But the fruit of the Spirit is …
Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Kindness is not a person being nice. It’s not a character trait as much as it is an action. When we talk about acts of kindness, that is closer to it. A person’s kindness would manifest itself in some form of action, most often in aid to the poor, the less fortunate or the homeless, although it could be kindness to anyone and everyone.
Christmas has a history of giving which would echo God’s gift to us of His son. His great act of kindness cost the death of His only son. He gave Himself up for us that He might freely give us all things. That’s why it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance. Had that kindness been only a warm feeling towards all of us, we would still be in our sins.
Part of the fruit of the Spirit of God is the desire to contribute to someone else’s life. It’s to want something better for someone else. Kindness is, indeed, the epitome of Grace Turned Outward. Whatever we have received, we turn around and give out because that is what happens in the heart when you receive the free gift of God’s grace. You want everyone else to have it.
Kindness and giving go hand-in-hand, so Christmas is all about this fruit of the Spirit.
When Ebenezer Scrooge got his second lease on life, his heart was bursting with kindness that led him to purchase the largest turkey in the poulterers for the Bob Cratchit family, and later it showed when he raised Bob’s salary and promised to help with getting proper medical treatment for Tiny Tim. He then promptly found the two men collecting for Christmas charities and pledged them a sum of money that made their eyes pop. “If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you.” All of these are expressions of kindness in action coming from a grateful, overflowing heart, happy to have another chance at life.
If you feel kindness but stop short of doing anything about it, whatever that feeling was, it wasn’t kindness. The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t just feel kind; it manifests itself in kind deeds and actions that benefit others.
The root word for kindness as used in the Bible is the word for goodness and excellence. Kindness does what is good and excellent for others. It’s the best. It’s overwhelming generosity. It is brimming with Grace Turned Outward.
You can’t be kind and not do kind things.
This closing carol is the story of an act of kindness by a benevolent King Wenceslas who spies a peasant without proper food and warmth on a cold winter day, so he inquires of his page about who and where he is, and the two of them set off — loaded with firewood, food and wine — to find him. Along the way, the page loses strength and complains about the elements, to which the King tells him to step in his footsteps and he would be warmed.
The lyrics harken to a legend about Wenceslas (who actually was a Duke, not a King and later was Sainted by the Catholic church) that he would frequently get up in the middle of the night and go out into the streets bringing gifts to the poor, not bothering to put his shoes on no matter what the weather. The legend taught that the warmth of his generosity kept his feet warm even in the snow. Thus, “Heat was in the very sod/Which the Saint had printed.” The picture is of kindness; the benefit goes both ways.
Good King Wenceslas
lyrics by John Mason Neale
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel
“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather
“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing
Wenceslas would be familiar with the term “As you wish,” or something like it, since he was always seeking the best for others.
The fruit of the Spirit is … kindness, against such there is no law.
An Important Message from your Friends at at Catch
At the Catch, we are about to enter a time of thinking about how we help make and create positive change through the gifts the Lord has already given us. We will be talking about stewardship, a concept that includes many things: how we care for ourselves, how we care for the good news of God’s love for us and how we care for the resources that are within our respective spheres of influence.
We will also be asking each of you, humbly, to consider making an end-of-year contribution to The Catch, helping empower our cyber church to continue doing amazing things going forward. This is an invitation to discover the joy of giving in response to all that you have received. We hope you will see it as an opportunity to grow in faith by making a choice to give a gift that will make a significant difference, whatever the amount. This will no doubt involve sacrifice, a giving up of something that it feels like we can’t do without. But I want to challenge you to consider this as we come to the end of the year and anticipate a new one, and see if you don’t notice a change – in yourself, your walk with Christ, and in the world around you.