Today's opening pitch... The fruits of the Spirit.
Yes, most of us can recite them from memory or have the general jist at least; however, one fruit has defiantly distinguished itself in my mind, given a) its history of being sharply undermined and b) possessing an importance seldom (and partially) communicated.
So without much further ado.
A deep fruit we'd rather keep superficial and somewhat cursory. First off, we tend to give gravity to kindness as virtue, as compared to fruit or gift. Typically we'd rather associate kindness to hospitality and chivalry, while imprudently shaking kindness free of its deserving value.
Let's bring out our Scriptural contestants.
I Corinthians 13:4-5 - "Love suffers long (is patient) and is kind...love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek it own, is not provoked, thinks no evil..." (NKJV)
Paul's love talk introduction to the Corinthians here seeks to designate love as the main entrèe to Christ-centered living within God's presence. And the fruits' role, as a whole(1), exist primarily to manifest this divine, covenant-bound love within such Christian living (or koinonia). We can see through a popular Paul passage, the close relationship between love and kindness. Though the tie is manageable to understand, it can be far more difficult in terms of application in most faith circles.
Peter emphasized the kindness-love affiliation in II Peter 1:7, 9 - "...add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly KINDness, and to brotherly KINDness love...for he who lacks these things is short-sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was clansed from his old sins." (NKJV)
Ahhh, how beautiful! (Air kiss (2)) Our two dominant New Testament voices (3) early in their respective letters capitalizing on the chance to express the entwined link between kindness and love.
Again, if we merely slap the friendship label on kindness, we have hindered a key relational definition. If we love, we are demonstrating kindness. If we portray kindness, love should be evident, not absent. But tragically, kindness is often belittled to mere facade, essentially removing depth from the fruit's bloom. Goodbye virtuous command. Enter hapless shallowness.
The combination of personal experience and time has shed light on a weakness prevalent in my generation: though many have acquired kindness, it has remained conditional. As a result, the love that follows suit is conditional at best.
How unfortunate it is that kindness is something we save for those we simply 'click' with best. How sad it is we rather trade genuine kindness for satisfactory blindness, where the chief character - the loveless artist - avoids mental pursuits of how a simple shun can greatly affect another's heart.
Perhaps the 'kindness fail' isn't intentional, but it still happens. And if the church is going to wake up and smell the coffee, I say we absolutely cannot justify iniquity with the "unintentional' precursor.
Diving into my final passage on the matter, I call Jeremiah 2:2:
"...Thus says the Lord: I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land now sown." (NKJV)
What does the Word say about kindness?
It is active. It pursues. It is courageous. It is fearless. And it's imperative to exercise and cultivate at a young age.
Also, it's worthy to note that the Hebrew definition points towards loyalty and faithfulness (a.k.a. Love's enduring backbone).
So as a final charge, I encourage you to not sleep on kindness. Robe it on when you love. And remember its depth in relation to attitude, especially when out of comfort zones. If we are called to love well, shatter the mold and trade blindness for kindness.
(1) - Yay, for unplanned rhyme schemes! :D
(2) - Not sure how to appropriately describe this, but Steve Wilson did this often in his classes for all you CPA alum...the open-hand kiss display when he harped on anything he considered to be "beautiful"...
(3) - Taking John out of the mix, I refer to Paul and Peter