Life during the pandemic has been challenging, but it has also brought opportunities for people to show kindness. You have probably heard about numerous stories of kindness reported in the news this year. You might have heard the wonderful story about Sir Captain Tom Moore, the 100-year-old British veteran who raised $40 million to support healthcare workers by walking laps in his garden. Businesses have also demonstrated public displays of kindness like never before. Recently, Planters’ Peanuts—you know Mr. Peanut, the gentleman in a top hat and monocle—decided to give away $5 million, which had been allocated for a Super Bowl commercial. Such kindness is applaudable.
Showing kindness has always been a core ethic of the Christian faith. Nowhere is this virtue more clearly demonstrated than in God’s relationship with His creatures. In fact, Paul summarizes salvation in terms of kindness, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:4-5)
Paul also lists kindness as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Of course, like the other fruits listed in Galatians 5, kindness is a by-product of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. It is important that we don’t confuse the order: grace comes first, then fruit/obedience follows. Thomas Aquinas provides a helpful summary, “For the Holy Spirit is in us through grace, through which we acquire the habit of the virtues.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Galatians) The idea being that the Holy Spirit enables us to bear fruit or to be kind.
That said, kindness is also a virtue to which we should aspire. In Colossians, Paul exhorts his readers to clothe themselves (“put on”) kindness: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness…” (Colossians 3:12) Yet again, this aspiration is always a response to God’s prior work in us. Our call as Christians is to simply “keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
At some point this year, you have probably been the recipient of kindness or, perhaps, you have extended kindness to a friend. As Christians, we are called to grow in kindness to friends and strangers alike, even when it isn’t deserved. As you journey through your day, be on the lookout for opportunities to show kindness. And, as you do this, remember what makes this possible is God’s love: for us, in us and through us.