Just east of our home there is a short stretch of gravel road. The grandkids call it the bumpy road. They know they’re close to grandma and grandpa’s house when they bump along its rough, uneven, and potholed surface. Maybe you’ve driven a road like that. A road that requires reduced speed, more care, and is somewhat unforgiving if you forget where you are. Now, compare that to a brand new, freshly paved, well engineered, and perfectly smooth highway. That feeling of ease is what the fruit of kindness is all about.
If you are just joining us, this is the fifth article in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. And yes, we’re working backward. For this series we are going to be looking at three things, what does the fruit look and taste like, how can we encourage its growth, and how can we give it away. The fruit of the Spirit that grows in us by walking with Jesus is not only for our benefit but also for those around us. In addition to this article, there is a link to a short story I wrote in 2004 which portrays in some way a Fruit of the Spirit that is being given away.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, NASB95)
What does the fruit of kindness look like? As we portrayed in our opening the fruit of the spirit called kindness is like a freshly paved highway. Kindness smooths the way. Consider what Paul wrote to the Colossians, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:12–13, NASB95) Paul connects kindness with the character traits of compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. We all like being valued and treated kindly. Kindness doesn’t mean that we ignore problems, where’s the compassion in that? But it does dictate how that pain is dealt with. Consider if a friend comes to you with a splinter. It’s not kindness to leave the splinter alone. Kindness does not add insult to injury. Kindness instead smooths the way towards healing even if that means momentary pain, like when a splinter is removed. The real fruit of kindness is seen in thousands small things that show someone they are valued. That their words and feelings matter. It is epitomized by James’s reminder, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” (James 1:19, NASB95)
How do we encourage its growth? We’ve stated this one truth in every article so far. The fruit of kindness is only grown by abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-11) Encouraging the fruit of kindness requires some introspection and self-examination. We need to put ourselves to the test. How did I treat my spouse this morning? What about the gas-station attendant? The co-worker? My boss? The people around me at the market or in line to checkout? Did I value them or ignore them beyond whatever interaction was necessary? Maybe I did value them enough to be pleasant, how can I go beyond the graciousness of please and thank you to where I truly smooth the road for them? I think the key is to see others with different eyes. We encourage the fruit of kindness by learning to value others the same way that God values them. It changes the way we think, they way we talk, our expectations, and how we react and respond.
How do we give the fruit of kindness to others? It’s easy to give kindness for kindness. To be polite to someone that is being polite to us. The real fruit of the kindness is put to the test when confronted with abrasiveness in someone else. Do we respond in kind, fight fire with fire so to speak? Or do we find ways to smooth the ruffled feathers? When confronted with sin and its consequences do we harshly judge and condemn or do we pave the way to healing with encouraging words? When we see beyond the moment, recognizing that God loves and values others, and then seek ways to demonstrate that love we are giving away the fruit of kindness. Kindness is little things, often unnoticed, rarely praised, and only occasionally thanked. Kind deeds, putting others ahead of ourselves. Kind words, rays of sunshine on a gloomy day. Peter put it this way, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8–9, NASB95)
To conclude this article let me make an observation. The world around us is often not kind. Civility in public discussion has gone out the window. To disagree or propose a different viewpoint is often seen as offensive, perhaps even hateful. Truth is determined by the loudest voice instead of by reasoned or prayer filled understanding. Wars of words and ideas are waged. It may seem that kindness no longer has no place. That the surest way to lose is to be compassionate, humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving. But we don’t win when we fight anger with anger, offense with offense, blow with blow, fire with fire – nobody does. Remember what our goal is as Jesus followers. Our desire is not to win the argument or to be respected or even to maintain some ideal Christian culture where everyone says Merry Christmas. Our goal, our desire, our commission is to smooth the road for others to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus. We do this by creating a way where there seems to be no way – one pebble of kindness at a time.