What is biblical kindness? It is not a syrupy and saccharine sweetness or niceness toward all people. Having a cheery and bubbly personality is not biblical kindness. It is not simply seeking someone’s approval (Gal. 1:10); in fact, at times it may be like a blow to the head (Ps. 141:5). The word for “kindness” in the New Testament carries the connotation of “usefulness.” Real kindness is providing something beneficial or endeavoring to do real good for someone.
When we put on patience and kindness like this, it is easier to witness to the truth and the transformative work of Christ. If we want to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), we would do well to remember that the first two words Paul uses to define love in 1 Corinthians 13 are “patient and kind” (v. 4). We should “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Paul also instructs Timothy that
the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth. (2 Tim. 2:24–25)
In fact, when we remember that we were led into our repentance by the kindness of God (Rom. 2:4), it should spur us on to demonstrate that same patience and kindness.
Kindness and Patience Today
This attitude has been needed by the church in all ages, but perhaps it is particularly necessary today. We live in an age marked by meanness. We participate in voyeuristic meanness by watching “judges” mercilessly rip into performers on televised talent competitions. We bemoan the trolls of social media—until they target someone with whom we disagree. We share viral videos and memes that belittle or demean others. If any of this attitude of meanness resonates with you, take this as an opportunity to repent. For a number of reasons, it seems that patience and kindness, even as a common grace, are in short supply. This gives us all the more reason to practice patience and kindness as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
The book of Proverbs tells us that if we pursue kindness, we will find life (Prov. 21:21). What if our day-to-day actions were characterized by patience and kindness? What if we asked, “How are you?” and meant it? What if we tipped our servers generously? What if we didn’t drive as if we were angry at the world? What if we actually loved our neighbors? It seems like that could stand out to a watching world. It seems like people might notice that. But even that wouldn’t be enough.
Just as the wetsuit did not make me a surfer, our patience and kindness will not on their own win people to Christ. God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5). Salvation is an expression of God’s perfect loving kindness. We will never love well enough. Our patience and kindness are good but insufficient. People must still hear the gospel preached. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).