“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
Kindness is chrestotes, which carries the idea of helpfulness. It is the willingness to serve the needs of others. Whereas patience suggests self-restraint under the pressure of provocation, especially undeserved provocation, kindness implies a more active expression of love towards others. The most powerful example is the Lord himself:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness (chrestotes) toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Goodness is agathosune, a Greek word unique to the NT. It does not occur in secular Greek writing. One aspect of this virtue is integrity. It is living and working with consistent, principle-centered behavior. It is being the same person in every situation, rather than being a hypocrite or a phony. It is the idea of “virtue and integrity in all circumstances.”
There is subtle and interesting difference between agathosune (goodness) and chrestotes (kindness). Agathosune will correct and rebuke when necessary, whereas chrestotes simply seeks to help. Jesus showed agathosune when he cleansed the temple and drove out the money-changers; he showed chrestotes when he was kind to the sinning woman who anointed his feet.
That is precisely what we need in our lives: goodness that is both kind and strong. Goodness that is both tender and tough. Though most of the time “goodness” is helping and encouraging people, it also includes “tough love” when the situation calls for it. I am concerned that Christians in our generation are not tough enough. If we are going to be faithful to God’s call and commission, then we must be tough about the right things, in the right way, at the right time, and for the right reason. We cannot — we must not — shy away from the tough things we need to say and do.
We are not to be abrasive or hurtful; we are not to be rude or disrespectful; we are not to be inconsiderate. But we do need to be tough. Loving, but tough. Again, consider the example of Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple. Here is how the Gospel of John describes it:
“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (John 2:13-16)
Get a crystal clear picture of what happened. It was Passover, a deeply important and holy time for the Jewish people when they remembered the Lord delivering them from bondage in Egypt. Jesus went to Jerusalem, and at the temple he found merchants selling animals that would be used for sacrifice, and he also found money-changers who were helping people convert their currency so they could buy/sell animals.
It was a circus. A bazaar. The temple was no longer a place of reverence and worship of God, it had become a marketplace for vendors. Because of this, Jesus was angry. Very angry.
Look carefully at what Jesus did next. He left the temple and went somewhere in the city to find the material to “make a whip of cords.” Yes, you read that correctly. Jesus made a whip. He didn’t find a whip or purchase one; he fashioned it himself. I wonder what Jesus was thinking as he put the cords together, knowing full well he would wield the whip and it would strike flesh, most certainly raising welts and possibly even splitting skin.
This is not our typical image of Jesus. Many people think of Jesus only as warm, loving and kind. They think of Jesus as gently welcoming little children and sinners. Yet, the real Jesus was not the one dimensional character so often depicted today. The real Jesus fashioned a whip and used it to drive men and animals from the temple while simultaneously flipping over their tables and sending their money flying.
Yes, Jesus was tender. He did welcome children and sinners. But Jesus was also tough. He made a whip, and he used it to hit people and send them running. In this particular situation, he was aggressive and forceful.
What is your image of the Lord Jesus? Is the Jesus that you serve the real Jesus who is both tender and tough? Or have you bought into a false, one-dimensional picture of Jesus? We must know and respond to the Lord Jesus as he is, not as we want him to be. Do not follow a false image.
Let’s get personal. How about you? Have you built both toughness and tenderness (kindness and goodness) into your life? Have you developed the wisdom and discipline to know when to be tender and when to be tough? Are you tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to build these two spiritual virtues into your life?
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)
The Lord is calling.