Micah 6:8 says something like this: that God has shown humanity that what he requires of us is to be just, or fair, in how we relate to one another; to show kindness (often translated ‘love mercy’); and to walk humbly, to tread the earth lightly, looking to him.
It seems to me that kindness is at least in danger of becoming a forgotten virtue, and one worthy of reflection. Here are some further thoughts.
Kindness and the Father
God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3) This is the approach that our Father has chosen to take. Yes, he disciplines those he loves. But this Father does not want us to respond to him out of fear – such obedience would be empty, searing rather than protecting the heart – but out of the security of knowing consistent kindness. And yes, of course children can take advantage of that; but it would appear to be a risk God is willing (indeed, determined) to take.
Kindness and the Son
Jesus tells a very disturbing story about those who show kindness and those who fail to show kindness (the sheep and the goats, Matthew 25:31-46). In his story of the final judgement, one group (the sheep) are invited to share in the kingdom he has prepared for them, because they showed him kindness when he was hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned...the other group (the goats) are shut out, sent to hell, because they failed to show such kindness. The sheep protest that they never even recognised Jesus in those they showed kindness to; the goats protest that they know Jesus, and never saw him in need.
In our society there are loud voices telling all who will listen that religion is a very bad thing, the cause of our woes. And many Christians have bought-into this lie. In Britain, as in other places, Christianity gave us schools and universities, hospitals, elder-care, child welfare reform, the abolition of the slave trade, and was a patron of businesses, and of the arts. Much of this continues today. Rather than pointing to these things, many Christians agree, yes religion is bad: we don’t subscribe to religion, but to relationship with God. Religion alone is inadequate; but so is relationship: it subtly relegates Jesus to being our invisible friend, and the moment we no longer see Jesus in the face of the vulnerable, we become goats...
Kindness and the Spirit
Paul tells the churches of Galatia that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23). As someone who needs these things to be manifest in my life, I am glad that the Holy Spirit is committed to this! There is only one fruit of the Spirit, but it has nine subtleties to its flavour. If kindness is to be genuine, it will be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, faithful, gentle, and marked by self-control.