This is the first of a series of word studies on the fruit of the Spirit with the first fruit: Kindness.
A “word study” means we are looking up and discovering the true definition and context of a specific word in the Bible. Today, I will be studying “kindness” (chrēstotēs/χρηστός).
The idea for this series was born out of an experience that I had with a stranger while sitting at a bar one night at one of my favorite restaurants in Austin, TX. I wanted to go out for a nice appetizer while I tried to make some progress on a book that I was desperately trying to finish reading. There weren’t any available tables, so the bar it was. I didn’t mind, I kind of like sitting at the bar, anyway. So there I was reading ‘Map Of The Soul’ and sipping a glass of Chardonnay when the man next to me turned and asked me what I was reading. I showed him the book and told him that it’s a study on the psychological teachings of Carl Jung. He takes a picture of the book and we spin into a conversation about the meaning and the quest for contentment in life. Casual.
He was an interesting man. Dark complexion, shaven head, black eyeliner and wooden beads strung around his neck. I noticed a scar on his head which told me that he must have a story or two to tell, and perhaps may have even earned a depth of personality to have endured such a scar. As we spoke, I felt love and kindness oozing out of me, and as it did, I watched this man open up like a flower in sunlight. I don’t know exactly what caused our conversation to go the way it did, maybe it was God. In fact, I had a feeling that night that I was meant to meet someone. But the miracle was that he, too, functioned from a place of loving-kindness and it was one of those moments, a scarce moment in time, when one soul truly encounters another. And it was all born out of kindness.
We finished talking and I turned to my bread and cheese and a thought struck me: “kindness, always”. Just as all fruits of the spirit are for “always”.
So I open the notes in my phone and type:
“Blog series. Kindness-always. And use all of the fruits of the spirit as separate subjects”
So here we are. Kindness. The Strongs Greek Dictionary defines the Greek word for kindness found in Galatians 5:22 as benignity (kindness or tolerance towards others), moral goodness, and integrity.
This word for kindness, chrēstotēs, appears 8 times in the NT and multiple times in the Psalms, mainly used as a word to describe an attribute of God and His relationship towards man. Another interesting detail is that this word is also translated as “good”, as in God’s goodness toward man, and his search to find goodness within man. God is searching to find His likeness within man.
When the word is used in relation to man in the NT, it’s mainly being used in a commendatory sense:
“Consider the kindness… of God.” Romans 11:22
“…clothe yourself in… kindness” Col 3:12
“Commend ourselves in… kindness” 2 Cor 6:6
The Word is telling man what to do with this attribute. Consider the kindness of God, clothe ourselves in kindness, and have pride in our kindness.
The Spirit v. The Flesh
The famous “fruits of the Spirit” verse of Galatians 5:22 is being utilized by Paul to depict a greater illustration of the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh is the physical body and the animal “cravings” found within human nature. The Spirit is literally referring to God, Himself. The call to bear the fruit of the Spirit is a call to recognize the nature of God within ourselves. It is a call to pick up our likeness in God and go beyond what our flesh (our physical bodies and animal nature) desires for us.
Our bodies are made up of desires for survival, for pleasure, and many other things, but our bodies also hold our hurts and emotional pain. I would go as far as to say that the call to kindness is a call to heal the parts of us that would normally respond out of a physical need or desire to self-protect in order to tap into the likeness of God and exude His nature, instead of perpetuating the “flesh” nature.
Kindness is a call to transformation. To slow down, look past our immediate reaction, and let integrity, tolerance and “good”ness flow. A notion that the dictionary would also consider to be synonymous with ‘selfless devotion.
Step 1 to bearing fruit: Abiding
In John 15, Jesus is using an illustration of a vine and it’s branches in order to describe the severity of our need to be in Him. That unless we are like the branches of a vine, connected to the source, we will fall to the earth, wither and become nothing more than kindling for a fire. We can only live, thrive and bear fruit if we abide in the vine; in the Father.
So what does it mean to abide in God? John 15 gives us a few examples.
The first one is to meditate on His word, “if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you”. Another way is by keeping the commandments, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Another way to abide in God is to remain in His love, “Abide in my love.”
Step 2 to bearing fruit: Obedience
Something that Jesus teaches fairly regularly, is obedience. Though we have the covering of the grace and mercy of God, we are still given teaching and commandments from Christ, Himself. It seems a lot of times that we, the 21st Century Church, like to leave the Commandments in the past, saying, ‘that was the Old Testament covenant, but we live in the New Testament covenant.’
But the truth is that the New Testament didn’t wipe away the original intent of holiness and the desire of God for His people to emanate the truth of being created in the image and likeness of Himself. That still requires obedience. There are a few differences between the Old and the New Covenant, which I’ll point out here in a moment. However, using the word ‘old’ and ‘new’ tends to imply that the former is over with and the latter is the only one in effect; but that’s not true.
There are two main differences, however, that I’ll quickly review here. One, is that the Old Covenant was reserved for the Jewish nation only. Nobody outside of that nationality was able to partake in the promises of God. The second, is that the New Covenant is marked by salvation through grace, instead of works.
It almost feels like God reversed the process of becoming more like God through Jesus. In the Old Testament, the people had a really hard time finding God within their consciences to rule them from the inside out, so God gave them the playbook on how to rule from the outside-in. However, it was always God’s intention for us to know who we are in Him, and rule from the inside out. Insert: grace. Grace wipes away the idea of salvation from works and returns one’s heart to being ruled by love and the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. Abide in His love and in His words, and you will bear His fruit!
Time to bloom
So what are our takeaways here?
Kindness is an attribute of God that is meant to emanate from the Christian. The pathway to emanating the nature of God that has been placed in us is to follow His Word and abide in His love. Our life must be in Him and we must not depart from His love and His commandments.
God is looking for His likeness on this Earth. But we won’t simply fall, accidentally, into His likeness. We have to re-learn, heal, see past our own selves, and be devoted to becoming more like Him. In order to show kindness, always.
The fruit of fruit is more fruit. More seeds to sow and more opportunities for Earth to look more like heaven. To express kindness is to open a window of healing, grace, and selflessness. To experience the miracle of a soul being seen and watching a stranger open up and smile like a flower in sunlight.