Kindness often gets thrown in with niceness, manners and etiquette. But it’s altogether something different. Those things are of earth. Kindness is of heaven.

Kindness isn’t quaint. It’s not for image maintenance or keeping feathers unruffled. Kindness is love manifest in action.

Kindness is in fact so inseparable from love that early Bible translators coined a single term: lovingkindness. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” Love is patient. Love is kind.

Etiquette is a clear set of rules. Kindness isn’t always so obvious. It looks different toward different people at different times.

To the hard-hearted religious leaders Jesus said, Brood of vipers.” Kindness.

To the rich young ruler, Sell all you own.” Kindness.

To Peter, Get behind me, Satan.” Kindness.

It’s easy to recognize Jesus’ tender words and actions as kind. The moments mentioned above can seem brash, almost mean. But we must see Jesus always speaking with the fire of pure love burning in his eyes. He did nothing simply to provoke, nothing from fear, nothing to prove anything, nothing out of woundedness. All was from an unshakable awareness of His belovedness and for the eternal good of another.

So when we say God is the kindest being in the universe we don’t mean he’s a nice guy waving off sin with a that’s okay, sweetie.” We mean that God is pure light who, if you’ll allow, will burn off anything that keeps you from being fully alive. His kindness leads to repentance. That is, God’s goodness turns us from habits that destroy toward Spirit-filled habits that bring about joy.

I used to think it kind to pick up someone else’s slack without a word. It turns out kindness is humbly engaging that someone in a hard conversation. 

I used to think it kind to stuff down negative emotions. But kindness is honestly facing emotions, taking them to God and even — especially for perfectionists prone to suppressing them — emoting to others who love you. In doing so you are humbled enough for healing to come. 

And while kindness is a choice it isn’t meant to be forced. It is, after all, fruit — fruit of the Spirit that grows in a heart rooted in the love and acceptance of God. So the choice is one of saying Yes to the Spirit, not of strong-arming oneself to be a good boy or good girl. And that Yes becomes ever more natural for the one being formed into the image of Christ.

So let us set our inner posture toward listening to Jesus who will show us the way of kindness, be it intuitive or counterintuitive. This morning my invitation from God to kindness was to be present to Mr. Clark, whose presence was God’s kindness to me.

Brian recently released a new version of his song Be Kind to One Another. Listen below, get the single on iTunes or download a free chord chart.