“A kind pastor does more than preach, he enters into the lives of those entrusted to his care. He does so without favoritism and guile. He engages with members of the body: the old and the young, the rich and the poor, those who look like him and those who don’t, the confident and the doubting.”
My family didn’t make much of birthdays. In fact, with the exception of the year we went to Pietro’s Pizza to play video games, none stand out. But on October 4, 1996, my wife made reservations at a steak house for my birthday. When we arrived at our table, a handful of friends yelled, “Surprise!” That was a good day. They spent time and money celebrating God’s gift of another year to me.
What did my wife and friends demonstrate that night? Kindness. It’s a simple virtue, one that’s easily overlooked. However, the presence of kindness is preeminent evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s heart.
THE OVERLOOKED VIRTUE
I used to think vanilla was simply the absence of chocolate. Therefore, I couldn’t understand why anyone would actually prefer vanilla ice cream. Vanilla, I thought, is simply what’s left when you remove all flavors.
It’s easy to think of kindness along similar lines, as merely the absence of vice. Given this understanding, a kind person is not rude, not overbearing, not mean. But there’s so much more to kindness than the absence of meanness.
Kindness is the presence of compassion and generosity toward others. The kind person is helpful, useful, and lovingly working for the well being of others. If goodness is the light of God shining within the human heart, then kindness is the light of God shining from the human heart. Kindness exists for the benefit of others.
To put it bluntly, a person sitting at home simply remembering my birthday isn’t being kind. Kindness has feet and hands. Kindness gets in the car, goes to the restaurant, and waits. Kindness pulls out a credit card and cheerfully pays the price of enjoying an evening with a friend. Goodness is. Kindness works. Kindness isn’t being Mr. Nice; it’s making a difference.
OUR KIND GOD
Because kindness is a fruit of the Spirit of God, it should come as no surprise to learn kindness is an attribute of God.
In Romans 1, Paul paints a startling portrait of humanity’s darkness. Wickedness explodes in the heart untouched by saving grace: “They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Rom. 1:29b–31). Like a skilled attorney building his case, Paul leaves no room for doubt: our condemnation is deserved. In Romans 3:23, he summarizes his argument, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Our only hope to escape his judgment is to embrace his kindness, kindness we all once spurned. But God can melt the coldest heart. His kindness ran toward us when we walked away from him in unbelief. As Paul states in Romans 2:4, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” While we were set in our rebellious ways, God’s kindness appeared in a manger in Bethlehem (Titus 3:7). When we were flooded with anger and racism, God’s kindness grafted Gentiles into his family tree (Rom. 11:22). And though we continually fall short of his glory, in Christ God promised his kindness as an eternal gift (Eph. 2:7). Though we deserve his wrath, we’re the beneficiaries of his kindness.
We should expect those filled with God’s Spirit to be kind as well.
WHEN KINDNESS ERUPTS
Being feted by friends at a birthday party was a real (albeit small) act of kindness. It pales in comparison to the day a high-school friend told me I was going to hell.
We’d gone to a play together. I expected casual conversation. Instead, she said she was a Christian. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but over the course of the evening I discovered it means the world. She affirmed it all. There really is a God. He’s made himself known in Christ. The Bible is his Word. To know Christ as Lord and Savior is to have everlasting life. She believed everything, the whole kit and caboodle.
My back began to bow as I not-so-gently pushed back: “Do you think I’m going to hell?” I asked her.