The Fruit of Gentleness

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But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”

– 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:4 says that a gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth to God. He values gentleness. Gentleness is useful and purposeful. So what does it mean for us to bear the fruit of gentleness? How can we cultivate gentleness in our lives?

When we look at the Biblical definition of gentleness, we learn that it means to be meek or humble. Let’s look first at the meaning of meekness. It’s important for us not to confuse meekness with weakness. I once heard someone describe meekness by saying, “Meekness is not weakness, it is controlled strength.” When we look at the spiritual fruits as attributes of the character of God, do we not see controlled strength in so much of who He is? Is that not the exact definition of mercy? I’ve heard it said that “Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve, and mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve.” Psalm 103:8 says God is “compassionate, and gracious, and slow to become angry.

What’s interesting is that the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word for gentleness that is used in Galatians 5:23 is the word “ani” and this is a word that is rarely, if ever, used to describe God in the Old Testament. God is not meek in the ways that we typically think about meekness. However, as Phillip Kenneson writes in Life on the Vine, “If meekness is the strength to refrain from resorting to power and coercion, then certainly there is an important sense in which God is meek.”

Maybe that’s why Jesus was rejected by those He came to save – because they couldn’t recognize this meekness, this gentleness, as part of His character. They wanted to see Jesus as a powerful ruler, but He came instead as a humble servant. They wanted Jesus to bring vengeance and wrath towards their enemies, but instead Jesus directed His anger toward the money-changers in the Temple (Mark 11:15-18) and told them to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them (Matthew 5:43-44). Jesus is both the lion and the lamb. He is both loving and just. David, who tenderly cared for the sheep of his pasture and defeated a giant with a sling of a stone, is described as a man after God’s own heart. 

In Matthew 5:5 during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Phillip Kenneson makes an insightful observation about this verse of Scripture. He says, “The meek do not aggressively conquer the earth and subdue it; instead they inherit it: it is given to them.” Meekness is a powerful force for good. It is valuable to God and to His Kingdom.

Meekness is often viewed in opposition to aggression and violence. When we live in a society that glorifies violence and aggression, to be a person of meekness is to be counter-cultural. Those who are gentle and meek are makers of peace and not of war. They do not stir up trouble, and they do not cause division. They do not return an eye for an eye. The meek are those who turn the other check (Matthew 5:38-39). We will inherit the Kingdom of God because we are sons and daughters of the King. We do not need to conquer it, we do not need to fight for it. We need only be still, because our God is fighting for us (Exodus 14:14).

The meek will inherit the earth, and the humble will be exalted. In Matthew 23:12 Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Where meekness is viewed in opposition to aggression and violence, humility is viewed in opposition to arrogance and pride. 1 Peter 5:5 says “…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

We need to “clothe” ourselves with humility, just as we need to “put on” the armor of God. We clothe ourselves in the morning. We go through a process of getting ready and preparing ourselves for the day ahead. We clothe ourselves according to the weather outside our door. We clothe ourselves to provide warmth and defense against the bitter cold, or we clothe ourselves to provide coolness and relief from the summer heat. In the same way, humility defends us against outside forces.

In the beginning, clothing was created as a result of sinful disobedience. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves because they realized they were naked and they were ashamed. After God called them out of hiding, He created clothing for them out of animal skins. Their feeble attempt at covering themselves was not enough, the true covering for sin required a blood sacrifice. And now we have Jesus – the perfect sacrifice who’s blood covered our sins once and for all. Because of Jesus, we can wear our humility, not as a covering of shame, but as a covering of grace. When we clothe ourselves with humility we are making a confession that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When we clothe ourselves with humility, we are making a confession that we are sinful and imperfect beings who have been covered by the love of a perfect God (Matthew 5:48, 1 John 4:18). Our humility takes the focus off of ourselves, and points to Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

We are capable of living with humility, because we are created in the image of a humble God. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus describes Himself as being “gentle and humble in heart.” When Jesus entered this earth, He came in the form of a lowly baby in a manger. The Savior of the world, slept in a food trough made for animals (Luke 2:7). The announcement of His birth was made to lowly shepherds in a field (Luke 2:8-11). When He entered public ministry, He chose not to come baptizing, but to come being baptized (Matthew 3:13-15). When He was tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t fall into Satan’s trap to satisfy His own physical desire for food, to make a spectacle of Himself to capture the awe and attention of man, or to bow down to Satan for the power and glory of earthly kingdoms (Matthew 4:1-11). Instead, He chose the path of true humility. He chose to ride in on a donkey (John 12:14), and be crucified on a cross (John 19:18). He chose to be betrayed, denied, and rejected by those He loved and came to save (John 1:11, Matthew 26:14-16, 69-75). He chose to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-17). He chose to not have a place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). He chose a Kingdom beyond this world that eyes cannot see. He chose the Father above who was well-pleased (Matthew 3:17). He chose the eternal over the temporary. He chose the spiritual over the physical. He chose love over legality. He chose love because He is love (1 John 4:8). And in choosing love, He didn’t abolish the law, but fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17). When we look at Scripture through the lens of Jesus – love abounds. Love is humble – it is not jealous, it does not brag, it is not arrogant, it does not act unbecomingly, it is not self-seeking, and it is not easily provoked (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). In Ephesians 4:1-2, the Apostle Paul implores us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”

When we follow the path of humility, we follow the path of Jesus. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that His humility was often related to His hospitality. Matthew 11:19 describes Him as a friend of sinners. He ate and drank with those society had rejected and cast aside. He was welcoming to all. He invited all to the table, and He asks us to do the same. In Luke 14:12-14, He says, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Romans 12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink.” Jesus teaches that when we give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, when we give clothing to the naked, and when we visit the sick and imprisoned then it is as if we are serving Jesus Himself (Mathew 25:31-46). The Book of Hebrews says that when we show brotherly love and hospitality, we are “entertaining angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2).

To be gentle is to be wise.

James 3:13-17 says, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

The fruit of gentleness is a fruit of restoration and peace-making.

Galatians 6:1 says, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…”

2 Timothy 2:24-25 teaches that, The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”

We cultivate a spirit of gentleness by humbling ourselves in prayer, repenting of our selfishness and pride, and turning away from our sin. We cultivate gentleness by imitating the meek and humble character of our God. We cultivate gentleness by loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, and loving strangers. We cultivate gentleness by practicing the art of being slow to become angry and quick to forgive. We cultivate gentleness by being focused on a Kingdom that is beyond this present world, and by striving to make our Father proud. We cultivate gentleness when we focus more on Jesus and less on ourselves. We cultivate gentleness by loving God and loving others.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

– Philippians 2:3-11

The Fruit of Faithfulness

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“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

– Hebrews 10:23

God is faithful to fulfill all that He has promised. He placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise to Noah. He told Abraham to look up at the sky and count the stars as a sign of the promise He made to him. We need only look up to remember the promises He has made to us. When we look at the fruits of the Spirit, we quickly begin to realize that they are all rooted in the character of God. The more like Him we become – the more fruit we bear. We can be faithful, because He has been faithful.

Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is trusting in what we cannot see. We trust gravity to continue holding our feet to the ground. When we flip a light switch, we trust the electricity to light  up the room. We trust our heart to keep beating. We trust our lungs to keep filling with air. We trust our minds to keep instructing our hands and feet to move and operate. We are trusting in invisible, unseen things. We are trusting in work that is being done behind the scenes, beyond what our eyes can see. We don’t see the rainbow until after the storm. The stars shine brightest when the night is darkest. We take the first step of faith before we see the stairs in front of us. Peter didn’t step out of the boat because the waves seemed steady and secure enough to hold His weight – He stepped out of the boat because He saw Jesus. Our faith looks like foolishness to those who don’t know our Jesus. Those who can’t see with eyes of faith, don’t understand.

As the song Waymaker says, “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working. Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.” We know He is faithful, because we have experienced His faithfulness. He is a promise-keeper, a miracle-worker, a light in the darkness. That’s who He is – His faithfulness is part of His identity. To be faithful is to be steadfast. It means holding steady through trials and tribulations. It means showing up consistently when fears and doubts arise. It means being reliable. It means being dependable. We can depend on our God to be there in our times of need, because He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). We can trust Him because He is worthy to be trusted. We can put our faith in Him because He is faithful to fulfill what He has promised.

“The primary reason we lose faith is because we forget the faithfulness of God. Maybe that’s why the word ‘remember’ is repeated 250 times in Scripture.”

– Mark Batterson

When we remember God’s faithfulness, we are reminded of our own faithlessness. In Matthew 26:75 when Peter heard the crow of the rooster, he remembered what Jesus had said to him… “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” The same Peter who had enough faith to step out of the boat and onto the crashing waves towards Jesus, had denied Him three times, just has Jesus had told Him he would. Scripture says Peter then “went out and wept bitterly.”

But God is faithful, even in our faithlessness. He doesn’t leave us. He doesn’t abandon us. His promise still stands. We have hope because of the resurrection. The cross was not the end of the story. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples on the Sea of Galilee and three times He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” And three times Peter responded “Yes, Lord, You know I do.” And three times Jesus responded, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus had made a promise that Peter was the rock on which He would build His church, and that promise was not made void through Peter’s denial. Peter went on to feed the sheep. He helped establish the church. And Peter was martyred for his faith – dying upside down on a cross because he didn’t deem himself worthy to die in the same manner as our Lord, Jesus Christ. Faithfulness comes with a cost. Jesus commands us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

One of the best examples of the faithful love of our God is the story of the Prophet Hosea. God instructed Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman who was described as a harlot and an adulteress. In their marriage, Gomer bore three children. The Bible is not clear if the second two children were biologically Hosea’s, but their names indicate that they were not. Gomer had been unfaithful to her husband. Eventually she left her husband and returned to a life of harlotry, but Hosea went back and purchased her from those who were holding her captive. He ransomed her. He redeemed her. Their story is symbolic of the redeeming love our God has for us. When we run back to our life of sin, God brings us back into His arms of love. He paid the ultimate cost for our redemption. His love is unrelenting. He never gives up. He doesn’t stop pursuing us. His love never fails. In our unfaithfulness, He remains faithful.

He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His love knows no bounds. Psalm 89:8 says, His faithfulness surrounds Him. We need only get close enough to Him to experience the fullness of it. His faithfulness strengthens and protects us (2 Thessalonians 3:3). His faithfulness does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to withstand, but gives us an escape route so that we can be faithful to endure the temptation when it comes (1 Corinthians 10:13). And when we allow ourselves to fall into temptation, when we miss the escape route and fall into sin then we need only confess and He is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9). 

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 1:6

It is difficult for us to wrap our minds around the faithfulness of our God when we live in a culture that is “increasingly characterized by rapid change and instability” (Life on the Vine by Phillip Kenneson). We live in a culture where things are not built to last. Your cellphone only lasts until the latest version comes out. Furniture is often cheaply made and falls apart after only a few uses. We buy disposable cups, plates, and silverware that we can throw away after a single use. We design products that will “save us time” but what do we actually do with the time we’ve saved? It takes time to build something that lasts. It takes time to design something that fulfills a purpose. It takes time to maintain something that will continue to endure throughout generations. Even our jobs and our relationships seem temporary and fleeting. In businesses where you used to interact with people, now you’re interacting with computers and screens. We live in a “cancel” culture where people are dismissed if their views don’t align with your own. We live in a culture where “ghosting” is a term the younger generation uses to describe simply cutting off communication in a relationship without explanation. It takes commitment to maintain a relationship. When we put time and energy into maintaining our relationships and our commitments with people, we are making an investment in a future we cannot see. We are practicing faithfulness.

We practice faithfulness when we abide in the love of God. We practice faithfulness when we trust God’s promises. We practice faithfulness when we make and keep promises. We practice faithfulness when speak truth. We practice faithfulness when we keep showing up. We practice faithfulness when we keep putting forth effort.
Our efforts are weak and imperfect – but they make our Father proud! His faithfulness gives us the strength to endure.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes, but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”

In the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:15 Jesus says, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:5-7).

We can’t bear spiritual fruit if we are not firmly rooted in who God is. God’s faithfulness  lays the foundation for us to bear the fruit of faithfulness. As we trust Him, our roots extend, bringing more stability. With more stability, comes more security. With more security, comes more confidence. With more confidence comes more boldness of speech and action. In this manner, faithfulness creates a ripple effect. We are being built up so that our branches can grow out, and the fruit we bear can bring nourishment to hungry hearts. We are being built up so that our fruit can bear more fruit.

The Fruit of Goodness

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“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His loving-kindness is everlasting.”

– Psalm 107:1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… and it was good. I remember when I was little, I sat down with my grandparents for a time of Bible Study and we decided to start in the beginning  – the book of Genesis. If you know anything about my grandpa, you know that he likes to pay attention to the details. He loves picking up on little inconsistencies in movies and TV shows – always noticing if the clock jumps ahead or if someones shoe color is different in one scene than in the next. As we read through the first chapter of Genesis, He said, “You know what’s interesting? After everything God created, He always said ‘it was good’ but after He created mankind, He said ‘it was very good.'” I don’t remember how old I was when he made that observation, but it has stuck with me ever since. Creation was good, but when God created us in His image, it was very good.

Goodness is a broad term that we use a lot, but often have difficulty explaining or defining. What makes someone or something good? The Strong’s dictionary defines goodness as “virtue or beneficence” and the Thayer’s dictionary defines it as “uprightness of heart and life.” We know from Scripture that all good things come from God. In Mark 10:18, even Jesus Himself says, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except for God alone.” In Romans 7:18-19, Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

Good vs. Evil

Good is often explained in direct opposition to what is bad or what is evil. In fact, the reason most people turn from their faith is because they can’t understand how a good God could create evil. They doubt that God is truly good, because they don’t understand why bad things happen to good people. I think it’s important for us to recognize that God did not create evil. When we go back and read the account of creation, we see that everything God created was good. When God created light and saw that it was good, what did He do? He separated it from the darkness. Evil exists in this world because sin exists in this world. Sin came into this world when Adam and Eve disobeyed the instruction of God and made the decision to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God knew that if they ate from the tree, they would die in their sins. He wanted to protect them from evil. He wanted to protect them from death. But He wanted them to have the freewill to make their own decisions – and they chose death. They chose to know evil, because they wanted to be like God, knowing all things.

Scripture tells us time and time again to overcome evil with good:

Romans 12:1 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:9 says “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Psalm 34:14 says, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

The sinfulness of our humanity cannot be described as good, but we are still capable of goodness because we are still created in the image of a good God. He is goodness defined, and He created us to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” He’s prepared us, He’s given us all we need to live a life of goodness. 2 Peter 1:3 says “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Jesus showed us that goodness is possible. He showed us what a good life in human flesh looks like. He’s equipped us and empowered us to live a life of goodness. We can’t use our human flesh to justify our evil actions, because Jesus showed us what a life without sin looks like, and He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. In Life on the Vine, Phillip Kenneson writes, “In the light of Jesus’ life we come to realize that our problem is not that we are “only human” but that we are not human enough. Blaming our shortcomings on our humanity, therefore, makes a mockery not only of the life of Jesus but also of the lives of those saints throughout the ages who have sought to be human in the ways that He was human.”

We often have a hard time understanding the full magnitude of goodness because we have underplayed it’s importance for so long. Someone asks us how our day was or how we are feeling and we automatically respond with a simple “good” – without giving much thought as to why it was good or what made it good. Often we’ll say we had a good day when in fact our day was actually pretty average, and we’ll say we’re feeling good when actually haven’t felt all that great. Overtime good starts to feel less and less good. In Life on the Vine, Phillip Kenneson says, “If one is merely decent, one is increasingly considered good.” He uses the story of the Good Samaritan to support this. He says that the man we call the Good Samaritan, was not actually called “good” by Jesus. When you go back and read the story, you’ll see that Jesus actually refers to him as a “certain” Samaritan – because what this man did was something any decent human being should have done. However, as Kenneson says, “we regard him as good as if what he did was exceptional or heroic.”

Our human goodness cannot be compared to the goodness of our God. As Titus 2:14 says, our God “…gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” If we want to live godly lives, we must eager to do what is good. The path to goodness is a path of righteousness, justice, and fairness (Proverbs 2:9). This is not an easy path. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we learn that in the last days, people will hate what is good. They will hate goodness because goodness is not self-serving. Goodness, like the love of God, is sacrificial. As 2 Timothy 3:5 says, these people will have a form of godliness, but will deny it’s power. We are commanded to avoid these people. The fruit of these people is fake. It looks good on the outside, but there is nothing of substance on the inside. There is no nutritional value. If we bite into this type of spiritual fruit, the effects can be toxic and harmful for our spiritual growth and development.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'”

– 1 Corinthians 15:33

Good Fruit vs. Bad Fruit

Have you ever heard the saying, “One bad fruit ruins the whole bunch?” It’s true. We need to surround ourselves with good people who speak goodness into our lives, and set positive examples of goodness for us to imitate. If we surround ourselves with negativity, negativity will corrupt and corrode our character. People who declare themselves to be Christians but do not live in a way that imitates the life of Christ are creating a bad name for all Christians. John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” How much love is being displayed in our words and in our actions? Are we truly living as Jesus lived and loving as Jesus loved? What image of Jesus are we painting for this world to see?

We are known by our fruit. If you say you had a good day, but your face doesn’t reflect it – people know. If you say God is good, but don’t live as if you know it’s true – people see that. If we want to be good, we have to do good. Out of the overflow of our heart, the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:33-35 says, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.If we fill our heart with goodness, goodness will flow out in our actions. If we plant goodness deep within, then goodness will spring forth. If we practice good works, then we’ll be strengthened to do good works. We’ll recognize opportunities for goodness. We’ll see with more clarity the opportunities God puts before us to be good and to do good. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” and 2 Peter 1:5-7 tells us “Therefore, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” Our good actions reveal the goodness of our God and the goodness of His love. Our good actions build good character within us. The Samaritan man Jesus spoke of was just a man, but his actions spoke of his character. The fruit of his actions spoke of the content of his heart. He is recognized and remembered as being good, because He made the conscious decision to do good.

If Jesus had told that parable today, what would you be remembered for?

In Acts 11:24, Barnabas was remembered as being “… a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith” who helped bring numerous people to the Lord.

In Titus 1:8, goodness is listed as one of the qualifications for a church leader. They are required to be “…hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled.”

In a world that is filled with evil, let us choose goodness. Let us do good. Let us be good. Let us live good lives that imitate the good life our Savior lived. Let us always strive to be more like Jesus.

The Fruit of Kindness

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“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

– Micah 6:8

Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly.

How timely these words are! How relevant. How powerful that prophetic words written over two thousand years ago are still able to be applied to our lives today. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He still wants us to do justice, He still wants us to love kindness, and He still wants us to walk humbly with Him.

All three of these words go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. They are each dependent on one another. We need justice that comes forth out of kindness and humility. We need kindness that works from humility and towards justice. We need humility that works with kindness to produce justice.

Our world is hungry for the fruit of kindness – it’s time for us to get to work giving it out.

In Life on the Vine,  Phillip Kenneson says that kindness is the most outwardly visible of the spiritual fruits. He says, “Kindness is neither a state of mind nor an invisible attitude or emotion. Neither do we think people kind simply because they refrain from doing unkind things. Rather, we regard people as kind because they go out of their way, often quietly and without fanfare, to engage in kind actions.”

Kindness is love in action.

Kindness is the act of sharing joy with others.

Kindness is the act of making peace with others.

Kindness is the act of being patient with others.

Actions speak louder than words – so what are our actions telling the world about Jesus?

Do our actions reveal His kindness?

Did you know that the Greek word for Christ is “Christos” and the Greek word for kindness is “Chréstos”? The two words are so similar that early Christians were often called “the kind ones” – I love how God uses language to speak so much to the truth of His character. But are we living up to that name? Are we truly living Christ-like lives? Are we truly portraying ourselves to be “the kind ones”?

Kindness comes easy to us when we’re helping someone who looks like us, thinks like us, is clearly in need, and is willing and able to return the favor. It’s easy to be kind to someone who has been kind to you, but kindness becomes difficult when God calls us beyond the borders of our comfort zone. It’s easy to speak kindly to someone who agrees with you, but it becomes increasingly more difficult to be kind towards someone who is hostile and argumentative. Kindness is easy when we’re simply repaying the kindness of others, but it becomes more difficult when God asks us to be kind to our enemies – those who have treated us harshly and unfairly.

 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Luke 6:27-36

Anger is reactive. Anger is an emotional response to injustice, and there is a such thing as righteous anger – but kindness is proactive. Kindness takes thought and intention. Kindness ultimately leads to repentance (Romans 2:4) – and repentance leads to forgiveness and reconciliation. We don’t win people to Jesus through arguments and debates, we win people to Jesus through kindness and compassion. In Ephesians 4:31-32, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

This type of kindness is not easy. If it were easy, it would not be a fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit makes it supernatural. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to love, to forgive, and to be kind to those who do not “deserve” it or did not “earn” it. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, not of the flesh. Our flesh cannot produce true and genuine kindness, because our flesh is too focused on the self. We live in a world that values independence and self-sufficiency. We live in a world that gives only when we expect something in return, but that’s not the type of kindness God calls us to. The kindness of God is more than a currency exchanged for goods or services, the kindness of God is an investment in a kingdom we cannot see with our physical eyes.

When we find it hard to show kindness – we need to remember our own story. We need to look back and remember where God brought us from. We need to remember the kindness, the grace, and the mercy He showed to us. As the Israelite’s did in Deuteronomy 8, we need to remember the wildernesses He has led us through. We need to remember how He delivered us. We need to remember how He humbled us – how He fed us when we were hungry, clothed us when we were naked, and gave us water when we were thirsty. We need to remember how He protected us, how He delivered us, and how He forgave us for our many faults and failures. We need to remember that it was not us who got us where we are – it was only the goodness of God! We can love because He first loved us. We can be merciful because He first showed us mercy. We can be gracious because He first gave us grace. We are not self-sufficient, we are grace sufficient – and His grace gives us strength. His grace gives us the ability to act with kindness and compassion. His grace is our strength in times of weakness.

When we find it hard to show kindness – we need to listen to the stories of others. We need to remember that people who have been hurt, will hurt others, because that is what they know. When we listen to them with genuine care and concern, it catches them off guard. It’s unfamiliar, they’re not used to it. When we understand that they may be acting out of anger, hurt, and frustration – then we can begin to put ourselves in their shoes. We can allow our empathy for them to drive our actions towards them. Look for the areas where people may be hurting – and pray for them. Look for the areas where people may be in need – and serve them. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples – that included Judas who would betray Him and Peter who would deny Him – but Jesus did not allow His hurt to hinder His kindness and compassion. He acted against His flesh, He acted within the Spirit – and He showed grace and mercy. He showed kindness, even though He knew it would not be returned to Him. Let us be like Jesus.

We must not only be kind, but we also must learn to accept kindness when it is given to us. In this world that promotes independence and self-sufficiency, asking for help or accepting help is often seen as a sign of weakness or failure. We do not want to be a burden to others. We do not want to feel as if we “owe” something to others. When we accept gifts of kindness from others, we feel indebted to them and we feel obligated to reciprocate their kindness. Love binds us to one another, so we often put up walls to avoid this type of connection. We do not want to be dependent on others – but we are. We are created for connection. Self-sufficiency is a myth; an illusion. We need others, and we need to learn to recognize that God did not put us on this earth to do it alone. God created Eve as a helper for Adam. God knew we would need other helpers along this journey – that’s why He puts the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6) and that’s why He gives us a body of believers to help us live out the great commission (Acts 2:42-47). We are not alone.

When we attempt to “settle the score” by paying someone back or immediately reciprocating their act of kindness, we are diminishing the value of their gift. I’ve often heard people say, “Don’t rob me of my blessing!” When others feel led to give, let them give. When others reach out their hand to help, reach out and accept it. We must humble ourselves to be kind, and we also must humble ourselves to accept kindness at times. God gives us what we need, when we need it, and He often uses other people to do it.

We need to learn to see other people as gifts for the kingdom rather than as threats to our own self-sufficiency. We work best when we work together. Our gifts compliment one another. We can’t allow this world to continue dividing us. In such an individualistic society, we begin to believe that our talents and abilities belong to us. We begin to believe that our money and resources belong to us. We begin to believe that we earned what we have, that we deserve what we’ve been given – rather than viewing it as a gift of God’s grace. We invest our gifts and abilities back into ourselves, only doing things and saying things that will profit us, only buying and purchasing things that would benefit us. When we withhold kindness, we are hoarding the gifts that God has given us, but in Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus tells us to not to store up treasures on this earth. He tells us instead to store up treasures in Heaven. Kindness is an investment in people. Kindness is an investment in the Kingdom of Heaven. Kindness plants a seed that we may never see come to fruition on this side of Heaven, but we continue planting the seed because we are trusting God to bring the rain and produce the harvest. We need to examine our hearts and examine our gifts. We need to use what God has given us. We need to give out of the abundance God has given to us. We need to be His hands and feet. We need to extend His grace as He has extended it to us. We need to put our love and compassion into action. We need to look for opportunities to show kindness – and we need to be obedient when God calls us to action.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor”

– Proverbs 21:21