Christian kindness is not ordinary kindness, it’s loving kindness. The incarnation is God’s absolute freedom to be for us, and in our behalf. His love is manifesting the entire life and career of Christ, and when we speak of the kindness that is the fruit of the Spirit, we are actually talking bout the kindness that God has shown us in the life and work of Christ. The Spirit works that kindness in and through us, the loving-kindness that redeems and reconciles the world. Our kindness when it is grasped by the Spirit of Christ is brought into the work of God’s reconciliation of the world.
The fruit of the Spirit are the outpouring of God’s goodness in and through us, they are little perfections that are anticipations of eternal glory. They are gifts to us as a community so that we can show the world the nature of the kingdom we believe in. When we make room for them we are anticipating the work of the kingdom and letting that kingdom embody us. Practicing kindness is another way that we participate here and now in the heaven that God has called us to.
Christ Himself is the vine, and the kindness we see in Him is one that bears compassionately with others, and calls the world to repentance in accordance with the coming kingdom. The source of all our action and our hope, our kindness, benevolence and almsgiving is none other than Christ Himself. We see and recognize that to be disciples, we must indeed do those things which we have been commanded.
When we trust God in the patience of knowing the end of the story, that patience will produce in us the kindness to bear with all things, because we know what end we wait for, and we can answer graciously at every turn, in word and deed. Kindness happens when we make room for it, when we learn in patience that God has made room even for the little children. The patience we learn by being friends who trust in God will lead us to loving-kindness, to the kindness rooted in the love of God for the world.
Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
Kindness and virtue are eschatologically oriented. Christian kindness is not an action that has no meaning and derives from being a good person. It has to be in our minds shaped in the fires of patience and the gracious response that establishes a small form of reconciliation between God and the world.
Kindness is not just something we do because it’s a nice thing to do or the right thing to do. We as Christians do not seek virtue because it makes us good people. Christians seek virtues because they are heavenly manifestations of the kingdom we claim to believe in. Grace empowers them to lead us and others into the experience of the kingdom here and now.
Polycarp argued that anyone occupied in these three things: growing in the faith, accompanied by hope, and led by love, has fulfilled the commandment of righteousness (ch. 3:2-3). Drawing from the Scriptures he would also say: “Whenever you are able to do a kindness, do not put it off’ (Prov.3:28), because `almsgiving frees from death’ [Tobit 4:10ff]” (ch. 10:2).
To participate in these good works is to liberate ourselves from the throes of death, but just as importantly to liberate in a small way our immediate world from the throes of death by letting the kingdom manifest in our lives and the lives of those around us. Kindness is not just a happy thing to do, it’s a rebellion against the powers of death.
It is for freedom’s sake that God has set us free, but that freedom, is not the freedom from everything, it is the freedom to be truly for anything. Sin had held us bound to death and the chaos and destruction that in brings. The experience of God deepens our appreciation for all things, and allows us to embody life to and for them, in their behalf.
“When the things of earth grow strangely dim,” is when I have failed to understand that the Creator God desires right stewardship of His creation in loving-kindness. The love in this loving-kindness is none other than the self-emptying, crucified, glorified, redemptive, forgiving work of God Himself.
To be free as a Christian means the freedom to be truly for my neighbor. To be able to provide true friendship, true love, true patience, true kindness. The experience of God deepens my creaturely ability to be for the other, because I have recognized an all consuming otherness that has used absolute freedom to act in my behalf also.