Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Kindness

  Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:

Kindness

 

 

Richard Hollerman

Do you always try to treat others in a kind way?  Do you appreciate those who treat you with kindness?  Do people know that you are filled with a kind spirit and do kind acts?  All of us appreciate the virtue of kindness when we see it in people.  Scripture says that “kindness” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

There are several words in the Greek that may be translated with the English term “kind” or similar words.  Chrestos means “good, gracious, kind.”[i]  Jesus says that God “Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35b) and He said that this is a motivation for us to “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” (v. 35a).  This shows the close relation between kindness and both love and goodness.  Thus, Paul urges us, “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32).  He also admonishes us to manifest this aspect of true love: “love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4, from the Greek chresteuomai).

The noun would be chrestotes, meaning “goodness of heart, kindness.”[ii]  It “conveys the idea of a moral goodness, that enables a person to be friendly and kind toward others.”[iii]  R. C. Trench says that chrestotes is “a beautiful word for the expression of a beautiful grace.”[iv]  Plummer, the commentator, says that chrestotes in men is “the sympathetic kindliness or sweetness of temper which puts others at their ease, and shrinks from giving pain.”[v]

Since God is kind, we should be kind.  As Christians, we have received “God’s kindness” but this is coupled with the “severity of God” (Romans 11:22).  God is so overwhelming in love that “He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).  We wouldn’t be saved from sin if it were not for God’s kindness!  “This kindness is a lovely thing, and its loveliness comes from the fact that Christian kindness means treating others in the way in which God has treated us.”[vi]  A story in the life of President Abraham Lincoln speaks to this:

During the hard days of the Civil War, President Lincoln made frequent visits to the hospitals that were always overcrowded with the suffering.  On one occasion he stopped to speak to one of the patients, a mere boy of 16, who had been mortally wounded and was nearing death.

President Lincoln, taking the thin, white hand, said, “My poor boy, what can I do for you?”  With a beseeching look the fellow turned his eyes to the homely, kindly face and asked, “Will you write to my mother for me?”

“That I will,” answered the President, and calling for a pen, ink and paper, he seated himself and wrote a long letter.  When it was finished, the President rose, sayng “I will mail this as soon as I get back to my office. Now is there anything else I can do for you?”

In some way the boy had come to know it was the President, and so, looking at him in the most appealing sort of way, he asked, “Will you stay with me till it is all over?  I will not be long, and I want to hold onto your hand.”

That was too much for the great-hearted President to resist. The tears came to his eyes, and he sat down by him and took hold of his hand.  The fellow did not move or speak a word.  This was some time before four o’clock, and it was long after six before the end came.[vii]

Paul says that he lived in “kindness” (2 Corinthians 6:6) and he urges us to put on “kindness” (Colossians 3:12).  Since God saved us by His kindness (Titus 3:4) and will forever show His kindness in the coming ages (Ephesians 2:7), we must walk in kindness toward others as well.  This kindness of God “leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4), but so few respond to this beneficence of the Lord.  Scripture says that if we have “tasted the kindness of the Lord” we will “grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3).  Take the time and expend the energy to treat other people with genuine kindness—a virtue that others will appreciate.  We often see the bumper stickers that say, “Be kind to animals.”  Let’s be kind to people who are made in the image of God!

 



[i] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Richards, Expository Dictionary, p. 375.

[iv] Quoted by Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, p. 97.

[v] Quoted by Barclay, Ibid.

[vi] William Barclay, Ibid., p. 102.

[vii] Kyle and Todd, A Treasury of Bible Illustrations, p. 240.

 

 

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