In our discussion of the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit, we have come to kindness. This word could hold two possible meanings: fraternal affection or tender concern. The difference between the word meanings are subtle, yet present. In fraternal concern, we feel a desire of well-being towards our friends and loved ones that surpasses the love we would feel toward a stranger. We have the desire to see them succeed above all others. This akin to cheering for your child’s sports team merely because it is the team your child is on. But tender concern conveys your desire to see the best for all people regardless of the relational position you have with them. Though in different context, Jesus contrasts these two feelings:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matthew 5:43-47)?
Notice the last part here where Jesus contrasts repayment verses a higher calling of doing what is right. In the fruit of the Spirit, Paul is using the word for tender concern because his message is not a conditional kindness based on our relationship with the world, but rather it is a kindness based what God is doing in us.
As a result of our transformation and the characteristics of the Spirit indwelling us, we should begin to start seeing the world through eyes of compassion. The old ways of selfishness should be dismissed and replaced with kindness toward the world leading us to want to help in causes that meet the needs of people. Once we start to feel these changes, we are ready to start doing the work that God has set aside for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Our kindness toward others regardless of our relationship should lead us into action, and that action means that this manifestation turns our Christian life from an inward expression (love, joy, peace, patience), to an outward expression (kindness, goodness). We should be starting to have a desire to serve God in ways that used to be totally foreign to us.
In my own transformation, I disliked being around people at all, even having a contempt for most people. Once Christ changed my life, I started to find new joy first in being with other people, and then finally in serving them. I have handed out food and gifts in kitchens and distribution centers, helped people with trips to the store, helped with teaching classes, mentored people in the faith, and more. The work that we do for Jesus when we are confident that we belong to Him is so fulfilling that I have come to the belief the reason most people, even Christians, do not feel fulfilled is that they are not using the gifts that God gave to us.
Kindness also helps us to understand one another. We all sin, and Paul uses kindness as the lead to tell us as believers to forgive others. In Ephesians 4:32 Paul writes: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. We have all done deeds worthy of condemnation to hell, but God opted to forgive us instead, and we need to use that as an example to those that have offended us. Be kind as a starting point and understand that we, too, are not perfect, and from that knowledge and kindness, forgiveness is possible. Be kind to one another regardless of what other people have done to us.