Christian Kindness: More Intentional than Random
Sadly, kindness is the exception rather than the rule in our schools, workplaces, homes, and communities. That’s why concerned philanthropists have established numerous nonprofits that seek to inspire and increase acts of kindness. There are dozens and dozens of kindness-promoting organizations.
These charitable organizations provide kindness lesson plans for school children, kindness ideas for workplaces, kindness quotes, kindness stories, posters, and calendars. They produce kindness YouTube videos and movies, go on kindness-promoting school tours, educate kindness ambassadors and coaches, provide workplace kindness training, and collect and track kindness data.
But has it worked? Are people, on the whole, getting any kinder?
Kindness of a Different Kind
Most people think that being kind merely means being nice. It’s “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” If someone is warm, polite, and does benevolent things for others, that makes her a kind person.
Kindness-promoting organizations encourage people to show kindness by returning a shopping cart for a stranger at the grocery store, giving up a seat to an elderly person on the bus, paying for the coffee of the next person in the drive-through, or by other random acts of kindness. They expect that kind acts will help unkind people become kind people.
While there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to do nice things, the Bible has a radically different take on kindness. It teaches that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, a supernatural gift from God. Kindness is much more than being friendly, generous, and considerate. Kindness is what God is:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:4–5)
Notice that the kindness of God is a person. The Kindness of God appeared—he saved us. He (Jesus) is the kindness of God.
Jesus is the embodiment of kindness. He defines what kindness truly is. What’s more, these verses from Titus suggest that if we want to be kind like Jesus, our “righteous works” are not enough. Kind actions don’t have the capacity to create a kind heart. Only Jesus can do that. Apart from Jesus, “there is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:12, CSB).
Kindness originates with God the Father and finds its meaning in who he is and what he does—and particularly in and through his greatest, kindest, most philanthropic act—sending his Son to purchase our salvation.
Attempts to produce kindness will not bring about lasting change if they fail to address the fallen condition of the human heart. But a heart that has been made good through the kindness of Christ will most certainly overflow with kindness toward others.
A Good, Kind Heart
For a child of God, kindness is never truly random or senseless. Instead, it bears witness to the kindness of our heavenly Father and the great redemptive work of Jesus. We are kind because God is kind, and because through Jesus, our hearts are filled to the brim with goodness.
To be kind is to have a good heart that is inclined toward doing good things for others. In Scripture, kindness not only describes the beneficial nature of a deed, but also indicates that the deed is motivated by the godly character of the benefactor.
The main challenge in understanding the biblical meaning of the word kindness is the fact that it belongs to a cluster of attributes that go together, overlap in meaning, and are even used interchangeably sometimes. If a someone is kind—in the godly sense of the word—then she is also merciful, gracious, patient, gentle, and forgiving. Her heart is characterized by goodness. That’s why in Scripture, the word for kindness is often translated as “good” or “goodness.”
It’s like the words window and glass. They don’t mean exactly the same thing. But they’re so strongly associated that if I were to say, “She peered out through the glass,” you’d assume she was looking through a window, and if I said, “She peered out through the window,” you’d assume that she was looking through a piece of glass, even though technically, window and glass are two separate things.
Kindness is a byproduct of goodness. It encompasses an attitude of benevolence, but it also involves other godly character traits like tenderheartedness, humility, sympathy, patience, forgiveness, and gentleness.
All of the attributes in the word cloud contribute to what it means to be kind. So, if you want to be the type of wife and mom who is kind toward her husband and kids, it’s important for you to tackle the challenge at a deep heart level, by working on your character, and not just your behavior. Do you want to increase in kindness? Then aim to be more patient. Aim to be humbler. Aim to be more forgiving. Aim to be gentler. Aim to be more sympathetic. As you grow in these related traits, you will also grow in kindness.
Would your friends describe you as a kind person? Would your husband? Your kids? When one of them does something to try your patience, do you respond with kindness?
Most of us could use some help in the kindness department. So here are five quick tips to help you develop this important trait.
Meditate on the great kindness of God. God is immeasurably kind. Scripture points out that it is his great kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). His kindness towards us is the foundation of our kindness towards others. You will grow kinder as you expand your understanding of his kindness. Pondering Ephesians 2:4–10 is a good place to start.
Recognize that kindness is a discipleship issue. In one of Scripture’s most famous mentoring passages, older women are instructed to train the younger women to be kind (Titus 2:5). Kindness is a discipleship issue. You need to learn how to be kind. Thus, you would do well to hang around some older godly women to observe this trait in their lives. What’s more, you could ask them for input and feedback on how you could grow in this area.
Intentionally put kindness on. In Colossians 3:12, Paul admonished his friends to “put on” God’s kindness. The Greek word means to envelope oneself in, or to clothe with. The metaphor of changing clothes was widely used in the ancient world to illustrate spiritual transformation. The apostle wanted his friends to understand that since they were now saints, they needed to start dressing the part. They needed to intentionally put on the apparel of Christ and clothe themselves with his kindness. You can do this too. Every morning as you are getting dressed, you can dress yourself with kindness through prayer. Pray something like this, “Lord, I choose to put on your kindness today. Please help me be kind.”
Watch for kindness killers. Kindness killers are sinful attitudes and actions that cause us to be unkind rather than kind. They are attitudes and actions that are opposite of the ones in the kindness word cloud. Sins like impatience, callousness, pride, entitlement, harshness, meanness, unforgiveness, and resentment are kindness killers. Whenever you see a kindness killer crop up in your heart, or in your actions or words, immediately stop what you are doing to confess and repent. You can kill the kindness killer by confessing, “I’m sorry, that was unkind.” And by firing off an emergency prayer to heaven to ask God for help.
Love to show kindness. The Lord wants us to love to put his kindness on display. “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, ESV, emphasis mine). Every day, watch for opportunities to demonstrate kindness toward others.
For a believer, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit that is empowered, enabled, and directed by God. When our kindness extends beyond those who deserve or reciprocate our benevolence, when it reaches out to those whose shortcomings and failures we know full well, that is when we reflect the heart of him who is “kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35).
A kind-hearted Christian is a rare find in this self-centered world where there are far more takers than givers. Christian kindness, expressed in our attitudes and actions, our speech on the Internet and social media, in our relationships and in our homes, in our churches and communities, is a powerful means of displaying the amazing kindness of Christ.
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