Kindness is a neglected trait. In our modern world, there are plenty of characteristics that get more time and attention than kindness. Passion, resilience, attitude, dynamism, to name but a few. Even in the Christian world, other traits take the fore: vision, leadership, charisma, communication. When it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, kindness often gets shoved down the list to the back of the pack. Love, joy, peace get the top billing; patience, goodness and faithfulness all have their benefits; self-control can be useful in many situations. Kindness, along with gentleness gets left behind.
That is a shame. Kindness is a key Christian character, and we neglect it at our peril. Kindness can get overlooked because it is, by its very nature, less prominent, high profile and attention seeking. Kindness is not about the amazing abilities of an individual, but about the interpersonal relationships between one another. Kindness is about being kind, and you cannot be kind without someone to be kind to.
As Christians we are kind because God is kind. Our expression of kindness is a pale reflection of his infinite kindness towards us. Kindness has wrapped up in it a host of different ideas and images: care toward others, mercy, provision, love and concern. All these things are seen in the relationship of God toward his people: first of all to individuals such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then to Israel as a nation, finally to all humanity through the kindness of Jesus Christ. Paul describes Jesus’ word to Titus in these words:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us”Titus 3:4,5
The history-changing work of Christ on the cross, bringing our salvation, might seem too big to be called ‘kind’. But Paul has no problem calling it both love and kindness. Jesus’ sacrifice is the truest example of kindness; not a weak kindness that only gives platitudes, but a powerful and effective kindness that brings mercy and grace.
In the same way, as disciples of Jesus, we are to be kind. Not in a superficial ‘niceness’, but in a powerful and life-changing kindness that Jesus has shown to us. We ought to care and show concern, not only for those we know but for those we don’t; we love and provide for those in need; we show compassion and mercy to those who love us, and to those who do not. This is kindness, the form of kindness that reveals the kindness and love of God our Saviour.