These days we talk about random acts of kindness and “paying it forward” like we’re running some sort of karmic racket, doing good things as a way to score more points for the Nice Team. But kindness as a fruit of the Holy Spirit has less to do with the good deeds of our outer lives and more to do with the posture of our inner lives.
Biblical kindness is an outward fruit of the inward work of the Spirit. We are kind as a way of being more than a way of doing.
I have a friend who is always unnecessarily kind to me. She shows me more mercy than I can imagine. She believes the best of me and she hopes for more of Jesus in my life. She suffers through not-so-pleasant times in our friendship for the sake God’s glory and our good. Her kindness to me mirrors the kindness of Christ.
The Greek word for kindness used in Galatians 5 is chrēstotēs, which means “moral goodness” and “benignity.” Benignity means bringing a person no harm. Christ uses the root of this word chrēstos in Matthew 11:30, when He says His “yoke is easy”—meaning, it doesn’t needlessly burden.
We also know from Scripture that being kind is much more powerful than just being nice. Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance. In other words, kindness has the power to transform. It is not weak, it does not ignore, it does push things under the rug. Kindness can change our own lives and the lives of those we love. In Ephesians 4:32, we are commanded to be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving others just as God has forgiven us. It is this forgiveness from God—and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us—that prompts our kindness to others. Think of our kindness as a sort of through-line for God’s goodness to us. We have the privilege of pouring out that kindness from the Holy Spirit to others! We get to mirror the kindness of Christ, kindness that leads to life-changing repentance.
The Christlike kindness my dear friend shows to me is not simple. It requires abiding in the Source, yielding to the Spirit, and submitting to the Heavenly Father. But, as a result of her obedience, I feel unconditionally accepted. I know, by God’s grace, she never means me harm or burden me with a mantle that isn’t mine to bear.
In a world where kindness is often used as a tool for getting ahead, it’s incredibly comforting to encounter those people who embody biblical kindness. Will we be those people today? The fruit of kindness is proof of the Holy Spirit’s good work in our hearts. It is powerful to change lives by pointing others to Jesus, the true Source of everything good.
What could be sweeter than that?