What is kindness? Kindness is the gospel-centered, Holy Spirit created, inner disposition of grace toward others.
Look at how Ephesians 4:31-5:2 describes the inner disposition of grace called kindness.
- Tenderhearted (4:32): Another word for this idea is compassion from the guts, or a visceral compassion or pity. Jesus showed this compassion in Matthew 9:36 where it says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
- Forgiving one another (4:32): The word for forgiveness here entails the idea of grace, or giving a gracious pardon. Again, we see Jesus demonstrating forgiveness of this kind in Luke 7 both with the sinning woman who he forgives of her sin, but his illustration of a master who canceled a large debt. It is the canceling of a debt that illustrates the gracious pardon the word forgiveness describes.
- Loving (5:2): The word for love here is agape, which is an unconditional love, meaning an unmerited favor, an undeserving love. Jesus teaches us about what that kind of love looks when he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-46 ESV)
All of these descriptions of kindness deal with an inner disposition of grace, an inner condition of meritless favor toward others. How does this kindness come about? I submit to you that true kindness is only Christian kindness. Thus, kindness itself is gospel-centered as we will see tomorrow.