By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22, 23
Today’s fruit is “kindness,” as it relates to crafting. I must admit that my first thought was “duh;” that this is self-evident. Crafting and using gifts of artistry for others is a kind thing to do. Giving someone a newly crocheted hat to keep his or her head warm is kind. Knitting a blanket for a homeless person or a grieving person is kind. Surprising a friend with a fresh loaf of homemade bread or something handmade is kind.
That’s pretty basic kindness stuff. Scripture, however, offers a deeper view.
George Lyons, in the New Beacon Bible Commentary*, defines “kindness” as “grace expressed in human relations, by being helpful when anger might be the expected, natural response.” Kindness, Lyons writes, is the opposite of the”fits of rage” or “selfish ambition” described in Galatians 5: 20. This is why God’s love is often expressed as kindness. God loves us despite the wrong we’ve done. If we come to God, willing to be changed and sorry for what we’ve done, God responds to us with kindness rather than anger. Christ-followers call the willingness to change and sorrow for wrongdoing repentance. We also refer to God’s kindness as grace.
Another thing that Lyons mentioned in his commentary on Galatians 5:22 and 23, is that Paul (who we credit with writing the letter of Galatians) was encouraged in his ministry by acts of kindness. Living in the Roman Empire could be very tough for anyone who who did not go along with the status quo. Because he was a Christian, Paul didn’t and he faced many hardships as a result (2 Corinthians 6: 3 – 10). No one would have blamed him for deciding to quit, but acts of kindness kept him going.
How can we express kindness to people with our God-given talents? I’ve already mentioned a couple of ways, but one that I think is very important is encouragement, or what has been called a kind word. We face many negatives in our lives. As crafters and artists, we often hear that we can’t do things for different reasons, or that we’re obsessed. Sometimes when we do things for people we may hear nothing at all. There are times when I prefer it that way (see Mt. 6:3). However, as I look back on my life, there were definitely times when a compliment or a deeply felt thank you would have helped me immensely. Unless a person has a healthy sense of worth (and most people do not), too many negatives or too many silences can dull, or even quench, creativity. You could say that kindness is like the oil in a car engine, that keeps everything running smoothly.
As the Wycliffe version of the Bible says, “Kind words be like a honeycomb; sweet to the soul, and health for the bones.”
As a crafter or artist it means a lot to me when someone that I consider talented says that I am good at something – that I somehow make a difference. As one of my friends has said, “We all need to be validated.” This does not mean that we tell people little white lies to make them feel good. It means that we give recognition of their worth by offering a kind word about what they have done. Comments like “you put a lot of work into this,” or “what lovely colors you chose. Questions like, “How did you do this?” all validate a person’s effort. They are kind words.
In order to do this, we must rid ourselves of selfishness and anger. There can’t be any place for jealousy or comparison, if we want to be kind. We have to let it sink in that God loves us just as we are and that God loves the other person too. It helps to recognize that we are all in different places in our walk and in our artistic expression. It is a kindness to encourage others in the place that they are.
The good thing about this is that God will help us.Maybe this prayer will help:
Lord, thank you for helping me be the person I am. Please rid me of anger, jealousy and selfishness so that I can offer genuine kindness to others in the ways that would be best for them. Continue to make me into the person that you intended me to be and help me to know your love so that I may offer it freely to others. Amen.
*The New Beacon Bible Commentary on Galatians, page 351. Dr. Lyons was one of my professors in the master’s program on spiritual formation at Northwest Nazarene University. Considering the fact that he retired shortly after I graduated, I feel privileged to have had a chance to be one of his students (or maybe he retired because I was one of his students!). Under him, I studied in depth the book of John. His course was very challenging and he expected a lot. A lot of sweat and brainpower went into that class. I am grateful for his insights and teaching style. Excellent job on the commentary, Dr. Lyons. Just in case you see this, “The Translation of Sarx” helped me immensely. Thank you.
**Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Stained glass window at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, depicting the Fruit of the Holy Spirit along with role models representing them, i.e. the Good Shepherd representing love, an angel holding a scroll ofGloria in excelsis Deo representing joy and Jesus Christ,Job representing longsuffering, Jonathan faith, Ruth gentleness and goodness, Moses meekness, and John the Baptist temperance. Executed byHardman & Co. in the 1870s.