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Welcome back to Part 2 of our Gracious Life Series. Please check out our last episode if you didn’t hear it yet, and please like and share this episode with your fellow followers of Christ so they too can learn to live a more gracious, Christ-honoring life.
And be sure to follow The Celebration of God on Facebook and Instagram so you can receive celebration prompts throughout the day that are designed to redirect your mind to that which matters most — our great God!
Also check out CelebrationOfGod.com to access our free episode notes, transcript, and grace resources.
And — with that — let’s jump into today’s show.
Last time we looked at the absolutely foundational and completely necessary character trait of humility. Without humility, you will never be gracious as God is gracious because you will not only think you know better than God how to treat people (which is arrogant), but when you interact with them, it won’t be pursuing their best interest, it will be pursuing your own (that’s prideful).
So, I’m going to continue to revisit the previous lessons we’ve learned because they all build on each other and support each other. We can’t listen to a podcast episode, nod in agreement, but never actually pursue growth in that area.
None of these character traits will work on their own because that’s like imagining that any one part of your body could work on its own without all the other parts. That’s crazy, and the same is true for our spiritual lives. You don’t get to major on just one of the Fruits of the Spirit. God expects for them all to be active and growing in your life.
So, please, my friend, be humble. Grow in your humility. Don’t think highly of yourself, don’t think lowly of yourself, just don’t think about yourself. There are far more important things to be thinking about — namely God and those whom He puts into our lives — and another one of those important focuses is our topic today.
In order to live a gracious life, you must be kind.
Now, the minute I say that, most of the people hearing my voice today are probably picturing all the wrong things. They’re looking at their lives, they’re measuring themselves against their conception of what kindness is, and they’re convinced they’re kind people.
However, if you’ve listened to this show for any length of time, then you’ve heard me talk about the absolute necessity of defining words the way God defines words. When you embrace the world’s understanding of love, you actually substitute biblical love for biblical hatred. You turn the word on its head and completely pervert it, and the idea of kindness is also abused quite frequently.
What’s interesting is that the people who often have the worst understanding of what it means to be kind are professing Christians.
But before we start defining the term biblically, let’s begin with the understanding that . . .
1. Kindness is Required to Live Graciously.
Grace is giving people that which they do not deserve. Just like we don’t deserve God’s provision, love, care, and salvation, so too the people in our lives don’t deserve kindness. But that’s exactly why we give it to them, because we’re gracious as God is gracious.
When Jesus was eating at Simon’s house, we read in Luke 7:40 that Jesus posited a question to Simon. He said, “‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he replied, ‘Say it, Teacher.’ 41 ‘A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?’ 43 Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’”
Jesus was trying to teach Simon that a person who has graciously received forgiveness is going to love the person who graciously forgave them. Hence, pointing out that when we arrogantly fail to recognize the forgiveness we’ve received, it will be evidenced by a lack of love.
Now, that lesson had to do with the person who had received forgiveness and the person who had shown the forgiveness. But hold on to this idea and consider one of Jesus’ other parables.
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus gives a discourse on forgiveness. In so doing He told a parable about a servant who had been forgiven over 15 years worth of wages. But that same servant immediately found another servant who owed him about 3 and a half months worth of wages, and he physically threatened the man — Jesus said that he “seized him and began to choke him” — but even though the man pleaded for patience, the recently forgiven man refused to relent and had him thrown into debtor’s prison.
Well, when the master who had forgive the original debtor his 15 years worth of wages found out what had happened, we read “Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.”
A recipient of grace should not only love the one who showed him grace, he should also show grace to others.
“Yeah, but, Aaron, in that passage Jesus didn’t say to show others ‘grace,’ He talked about showing other’s mercy.” That’s right, but as we already learned last season, mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin. That cannot exist without the other.
Mercy is not giving people what they deserve, and grace is giving them what they don’t deserve. Mercy would have been for the forgiven slave to not throw the other slave into prison, and grace would have been to forgive them man just as he had been forgiven.
Therefore, if you are not a kind individual, you are not a gracious individual. If you’re not a gracious individual, you’re not a Christ-honoring individual.
But let’s get back to our initial question. What is kindness?
2. Kindness is an Action Not a Demeanor.
Believe it or not, Merriam-Webster defines pretty well what it means to be kind. They offer two main definitions.
The first is “of a sympathetic or helpful nature, of a forbearing nature, and arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance.”
And the second definition is “to give pleasure or relief.”
Please notice that these definitions are all about what is being done, not how it’s being done. According to these definitions, a kind act is one that is sympathetic, helpful, and forbearing.
Sympathy is the ability to feel or experience what another is feeling or experiencing.
Forbearance is similar to patience, long-suffering, and self-control. It refers to exercising effort to hold one’s self back — in this case for the betterment of another.
And helpfulness refers simply to serving or assisting.
Therefore, a kind person is someone who serves another by putting aside their own desires and aligning with the other’s needs.
Not too bad, Merry-Web.
However, it seems the church is filled with people who define kindness by two very different criteria.
In their eyes, kindness looks a certain way and sounds a certain way. It’s identified by smiles and nice words and uplifting tones of voice. Unfortunately, this poor definition reduces kindness to nothing more than superficial observations.
And it’s very closely tied to the other misunderstanding of kindness that basically says that any way you treat me that I like is kind, and any way you treat me that I don’t like is unkind.
And since we’d all prefer to be smiled at and hear encouraging words from syrupy voices, that becomes our expectation for kindness.
The biggest issue with these faulty definitions is that there is nothing inherently kind about doing what someone wants you to do or doing something with a smile! A person can smile and say nice things with big eyes and soft words and be sinning in the process! Those superficial things are often used to veil manipulation or encourage people to do things that don’t please the Lord.
But sometimes the most loving thing I need is to be reproved, corrected, rebuked, admonished, and warned. And sometimes those confrontations require hard words, a lack of verbal syrup, and even difficult consequences.
This is why Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Kisses aren’t inherently kind, and wounds can often be healing.
Proverbs 20:30 tells us, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts.”
Psalm 141:5 says, “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it.”
And Ecclesiastes 7:5 reads, “It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man Than for one to listen to the song of fools."
Therefore, we must scrub from our minds that the kindness we see in Scripture is all sweetness, smiles, feel-good words, and fluffy demeanors. Yes, sometimes that may be the kindest thing we can do, but that’s not the sole definition of kindness.
Kindness is what we do, but more importantly, why we do it. Kindness is everything and anything that’s in a person’s best interest. Sometimes kindness will be giving a warm meal to a person who has none, but sometimes the kindest thing you can do will be to discipline your child. Kindness includes cheering your friend on as she participates in her city softball league, but kindness is also confronting her about her unrepentant sin. Sometimes kindness is giving, and sometimes it’s taking away.
The question that has to be answered is this: “What is in God’s best interest for this person?” And then we need to do that thing for God’s glory and their good . . . whether they like it or not.
And so, therefore, we need to understand that . . .
3. True Kindness is Defined by God.
And for the rest of today’s show we’re going to do what we did last time by looking at a number of passages from the Scripture that teach us about or illustrate kindness. And we’re going to look at specific Greek words and how they’re used through the New Testament.
The first word I want to consider today is extremely important. It’s used over 100 times in the New Testament, and three of those times it’s translated “kind,” “kindly,” and “kindness.” For example, in Titus 2:5 young women are taught to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, and submissive.
But if we understand “kind” the wrong way, we will miss the depth and the beauty of this word.
In Matthew 20:15, Jesus told the parable of the vineyard where the owner of the vineyard hired various people throughout the day to work for him, but at the end of the day he paid everyone the same amount regardless of how many hours they had worked. When the ones who had worked longer complained about the fact that those who had done comparatively little work had been paid the same amount they had, the master replied, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?”
The word translated “generous” is the same word. And I think that’s a great English word to use here. And I also think we would all agree that being generous is a kind thing to do.
But most of the time this word is used through the New Testament, it’s translated very differently. In fact, this word is most often translated as “good.” But what’s important to understand about this Greek word is that it describes that which is useful and beneficial.
As we observed earlier, kindness is — above all things — beneficial, but not merely subjectively beneficial; it’s completely and totally useful within the scope of God’s plans.
So, let’s consider a number of passages where this word for kindness is translated good.
Let’s start with Matthew 7:11. ”If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Matthew 7:17-18 reads, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.”
And Matthew 12:34-35 teaches, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 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.”
These passages clearly demonstrate the fact that God gets to decide what is kind and what is unkind. He will be the ultimate definer. So, with that, we must consider Matthew 5:45. “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
In this passage, the Lord clearly pronounces that goodness is righteousness. And I will argue that kindness is always righteous. There is no supposed act that can ever be considered truly kind that does not conform to God’s expectations for our righteousness.
Are you a righteous person in your relationships? If you are someone who unrepentedly sins against those in your life, you are not kind. You are sinning against those people by committing wicked acts against them (impatience, lust, arrogance, selfishness, etc), but you are also sinning against them by omitting the righteousness God wants you to show them.
On the other hand, a person who righteously interacts with others is being kind, and therefore gracious.
Now, with that necessary foundation laid, let’s look at another Greek word that’s used 10 times in the Scriptures and is translated “good” one of those times and “kindness” the other 9 times.
The one time it’s translated “good” is in Romans 3:12 — “All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”
This verse is important to our study because it shows both sides of the coin. Kindness is good, but the opposite of kindness is useless — again substantiating the idea that kindness is useful; it’s beneficial.
If I asked everyone with whom you interact in a week whether or not you are a useful person, what would they say? Are you beneficial to your coworkers, friends, family, and church? A useful person is a gracious person.
But you may rightly ask — what is true usefulness? So, we need to get more specific. We need some practical takeaways.
Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
That which leads a person to repentance is kindness. There is nothing more kind that a person can do than to help another be reconciled to their Creator.
We’ve already studied the fact that God’s most gracious act was making a way for His enemies to become His children. When we participate in that ministry, we are being the kindest we can be. We are pouring the most beautiful grace into another’s life.
Romans 11:22 paints a similar picture: “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”
In this passage, Paul is both encouraging and challenging the Romans in the fact that they have been grafted in to the people of God. And yet he is also warning them because he used the children of Israel to illustrate that just because a person is a child of God by name doesn’t mean they actually have a relationship with Him. He uses the picture of a vine that has some branches cut off and others grafted in. The branches that were cut off were unbelieving Jews, but the grafted in branches were believing Gentiles.
Now, Paul is not teaching that you can truly be born again, and yet fear that you may be cut off from God. No, he is teaching here what is consistently taught throughout Scripture — it doesn’t matter how you identify, your life will reveal the truth of your beliefs. Those who continue in the kindness of God can do so for no other reason than they are God’s eternal children. To not continue in His kindness won’t be a change in your position before God, but a revealer of the fact that you never truly knew His kindness.
But the main takeaway I want us to see is that — once again — God’s kindness is illustrated in providing a way for us to have a relationship with Him through salvation.
Ephesians 2:4-7 continues this theme, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
And Titus 3:4-7 puts it this way: "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Kindness is Gospel-saturated.
My friends, I believe the proof that kindness (and therefore grace) is missing from our lives is primarily revealed in the fact that the Gospel has little to know impact on our relationships.
When was the last time you introduced an unbeliever to the glories of God’s forgiveness? When was the last time you lovingly confronted a sinning brother or sister with the truth they need to be reconciled to God and man? There is nothing more kind that we can ever do!
What I just described is the sole purpose of God leaving us on this earth after we ourselves are born again. We are to be salt and light. Whether the person in front of us is an unbeliever or a child of God, we are to be drawing them closer to Him. And we should be willing to evangelize and disciple no matter how difficult it may be.
I won’t read all of II Corinthians 6:1-10, but I’ll sum it up by saying that it’s comprised of a list of the many things Paul suffered as he ministered to the Gentiles. I believe that each item on that list was a demonstration of Paul’s kindness, but I want to put a tighter focus on the fact that kindness is serving.
Starting in verse 4 we read, ”But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God” — and how did he serve God and others? — “in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, 6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, 8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; 9 as unknown yet well known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.”
Obviously, our service should start by serving people with the Gospel — whether that be introducing them to Justification or encouraging them in their Sanctification.
But this service extends to every other area of life as well.
On my other podcast, Truth.Love.Parent., I have often made the observation that most men will say that they’d take a bullet for their wives, but how many of them are willing to take a dirty dish or a smelly diaper for their wives?
How can we claim to serve people with the most important grace in the universe when we repeatedly refuse to serve them in the little ways?
And what are some of those “little ways?” Galatians 5:22-23 reveals the overlapping nature of a righteous, beneficial life, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Kindness is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. The Fruit of the Spirit is a wonderful description of what it is to live a Gracious Life.
And then we have Colossians 3:10-14 which gets very specific concerning what it is to be kind: “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
Kindness is speaking truth, being unified in Christ, holiness, compassionate, humble, gentle, patient, long-suffering, forgiving, and loving.
Moving right along, we find another conjugation of the Greek word we just sampled.
In Luke 6:35-36 we read, “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. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Kindness is not conditional. Is someone being unkind to you? You still need to be kind to them. Does that person not appreciate your kindness? It doesn’t matter. You still must be kind to them.
And what does that kindness look like?
Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
And I Peter 2:1-3 teaches, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
Kindness is not bitter, wrathful, angry, clamorous, slanderous, malicious, hypocritical, and envious. Instead, it’s good, tender-hearted, and forgiving just like we learn in the pure milk of God’s Word.
If we have genuinely tasted the kindness of the Lord in Justification, we will live accordingly as we grow in our sanctification.
Now, I have just two more short passages to consider, and we will be done.
In I Corinthians 13:4 we learn that “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.”
The word translated “kind” is a hapax legomena. That means that this is the only time in the Bible where this word is used. The word is grammatically tied to the past two words at which we’ve looked, but the lesson we need to learn from this passage is a simple one indeed.
But allow me to read II Peter 1:5-7 before summarizing it. “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
The word translated “brotherly-kindness” is the word philadelphia. Most of you are familiar with the fact that this word is tied to the Greek word phileo which is considered a brotherly love and the reason that the city of Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love.
So, what’s the point?
Kindness is love. You will never be biblically loving and be unkind, but you will also never be kind if you are not being biblically loving.
And why did I have to specify “biblically” loving? Because, once again, if we take our cues from the world, we will think that we’re being loving and kind when we don’t confront people in their sin, when we accept them for who they are, and when we do things that look nice on the outside simply to accomplish our own desires.
Let me give you a simple example. Living in the South has been an eye-opening experience — especially when it comes to different forms of cultural kindness. Down here it’s considered appropriate and necessary to lie if telling the truth might hurt someone’s feelings. And whether that lie is saying you like someone’s haircut when it actually makes them look ridiculous, or it’s calling them your friend when you can’t stand them, it’s considered kind.
But it’s not kind. It’s a lie. And — honestly — that superficial “kindness” is really self-serving. They don’t want to have to deal with the relational fallout of being honest. They don’t want to make things uncomfortable. That’s why in many southern churches, there is very little corporate discipleship and genuine life-on-life ministry. If you can’t be honest with someone about their sin, you can only ever smile and play nice on a superficial level.
But true kindness wounds when it’s the most loving thing to do.
In conclusion, God commands us to be gracious, but we will never be gracious if we’re not kind.
And kindness is actions not a demeanor. And since kindness is defined by God in His Word, we have to accept that it is righteous, useful, evangelistical, discipling, Gospel-saturated, and serving.
And — more specifically — it’s loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, honest, Christ-honoring, holy, compassionate, humble, long-suffering, good, tender-hearted, and forgiving.
It’s also completely unconditional.
That is what it is to be kind, and that is what it is to be gracious.
If you have any specific questions about how to put on these character traits in your own life and grow in kindness, please reach out to us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
And definitely share this series with your fellow disciples so that they to can live a Gracious Life.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing what is means to be compassionate.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
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AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.