The main problem in understanding kindness is the fact that it is one of a series ofterms that are overlapping and not clearly or consistently distinguishable in meaning.This is true not only in English (kindness, goodness, mercy, pity, love, grace, favor,compassion, gentleness, tenderness, etc.) but also in Greek (chrestos, eleemon, oiktirmon,charis, agape, splanchnon, epieikeia, etc.) and in Hebrew (hesed, tob, rahamim, hemlah,hen, etc.). Consider, for example, the relationship of love, goodness, kindness, and mercyin lu 6:35-36. Nevertheless, although distinctions are not consistent, kindness (likegoodness, love) tends to cover a broad range of meaning, with mercy and grace beingprogressively narrower.
Divine Kindness God's kindness is presupposed or taught throughout Scripture.
It is manifest in what is called "common grace." God is kind to all he hasmade ( Psalm 145:9 ),even when his creatures are ungrateful and wicked ( Luke 6:35 ; cf. Matt 5:45 ). Hiskindness is intended to lead to repentance, not to rejection of him ( Rom 2:4 ).
In the second place, it is the believer who can truly celebrate God's kindness, even inareas of experience not directly related to salvation from the guilt and punishment ofsin. God's kindness is seen in his deliverance of the believer from affliction, fear, andtrouble.
Third, God's kindness is manifest in the full salvation that comes through Christ ( 1 Peter 2:3 ).Indeed, our salvation derives from the kindness of God ( Eph 2:7-8 ), and itis through continuing in his kindness that we are saved ( Rom 11:22 ).
What is true of God in general is also specifically attributed to Christ, who is gentle( Matt 11:29-30 ).In this connection, Jesus' kind yoke might better be understood to speak of the fact thatit is gently and considerately laid upon his disciple rather than that it is easy toaccomplish.
Human Kindness The Scriptures also teach that divine kindness is to be reflectedin the human experience. Indeed, expressing kindness to other human beings is moreimportant than performing ritual sacrifice to God ( Hosea 6:6 ; Matt 9:13 ; 12:7 ). Thus, we areto love kindness ( Mic6:8 ) and to be children of the Most High, exhibiting his kindness and mercy ( Luke 6:35-36 ).Even more direct is the simple injunction to be kind ( Eph 4:32 ). Kindnessoften finds a place in the lists of Christian virtues ( 1 Col 13:4 ; Col 3:12 ). Paul cantake the injunction a step further and claim to exemplify kindness in his own life to adegree that commends his ministry as authentic ( 2 Cor 6:6 ).
Yet human imitation of God's kindness does not come naturally. In fact, ultimately noone is kind ( Psalm14:3 ; Rom 3:12 ).It is only as the fruit of God's Spirit that kindness can be a consistent part of thebeliever's experience ( Gal 5:22 ).
David K. Huttar
Bibliography E. Beyreuther, NIDNTT, 2:105-6; D. N. Freedman, TDOT,5:22-36; R. L. Harris, TWOT, 1:305-7; D. K. McKim, ISBE, 3:19-20; K. Weiss, TDNT,9:483-92; H.-J. Zobel, TDOT, 5:44-64.
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