The Importance of Kindness and Gentleness

Listen to almost any talk and ask yourself, how would you like the baseless allegations and unfair jokes to be made about you? Unkind jokes are so common, they seem to be the norm for many people; but they should not be for Christians. When someone like Rush Limbaugh exposes corruption and hypocrisy that is OK, but when he makes pointless jibes, such as at the President's teenage daughter, that is unkind.

Have you ever seen a Christian who has no kindness? Rightly understood, I do not think anyone has seen a good Christian who is not kind; because it is very hard for a person without kindness to be a good Christian. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says that the greatest character we can have is love, and 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that, among other things, love is patient and love is kind. We all know of the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, but how many of us practice what the parable teaches?

The rest of this paper talks about the kindness all Christians should have, what kindness is not, and subtle ways we might be sinning by being unkind and not even realize it.

Why Be Kind?

God commanded us to be kind to others in many places, and that alone is the only reason we need. However, an additional reason is out of gratitude, because God has been so kind to us.

God has been kind to give us what we need in this life. God has also been kind to believers who are disobedient, as with Jonah. He has been kind to offer eternal life to all; however, as Jonah 4:2 says, "those who worship worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." Other verses that show God's kindness include Joel 2:13; 2 Cor. 6:6 Eph 2:7; Titus 3:4; Luke 6:35.

One final point is that God is the most kind being in the universe; God is not kind to the exclusion of His other attributes. Romans 11:22 says to consider the kindness and sternness of God.

Have You the Fruit?

Galatians 5:22 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (NIV) These are not nine different fruits, because the word fruit is singular; rather these are nine manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. So kindness if an attitude we are to have on the inside.

Clothing Ourselves

Colossians 3:12 says we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. So kindness is something we are to practice on the outside; and people should be able to see it. Sometime ask a close friend to name ten character traits about you. When he or she names them, is one of them kindness? If not, perhaps you need to do more to clothe yourself with kindness.

Many Ways to Be Kind

There is no shortage of ways the Bible gives us to be kind. Here are some of them.
Love others as ourselves. Mt 22:39-40; Lk 12:31; James 2:8; Col 3:13-14; 1 Jn 3:16-8
Be rich in good deeds. 1 Tim 5:10; 6:18; 1 Peter 2:12,15
We are to be kind to each other Acts 28:2; 2 Pet 1:7; Eph 4:32
Be devoted to doing good. Titus 3:14; James 4:17
Aid, care, protect, help, and don't cause harm to others. 1 Cor 13:7; Rom 13:10;14:19-21
Be kind to both people and animals. Prov 12:10; Heb 13:3. However, killing and eating animals OK. Acts 10:10-5. Jesus ate fish and other meat.
Be hospitable to one another. 3 Jn 8. Be hospitable to all. 1 Tim 5:10; Heb 13:2; Titus 1:8
Be especially kind to widows and orphans. James 1:27; Dt 15:11; Psalm 68:5.
Be especially kind to the sick, hungry, naked, and imprisoned. Mt 25:34-46; Zech 7:9-10

Looking for Ways to Be Kind

In Esther 6:1-3, the king could not sleep, so he had the chronicles of the court read to him. When he heard of what Mordecai did, he asked what had been done for Mordecai. We, like he, should look for ways to be kind to others, including those who have been kind to us. If everyone simply tried followe this rule, and to love and honor God, thise world would be a very different and better place.

...Even to Enemies

In Luke 6:27-36, Jesus does not ask, but commands us to be kind to even our enemies. Even though we are not to hate others and be their enemies, others might consier us their enemies simply for being a Christian or speaking the truth of Christ. We are to love them, bless them, give to them, do bood to them, and be merciful to them.

What Not to Do

Do not be self-seeking or just look after your own interests. Rom 2:8; Php 2:3-4, 20-1;Jas3:14-16;1Th4:11-12;Ps119:36; Isaiah 56:11
Do not insult others, or even return insults. 1 Pet 2:23;3:9; Lk 6:22; James 2:6
We overlook others insulting us. Prov 12:16; 19:11. Be civil to others, not rude. 1 Cor 13:5; Col 4:6
Have no malice to others. Gal 5:18; Eph 4:31-32; Titus 3:3; Mt 5:43-48; Lk 6:27-36; Lev 19:17
Don't even plan or think evil. Ps 119:150; Prov 30:32; 12:20; 14:22; 16:27,30; 24:1-9; Ecc 7:29; 8:11; Isaiah 29:15; 32:6-7;33:15;55:7; Jer 11:15; Nah 1:9; Rom 1:30; 13:14; Zech 8:17; Mic 2:1

If You Are A Guy

If you are a guy, particularly if you are physically fairly strong, there can be a temptation to show others that you are stronger than them. When you pick on someone else, even if fun, if that being clothed with gentleness?

If you are single, and a girl likes you and you either do not like her romantically, or else no longer like her romantically, ask what is the kind thing to do. Leading someone on is not kind. Making a person feel like dirt is not kind either. Coming across as a jerk is not being Christlike either, so that is not an option. In a kind, but straightforward way, just tell the person straight what they need to know. A sign of a healthy dating relationship is that after the romance has ended, you two can still be regular friends.

What if a girl might like you, and a third person, in front of a crowd of people, asks if you like that girl? If you do like her, then you can say so, but what if you do not want to go out with her? You do not want here to have any [more] embarrassment. Christians should not lie, but Christians can be tactful too; they do have to say everything that can be said. They can simply be quiet, or say they like everybody as a friend; but regardless shift the focus off of the girl to reduce any embarrassment.

If You are a Girl

If you are a girl, particularly if you are physically attractive, there can be a temptation to point out physical shortcomings in others. Is that being kind as Christ wants us to be?

If you are single, and a guy likes you and you are not interested in him, how do you say "no" if they ask you out? You do not want to lead him on, and you do not want to give the appearance of being stuck up if he is simply not your type. You do not want him to be embarrassed; in fact you might be honored that he considered you, even though he is not your type. Perhaps in a letter simply explain your feelings; be friendly, but if there is no way it would ever work, be firm that "there is no chance." A letter is good, because the guy can read it privately, and a guy does not feel any pressure of how to react in front of you or others. A Christian girl let me know that way, and though it was not pleasant for me at the time, in retrospect, this was the very best way she could have told me.

If You Are a Parent

Christian parents have a very serious responsibility to bring their children up to be godly. While the ultimate responsibility for the path the child takes belongs with the child, parents are accountable before God for what they taught their children and what they neglected to teach them, both in their words and by their actions. Children will need discipline, but discipline should not be either ineffective nor excessive.

A friend of my daughter told in me one time that when she was disobedient, her mother always sent her to her room. But with the TV and other toys in her room, that was not so bad at all. But she did not want me to tell her mother though. Obviously something was not working here.

When you discipline your child, how severe should you be. First of all, determine if you are primarily disciplining to satisfy your anger, thirst for revenge (or tears), or is your motivation for the benefit of the child. If it is not solely for the benefit of the child do not do it. It is fine to tell the child, "Daddy is going to punish you, but not for a little bit", and give yourself a chance to cool down. Ideally both the discipline and the severity of the discipline should not be unexpected, capricious, or mysterious from the child's point of view. What kind of mood you are in that day should have no effect whatsoever on the severity of discipline of the child.

While the Bible says that physical punishment is fine for a child (Prov 13:24; 2215: 23:13; 29:15), it should not cause harm to the child. Boxing a child's ears, frequent wrapping a child's knuckles with a ruler, punching a child with a fist is abuse, not godly discipline. Also with older children, there are many options in addition to physical punishment. There are consequences of loss of privileges, having to pay money, and sometimes parents choose to let the child learn through logical, natural consequences take their course, if the consequences are not too severe.

Criticism of Government

Respect those in authority over us. It is fine to criticize the actions of leaders, and try to vote them out of office; but one should not show disrespect to them or their families. Romans 13:7 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 say we are to honor our government leaders. Paul and Peter wrote this during the time of the Roman Emperors, when this was a very challenging thing to do.

Kindness Sometimes Goes Against Weak Sentimentality

Many people do not like to hear negative things. For example, in the following situation what should I have done? I was outside and my next door neighbor, whom I did not know very well and who was from another country, was putting ant poison on the ant mounds. He was putting his bare hand in the toxic poison and spreading it. After we chatted a bit, what should I have done?

I have a chemical background, and I know that insecticide can be absorbed through the skin. It can cause not only cancer but frequent exposure can cause neurological and other serious health problems. Would the kindest thing have been to keep the conversation pleasant, or would it have been better to start shouting at him? I think shouting at him would have been better for him than keeping silent, but I think the best way was what I did: tactfully, in a friendly way warn him of the dangers of what he was doing.

In a similar way, Jesus has told us that He is the only way to God (John 14:6). If someone is involved in a toxic religion, do we let them pass by to spiritual death, or do we warn them. The Bible shows us that we should warn them. Like my neighbor though, they might not see the reason for the warning. Thus it is good to give them reasons why their way is a false path to heaven, and the urgency of changing and following the true way.

Paul and Kindness

"As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8

Paul was kind and gentle, and his love and kindness was a motivation to preach to others, refute others, and even debate with others. Paul mentioned rebuke, correction, and encouragement in 2 Timothy 4:2 Now most people like to encourage, but correction and rebuke are just as important, and there is a difference between them. Correction is telling a person who unknowingly is on the wrong path that their path is wrong and what the right path is. Rebuke is for someone who is on the wrong path, and deep down they can know it but do not want to change. It needs to be stronger than correction.

Under what circumstances would you give correction, and under what circumstances would you give rebuke. If your answer to both is never, even when the person will greatly suffer without them, then I question if you are really kind.

Kindness and Us

Of all of the virtues Christians should cultivate, kindness ranks right up with the other fruit of the spirit, and after faith, hope, and love. Being always nice, and never wanting to rock the boat can be confused with kindness, but kindness often takes more courage than that. Kindness includes outwardly expressing love and concern for others, and kind acts include both pleasant things and warnings. Do not be inconsistent and do unkind things too.

A final warning: the world is concerned with how you excel at school, sports, money, and your career. The world can unfairly judge you according to your looks, house, car, and bank account. However, your character and treasures in heaven your should be your focus. God most concerned with how you excel in walking with Him, loving Him and loving others. As you turn away from the priorities of the world, and seek to excel in following God, excel in kindness too.

Consider Both the Kindness and Sternness of God

Kindness is not just about giving, it is also about being willing to accept kindness directed to you. Self pride and vanity can keep people from accepting the kindness of others, and it can keep people from accepting the kindness of God. All of us have sinned, and none of us deserve to go to heaven. All of us have a selfish, sinful nature; some may deny that they are evil but this is true. We are not only undeserving of going to heaven, we also are unfit to enter heaven.

God has no obligation to have let anyone into Heaven. I like to think I have control over my house; I do not want bugs, rapid dogs, or violent people to come in, and I have the right to keep them out. How much more does God have the right to keep out of Heaven that which is imperfect, and would soil the perfect goodness that is in heaven.

Even though God had no obligation to save anyone, God graciously chose to make a way, His way, for people to go to Heaven, sinful and dirty though we are. That way is Jesus Christ. God forgave our sins, nailing them to the cross of Jesus, who paid for them. God promises to sanctify us, to clean us up to be sinlessly perfect when we die, that we may live with God in love forever.

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by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.