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July 29, 2010

“And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

In my estimation, Ephesiasn 4:32 is Paul’s summary of the preceding instructions regarding our relationships and our communication. The verse is one of those very familiar verses that kids learn in Sunday School and is frequently repeated in a myriad of different settings, and rightly so. In twenty words, Paul nails down precisely how we should act towards one another. In those twenty words are three key words that should define the Christians relationships. The three words are kindness, tenderness and forgiveness. These words are massive, and care for the text demands we give specific attention to each one. The first, then, will consume the rest of this article.

Kindness is the positive action of doing that which is benevolent and useful. It is that which is good for a person and does that which is genuinely beneficial for them. Kindness is far more than the act of smiling, or saying a few words calculated to improve someone’s feelings. Kindness, in the context of our speech, is saying those things which are genuinely good because they are genuinely helpful. It is the refraining from saying unnecessarily hurtful things. Kindness is saying what needs to be said for the benefit of the hearer in a fashion that is careful to avoid as much collateral damage as possible. It is not kindness to berate someone for their differing taste in dress styles. Nor is it kindness to remain silent about someone’s sin. It is not kindness, either, to confront someone’s sin in a manner which fails to bring God’s Word to bear on the matter. It is not kind merely to tell someone you are offended by their actions. Kindness is pointing them to the offense their action is against God. Kindness seeks to speak in such a way that real, lasting benefit can be produced. Kindness speaks words that encourage another to continue in that which is right. Kindness expresses appreciation for the kindness of others. Kindness strengthens another in their labors. Kindness in our speech is using language to genuinely help someone, not just express the thoughts in our head. The word that is translated kind has as its root a word that means to loan out. That idea conjures up what I think are fitting images with which to consider our conversations. Are we loaning our words to others that they may take what is given to them and apply it to their life’s circumstances in such a way that they will profit? That is genuine kindness and it must characterize the speech of a follower of Christ.


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