All you have to do is turn on an electronic device with a screen to be bombarded with frustrating news: a presidential candidate has run his or her mouth about the opposition or a certain people group; a commentator on ESPN rails against the actions of players during pregame rituals; or that one Facebook friend is once again offended because, well, it’s Wednesday. It seems that no matter where we look today in the world, we only find a barrage of talking faces spewing “I’m right, you’re wrong” vitriol, and all too often, we as Christians get caught up in that same self-righteousness.
But we have the truth, don’t we? Jesus tells us He is “the way, and the TRUTH, and the life” (John 14:6, emphasis added). It is then our duty to tell the truth in love! Tough love is the name of the game, because we are righteous in whatever crusade we have decided to tackle today. Yet, Paul writes to us in Galatians 5:22–23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Because of the Spirit at work in us, kindness is one of the avenues of sanctification that works in the life of the baptized follower of Jesus.
The only problem is we often don’t want to be kind or even think about being kind; instead, we want to be right. Our longing to be proven correct overrides the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives as we rush to keyboards, video cameras, and conversations in which we throw kindness aside.
When kindness fails, our true intentions are revealed. As sinners we are not seeking the kingdom of God, but instead we are chasing after our own self-righteousness. This race is a never-ending lie, as Paul reminds in Romans 3:10—no one is righteous. The enemy deceives Christians by convincing us to seek the upper hand, to self-determine our justification by knowledge of the truth. But once again, knowledge of the truth leads to the fruit of the Spirit . . . which includes kindness.
What does it mean when we are being unkind? It means that there is sin in our lives that needs to be taken to the foot of the cross. We need to run to the place where grace and mercy flows down for us. Our hearts and minds need to be renewed in the promises of Jesus.
So, what are some things you can do to reclaim kindness in your daily life? Glad you asked.
- Remember that kindness does not equal weakness.
Throughout Scripture, we are reminded of God’s loving kindness for us. We are told that kindness is part of who we are created to be. Would an all-powerful God and Creator have a trait that is not powerful? Of course not. So we, as His creation and children, have been imbued with the capability of kindness and the command to be kind.
- Lean into the life applications of Law and Gospel.
The purpose of the Law is to show us our need for the Gospel. Often when we become unkind, it is because we have confused the two. We believe that whatever we have decided to argue about will be our salvation. That is not true. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only salvation (justification) we have, and the rest is us relearning (sanctification) to be who He created us to be.
- Be comforted by the work of Jesus in His Word and Sacraments.
Kindness is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Where do we grow in knowledge of and love for the things of the Spirit? Through the Word of God and the gifts He gives us. Maybe, just maybe, if you return to the promises of forgiveness for your own sins and to those physical and tangible ways that God proclaims His loving kindness, you will find that you in turn can extend kindness to your neighbors.
- Let unkindness be a warning sign.
Are you tempted toward unkindness and anger? This is a symptom of the larger issue of sin. Take this opportunity to seek out confession and absolution from the Body of Christ. Confess that sin of unkindness and hear the words of forgiveness spoken over you.