There is a kindness campaign taking over my local retail store. Everywhere I go, I see merchandise reminding me to be kind to others. Cute sayings are written on bags, coffee mugs, shirts, you name it:
“Kindness is free, sprinkle that stuff everywhere.”
“Kind people are my kinda people.”
“Be a kind human.”
It’s a modern-day commandment: if you can be anything, be kind. There’s no denying that our world is in desperate need of it; a smile and gentle word can go a long way. I am a huge fan of kindness, but in truth, I don’t see a lot of it being sprinkled around. There’s a big difference between telling people to be kind and actually doing it.
The messages our culture puts out seem easy and good enough, but they often leave us empty and confused.
Of course, there’s nothing very confusing or controversial about kindness. The real dilemma comes when we get bombarded with the other message our world sends out: the message of self. Be kind to others, but put yourself and your needs first. This poses somewhat of a dilemma.
I wake up every morning and scroll through beautifully crafted social media posts telling me to chase this elusive dream. The people out there seem to be doing it flawlessly and without guilt. When I switch over to read the news cycle, the proof is there: putting self first has tragic consequences. Our priorities are out of whack, and these conflicting messages keep us forever tossed about in a vicious cycle. When feeling good about ourselves is the ultimate goal, kindness is one of the first things we must sacrifice to make that a reality.
As Christians, we often think we should be able to rise above it all and just do what the coffee mug says, right? In the book of Romans, Paul reminds us that we all struggle in this area:
“For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. It is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me nothing good dwells” (Rom. 7:15-16 NKJV).
We battle with our flesh and with sin. Kindness is not our default setting. My Sunday school teacher used to leave us with the rather silly instruction to go out and “be nice and kind and good.” It always made me feel helpless because I was missing a huge truth: kindness is a fruit!
Galatians 5 tells us that kindness along with some other often overlooked goodies like patience, self-control, and faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit. These qualities don’t exist independently of the Holy Spirit, which is why our world struggles so much with putting the kindness campaign into practice. How do we combat a culture of selfishness? Not by forcing ourselves to be kind but by first chasing after something infinitely better: holiness. “Be holy as I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15).
Jesus establishes us and justifies us, and from that great source flows every good thing. Fruit is the natural result of our abiding in Him. It’s a life that doesn’t have to fake it to be kind, a life that naturally puts others first, and a life that is anchored to something other than the ambition to be noticed.
So go out and be kind… spread it around… buy the t-shirt… but campaign for holiness. Make that the starting point. Desire to be holy above all else and watch the fruit that you once struggled to have grow like crazy!
Featured Image by Eric Muhr