Kindness: Xrēstós (chrestos): to furnish what is suitable; useful; well-fitted; beneficial. God’s kindness is shown through actions which are eternally and ultimately beneficial for us. http://biblehub.com/greek/5543.htm
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Kindness is very similar biblically to goodness and grace . Stephen Witmer says, “It’s a supernaturally generous orientation of our hearts toward other people.” Let’s put those ideas together:
Biblical kindness is expressing God’s supernatural orientation of our hearts in purposeful actions that benefit others practically and spiritually.
1. TRUE KINDNESS IS FROM GOD
A. It is embodied in Jesus
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness (chrestos) to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-7)
B. It is shown to all
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind (chrestos) to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32ff)
C. It is a fruit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not our own power
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness (chrestotes), goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become useless (from achrestros); there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
2. GOD’S KINDNESS IS FOR US
“ Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness (chrestos) of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
“My yoke is kind (chrestos) and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)
3. GOD’S KINDNESS IS MEANT TO BE PASSED ON
“Be kind (chrestos) to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32
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So true kindness comes from God and is empowered by God, and it is oriented toward our good. As we then seek to live as disciples of Jesus, what does this look like in our life as we pass on the kindness we have received from our Savior to all of those around us?
Kindness may or may not be “nice” (as we understand “nice).
As a kid, I wanted to help the baby chicks in my dad’s incubator. They would struggle so hard, and I figured I could help them by peeling open the egg for them. Why not make their life easier? Except that I would doom them. It was in the fight to get out that they became strong enough to survive. I was nice, but I wasn’t kind.
This is why niceness is not a biblical virtue. In fact, if you are a Christian, God insists that you not be nice (at least in the way our culture understands the word) to some people who claim the name of Jesus:
• Blasphemers (Acts 18)
• Hypocrites (Galatians 2; Matthew 12)
• Sinners (Luke 17, Matthew 18 – rebuke them)
• Wanderers From The Truth (James 5)
• Those In Need Of Reproof And Correction (2 Timothy 3)
• Rebellious Christians (2 Thessalonians 3)
• Divisive Christians (Titus 3; 2 Timothy 2)
• Worldviews Set Against God (2 Corinthians 10)
• Sexually Immoral Christians (1 Corinthians 5)
• Lazy Christians (1 Thessalonians 5)
• The Proud (1 Corinthians 5)
We can’t be “nice” in these situations and follow Jesus. We must be kind –that is, we must “actions which are eternally and ultimately beneficial for others.” It might not feel nice; it might become tense; it might embarrass. But it’s the kind thing to do.
“We’re all guilty on some level of being unwilling to be honest with people for fear of hurting their feelings, looking less spiritual or losing a friend. Oftentimes at the expense of our own well being, we overbook, over commit and extend ourselves in the name of being a good Christian… we have wrongly believed that being “nice” is akin to being “godly.” We don’t want to ruffle feathers… we don’t want to speak honestly and we don’t want to say no. Why do we do this to ourselves? Because we’re too nice… (“Jesus Didn’t Call us To Be Nice” https://relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/jesus-didnt-call-us-be-nice)
I get it: “nice” is the casual language we use. Let’s not get hung up on all the times we told our kids to play nice or be nice or talked about someone as being a nice person. I think we all understand what we mean by that: they weren’t mean. That’s not a bad thing.
I’m just pointing out that “nice” is an English word that does not do justice to the biblical definition of kindness. Kind people say things nice people never would, like “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23) to those they love, or “You are whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27) making disciples of hell” (Matthew 23:15), or “Your father is the devil” (John 8:44) to those religious hypocrites who need genuine holiness.
Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is not to be nice.
• Nice people let their friend drive drunk; kind people take their keys.
• Nice people let their friends jump into another terrible relationship without making any waves; kind people try to stop them.
• Nice people say, “All roads lead to God” because they don’t want to make anyone upset and because they can’t imagine a nice God demanding a justice that includes punishment. Kind people speak the gospel truth.
This isn’t an excuse to be mean. It’s just that niceness unhooked from holiness far too easily becomes enablement or avoidance.
Be kind like Jesus was kind. Kind people cast our demons, and preach the gospel, and confront sin, and exercise godly judgment, and fight for justice, demand holiness, and lay down their lives. Be nice if you can do so without compromising truth and holiness, but don’t get hung up it, because that’s not your goal. Be kind.
Kindness is understanding (but not enabling)
We read in Titus 3 beginning in verse 3:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”
There is some empathy here. “I get it. I’ve been there. I know the temptation and understand the struggle. When I say I am going to walk through this with you, I mean I know where to help you step and how, because I walked this road.” It is crucial that people feel understood. One of the beautiful things about the incarnation of Jesus was that no one can say to God, ‘You don’t get it. You don’t know what it’s like to be human.” Yes, he does. One of the ways in which we honor that ultimate incarnation is to unashamedly identify with people. “I know what it’s like” is a powerful phrase. But there is more to the this thought:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:3ff)
But we don’t stop there. “Me too” is a great start, but that needs to be followed up with, “and you can now experience the salvation that Christ offers too.” God loves us as we are, but too much to leave us as we are.
Kindness shows empathy and understanding; it just doesn’t stop there, or it would not be kind. If I saw someone having a heart attack and just sat down and said, “Man, this really sucks, doesn’t it?” I suppose I would be nice, and I would certainly be understanding, but if I stopped there when I could do more, I would have failed to show kindness.
Kindness says, “I get it. Now let’s get help.”
Kindness is persistent and invested
This is a point that came up in our class discussion after the sermon. It’s not like we can invest in everyone in the world, but with those in our circle of influence, we must be faithfully present in their lives, and we must recognize that kindness will cost us something. I suspect there are no easy acts of kindness.
Is Jesus not the ultimate example of this? He came to us; He gave his live practically and ultimately for us. Invested? No question. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Even now, his Holy Spirit is persistent and faithfully present in our lives.
If we are to embody the kindness of Jesus in the world, we must consider the implications for our lives.
Kindness is gentle (but not passive)
Biblically, gentleness is “kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.” I love this passage’s description of what gentleness looks like in action:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:1ff)
The kind are gentle, and they nurture both those who are dying and those who are coming to life. The kind help those who have given up and are falling into the depths of sin as well as with those are moving toward the light of truth. I need to quote at length from MacLaren’s Exposotions, because I think he captures the beauty and importance of this passage in Isaiah.
But, blessed be God! There emerges from the metaphor not only the solemn thought of the bruises by sin that all men bear, but the other blessed one, that there is no man so bruised as that he is broken; none so injured as that restoration is impossible, no depravity so total but that it may be healed, none so far off but that he may be brought nigh. And so my text comes with its great triumphant hopefulness, and gathers into one mass as capable of restoration the most abject, the most worthless, the most ignorant, the most sensuous, the most godless, the most Christ-hating of the race….
There is a man in Paris that says he has found a cure for that horrible disease of hydrophobia (rabies), and who therefore regards the poor sufferers of whom others despair as not beyond the reach of hope. Christ looks upon a world of men smitten with madness, and in whose breasts awful poison is working, with the calm confidence that He carries in His hand an elixir, one drop of which inoculated into the veins of the furious patient will save him from death, and make him whole. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.’ ‘He will not break,’ and that means He will restore, ‘the bruised reed.’ There are no hopeless outcasts. None of you are beyond the reach of a Savior’s love, a Savior’s blood, a Savior’s healing….
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Whether, then, the dimly-burning wick be taken to symbolize the lingering remains of a better nature which still abides with all sinful men, yet capable of redemption, or whether it be taken to mean the low and imperfect and inconsistent and feeble Christianity of us professing Christians, the words of my text are equally blessed and equally true. Christ will neither despise, nor so bring down His hand upon it as to extinguish, the feeblest spark. Look at His life on earth, think how He bore with those blundering, foolish, selfish disciples of His; how patient the divine Teacher was with their slow learning of His meaning and catching of His character. Remember how, when a man came to Him with a very imperfect goodness, the Evangelist tells us that Jesus, beholding him, loved him…
How do you make ‘smoking flax’ burn? You give it oil, you give it air, and you take away the charred portions. And Christ will give you, in your feebleness, the oil of His Spirit, that you may burn brightly as one of the candlesticks in His Temple; and He will let air in, and sometimes take away the charred portions by the wise discipline of sorrow and trial, in order that the smoking flax may become a shining light. But by whatsoever means He may work, be sure of this, that He will neither despise nor neglect the feeblest inclination of good after Him, but will nourish it to perfection and to beauty.
MacLaren’s Expositions http://biblehub.com/commentaries/isaiah/42-3.htm
And we are called to be like Jesus. Can we do any less that to show this kind of kindness to the bruised and the smoldering around us?