Embracing Exalted Kindness

How do you feel about the Supreme Court’s DACA decision? Does its kindness to dreamers outweigh its temporary nature and congressional failure to legislate on immigration? (1) Do you consider yourself a kind person? If so, why, or if not, why not? What are the characteristics of a kind person? When I started studying kindness, the fifth fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, my view of it was so much less than what it should have been. How many others equate kindness with politeness, civility, or simply being nice? But Biblical kindness is much more than that! “Goodness is the very opposite of harshness, cruelty, gruffness, severity, mercilessness–all of which are far removed from God…The goodness of God, on the contrary, is the loveliness, benign character, sweetness, friendliness, kindness, and generosity of God. Goodness is the very essence of God’s being, even if there were no creature to whom this could be manifested.” (2) “When Paul laid out his case to the church in Corinth that he was a true apostle, he did so by detailing the trials he endured for the sake of the gospel, the inner spiritual life God granted him despite this suffering, and the God-produced spiritual fruit in his life (2 Corinthians 6:1-13). Surprisingly, kindness made his list of spiritual fruit. ‘You want proof I’m an apostle?’ he said, in effect. ‘Okay, here it is: I’m kind’… Kindness is no small thing. It yields marvelous fruit both in our lives and the lives of those around us. ‘Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor’ (Proverbs 21:21). We open ourselves to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit when we ask him to produce in us kind hearts that overflow through kind lips.” (3)

This week, God has used 2 Corinthians 6:3-8 to radically change my thinking. “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise.” (2 Corinthians 6:3-8a) The Holy Spirit provides our Christian kindness along with our purity, knowledge, patience, and sincere love for others. May we elevate our view of kindness to be more proactive and intentional with everyone in all circumstances, following Paul’s example.

Paul and his brothers didn’t seem concerned about their reputations but were entirely devoted to the honor of Christ’s gospel ministry. “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry…” (v. 3) Implied in the statement is the reality that people will try to find fault with Christianity. “The apostle knew there were persons who were waiting all opportunities, and taking all advantages to vilify and reproach the ministry of the Gospel, and so hinder its progress and spread.” (4) So we find this principle at work: Since God called them to the preaching of the gospel, the Spirit would prepare and empower them to respond to others with gospel kindness rather than hinder their ministry of reconciliation. For those of us not in full-time ministry, it might look different, but the principle is the same. For example, I took a big risk today and visited a hairdresser for the first time in three months. (Only during a pandemic would that sentence make sense.) I had biblical kindness on my mind, but I was with a new salon owner, just getting to know her. The Spirit took over when I shared a little about myself, and she opened up about a concern of her own. That exchange happened right after I assured her that it took no great feat of courage or personal strength to serve in Africa as a missionary, but reliance on God who called me there. Kindness to others flows from our love for Christ, our trust in God’s plans, and yielding to the Spirit’s supernatural work in our sanctification. My sweet interaction with my new hairdresser was more of a blessing than my refreshed hairstyle. Of course, enduring three months without providential connections like this, a haircut, meal with friends, or regular meetings has been trivial compared to the trials that Paul experienced. So shouldn’t it be even easier for us to endure and demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit? We, like Paul, are called to “commend ourselves in every way” as God’s servants. For the apostles that meant “great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, [and] hunger…” (vs. 4-5) “It is not sufficient for a minister of the Gospel to avoid everything that might bring any blot or scandal on his ministry; but he should in all things, and by all ways and means, proper, lawful, and laudable, approve, prove, and show himself to be a true and faithful dispenser of the word.” (5) We share the gospel with the words of Christ for redemption in him; we model the gospel with our lives, character, and actions.

God might use a broken down car, financial shortages, injury, or even a rude puppy to help us grow in kindness. As I train my future therapy dog, my desire to be kind to them flows from this purpose—to comfort others (rather than annoy them with his barking). The Spirit is working in me to be careful to avoid situations that might set him off, even if it means ten more minutes of walking in 95-degree heat when I just want to get into my air-conditioned building. We endure our challenges and afflictions the same way Paul did, “…by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love…” (v. 6) “Purity rightly heads the list. It is a comprehensive word encompassing purity of life, thought, and motive…The apostle’s knowledge of divine truth was unsurpassed, and he never wavered from a true understanding of sinful men, the strategies of Satan, false religious systems, God’s redeeming love, and the principles of effective teaching, evangelism, and discipling…A clear understanding of the truth that was never altered was the foundation of his endurance…Paul also modeled the essential virtue of kindness, which describes goodness in action. No matter how people treated him, Paul responded by doing useful deeds for them. He expressed his credo when he exhorted the Galatians, ‘Let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith’ (Gal. 6:10). It is the Holy Spirit who empowers endurance. Paul walked in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), was filled with the Spirit (Acts 13:9), accessed the Father through the Spirit (Eph. 2:18), was called to (Acts 13:2) and gifted for ministry by Him (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), ministered in His power (Rom. 15:19), followed His leading (Acts 16:6-7), was taught by Him (1 Cor. 2:13), prayed in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18), and worshiped in the Spirit (Phil. 3:3). He did not grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), or quench Him (1 Thess. 5:19). The Spirit also produced in him the genuine love, which He has ‘poured out within our hearts’ (Rom. 5:5; cf. Gal. 5:22).” (6) 

The Holy Spirit provides our Christian kindness along with our purity, knowledge, patience, and sincere love for others in all circumstances. We must elevate our view of kindness to be more proactive and intentional with everyone in all conditions. We can because we have the full armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-20. John Gill writes that when Paul mentioned “the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left…” (v. 7), his “meaning, [was] either the whole armor of God, with which a Christian is all over clothed from head to foot, and in the strength of Christ may engage any adversary without fear; or else particularly the sword of the Spirit in the right hand, and the shield of faith in the left, whereby both the offensive and defensive part may be acted; or, as others think, uprightness of conscience, and holiness of life and conversation.” (7) No matter which of these are the primary application, God provides them all through the Holy Spirit. Knowing this should motivate us to be more proactively and intentional kind in all circumstances.

Does it surprise you that Scripture places kindness on the same level as purity, knowledge, patience, and genuine love? Will you pray for more appreciation of this spiritual fruit? “Rich were the blessings of this day if all of us were filled with the Holy Ghost. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul it would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit’s benign presence. As sacred oil, he anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his office aright. As the only truly purifying water he cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord’s good pleasure.” (8) As you look back on the last 48 hours of your life, how might you have omitted kindness that could have been an obstacle to Christ’s love for someone? Did you do something unkind, that may have been an obstacle to God’s love? You may have endured some hardships and afflictions over the last few months, not on the scale that Paul did, but difficult nevertheless. How might God be using those hardships in your sanctification, specifically to help you to be more kind? “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

(1) For Christian commentary on the DACA decision see “Albert Mohler, “Part 1-Supreme Court Decides the DACA Case, https://albertmohler.com

(2)Wilhelmus a’ Brakel on the Goodness of God,” Calvin and Calvinism, 2008, https://calvinandcalvinism.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/wlhelmus-a-brakel-on-the-goodness-of-god/

(3) Witmore, Stephen, “Kindness Changes Everything,” 9/4/2016, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything.)

(4) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 2 Corinthians 6:3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2corinthians-6.html

(5) Gill, Ibid, 2 Corinthians 6:4.

(6) MacArthur, John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, “Honor and Dishonor—the Paradox of Ministry” (2 Corinthians 6:1-10), Moody Publishers, 2003.

(7) Gill, Ibid, 2 Corinthians 6:6.

(8) Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/today

June 18, 2020

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