many occasions in the scriptures that true kindness goes hand in hand with humility. If you are proud in your kindness you are doing it out of a wrong motivation.
Before I finish, I just want to mention two wonderful examples of kindness in the bible, the first in the Old Testament and the second in the New Testament.
King David had been appallingly treated by Saul for much of his life but once Saul had died, instead of seeking vengeance on the family (as was often the case), David looked to show kindness instead:
“And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness (hesed) for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)
David found a descendent of Saul called Mephibosheth, who was actually crippled and so could not help himself. This poor soul became a constant companion of David and ate his meals from then on with the king. “So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.” (2 Samuel 9:11). This is a beautiful picture of the kindness God has shown to us.
The second example is a parable that Jesus told: “the good Samaritan”. This wasn’t a true story but an example Jesus gave to explain what true kindness looks like. I’m sure you all know the story, it’s in Luke 10:25-37 and it explains how a Samaritan (who the Jews hated and despised) rescued a wounded man by the roadside, while all the religious people walked passed and ignored him. This Samaritan went over and above what was called for; this again demonstrates God’s lavish mercy, grace and kindness towards those who despise Him.
Finally, kindness is one of the key ways we can reach people with the gospel. Being kind to people demonstrates in practical ways our gratitude to God for all He has done for us and gives us opportunities to speak of the God who was first kind to us.