November 15, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 350: Giver of Kindness

Giver of Kindness

"May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this." (2 Samuel 2:6 NIV)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22,23 NIV)

Like all the best ideas, kindness was God's idea first

Kindness shows up early in the Old Testament, in Genesis, and continues through most of the New Testament. And when it does, we see again the gorgeous, instructive synchronization of God's Word, because both under the old covenant and under the new, kindness is often linked to other character traits we're supposed to be putting on and clothing ourselves in as God's image-bearers.

In the Old Testament, kindness is frequently linked to faithfulness, which reflects the Hebrew word our English versions translate as kindness: "hesed." Hesed speaks of faithful love. This is not merely the kindness of doing something nice for a stranger or being friendly to a casual acquaintance; this is long-term commitment in relationship. Which leads us so beautifully to the trait kindness is often connected to in the New Testament: patience.

In the description of how followers of Christ should represent Him (2 Corinthians 6:6): there are kindness and patience.

On the list of characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22): there are kindness and patience.

In the "wardrobe" God's beloved are supposed to put on (Colossians 3:12): there are kindness and patience.

Of course, with our intentional God, the intertwining of faithfulness, patience, and kindness is no fluke.

We make a commitment to someone in relationship: a friend, a spouse, a brother or sister in Christ. We offer them our faithfulness...our promise that our love for them is not going to come and go with circumstances or our moods. This might be easy at first (think, "honeymoon phase"), but before very long, we're going to come to a place where we feel justified in lashing out or getting even in ways that seem (and maybe are) entirely our right. Which is where the restraining power of patience kicks in, and we hold back that which we would very much like to dump out.

Yet, we do not stop there. After faithfulness drives us on and patience puts on our brakes, kindness emerges as the best course. But we need some direction, because kindness is not just about being nice. Kindness offers itself up in a way that makes someone's life better.

Direction comes from God, who does not ask us to take a course He Himself has not marked out first. In faithful love, He wants relationship with us. In patience, He waits to mete out the judgement we deserve. And then, to this wanting and waiting, He adds the Way.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the  heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:4-7,10).

"Good works...prepared in advance for us to do."

Sounds a lot like kindness to me.

Good idea, God...good idea.

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year-old that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!