September 30, 2011 by Chris French
You see the look of pain in their eyes and immediately wished you had not said what you just said. What if you could push the rewind button and go back and undo the last five minutes? What if you could take away what you had said or done that had so hurt that person? Most of us would jump in our time machine and undo our hurtful words or actions. We feel guilt and grief over our painful words, but it’s hard to stop the stream that comes from our tongue. When Paul is writing about the visible traits a person who has the Holy Spirit living in them should have in Galatians 5.22-23 he talks about a quality that is characterized as a “sweetness of temper which puts others at their ease, and shrinks from giving pain.” He would call this “kindness” or in some translations “gentleness”.
As in the rest of the Fruits of the Spirit this kindness is one of God’s traits, but in humanity it shows up in a personality that puts people at their ease and goes out of its way to avoid hurting others. You should have the picture of a car traveling down a road, but instead of taking the most direct route to his destination the driver chooses a detour that takes him many miles out of his way. Do we go out of our way to avoid hurting others or do we just feel guilty when we see that look in their eyes? We’re not talking about a passivity that ignores sin, for example, which when brought to one’s attention would certainly bring them pain. We’re talking about an attitude here that puts other people’s emotions ahead of our own, so when we do have to have difficult and possibly painful conversations we do it with love and kindness (Gal. 6.1). We actively shrink back from hurting them.
This “kindness” is a personality trait. Whoever you were before you came to Christ He’s changed you now. You may have been brash or tactless before you met Jesus on the faith road, but now you have a disposition that puts other people at their ease. This word could even be translated “friendliness”. In point of fact love even manifests itself in the form of kindness (1st Cor. 13.4). Love is indeed kind. Kindness even helps make up the Biblical definition of love!
Kindness is not a trite holding of one’s tongue to avoid verbally assaulting someone or a simple physical restraint from a hurtful action. It is a whole new personality we work to acquire. We’ve been shown incomprehensible kindness by God. He doesn’t desire death for sinners, but salvation (Ephesians 2.7). That should change us! He’s shown us what kindness looks like. Are we modeling that kindness to the people around us?