The essential flavoring
2 Corinthians 6
"In purity, understanding, patience and kindness ..." (v.6)
Nothing else we do can atone for a lack of kindness. Many people excuse themselves for a lack of kindness by pointing to the things they do for someone -- "I am working my fingers to the bone for him." Yes, but the fleshless fingers will not atone for unkind words and attitudes.
Even ministers who work hard but lack this essential kindness are no exception. Paul lists well over twenty-five things in the passage before us that are marks of a true servant of God, and notice how he puts "kindness" right in the middle of them. At the center of all his "proofs" is kindness. I do not think it is by chance that this virtue of kindness is also the middle virtue of the nine fruits of the Spirit. Without kindness, there is no virtue in the other virtues. This one puts flavor in all the rest -- without it, they are insipid and tasteless. So to grow in kindness is to grow in virtues that are flavored with a certain spirit -- the spirit of Jesus.
It remains a fact, however, that multitudes of Christian people are not kind. Some eminent Christian leaders have not been as eminent in this fruit of the Spirit as in others, and have worn their halo a little askew. Many are stern and unfeeling. They grow hard with sinners. Disciplined as they are in virtue, they become censorious and critical and their passion for righteousness makes it hard for them to show tenderness to violators of God's law. Jesus upheld God's laws more than anyone -- yet He was called "the Friend of sinners."
My Father and my God, although I never want to lessen the gravity of sin, I do want to be a person who shows tenderness to those who are enmeshed in it. Help me become that kind of person. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
For Further Study
1. With what attitude are we to bestow kindness?
2. How does God respond to the unthankful and evil?