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Kindness

He has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord requires of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

In the last essay, we discussed that true justice is to restore the things of earth that are broken. The truly just person is always actively seeking to bind up the brokenhearted, bring good news to the afflicted, and comfort those who mourn. The question is, how does one primarily accomplish this? The second half of the verse above is the key.

To love kindness

The just man actively seeks to restore the broken, and kindness is the primary tool they use to accomplish it. I find a very interesting similarity between how God chooses to restore the broken and how He commands us to restore. In the book of Romans Paul declares that:

The kindness of God leads you to repentance.
Romans 2:4

Isn’t that a profound statement? Repentance means to turn back to God, in effect, to be restored. The way in which God chooses to restore is through kindness. God is no tyrant who demands we choose between obedience or death. God is a father who provides for our needs and then beyond, by giving us His fruit of love, joy, peace, etc. It’s no surprise then to see that the way in which we practice true justice and show the kindness of God is also by bearing fruit. To love kindness means to actively bear fruit. Bearing fruit is a phrase that most have heard, but few have fully understood. Marcus Aurelius explained the idea of what bearing fruit truly looks like by describing three types of men:

One man, when he has done a service to another, is ready to set it down to his account as a favour conferred. Another is not ready to do this, but still in his own mind he thinks of the man as his debtor, and he knows what he has done. A third in a manner does not even know what he has done, but he is like a vine which has produced grapes, and seeks for nothing more after it has once produced its proper fruit. As a horse when he has run, a dog when he has tracked the game, a bee when it has made the honey, so a man when he has done a good act, does not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season.

This is what it means to bear fruit, to offer the kindness of God to others without need of reciprocation or recognition. This is how God behaves toward us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23

God is ever pouring His divine fruit into our lives and commands that we abide in Him and likewise bear His fruit to the world. As Jesus said:

If you remain in Me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit.
John 15:5

Bearing fruit is how the just person accomplishes the work of God in the world. The fruit of God is always restorative. That is why the Bible says:

We love because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19

The fruit of God produces a restorative work that causes the recipient to become more like the fruit they’ve tasted. When one encounters a truly humble person, for example, the encounter inspires the watcher towards a greater respect for humility, and consequently to become more humble in response. Bearing fruit is the kindness of God in operation on planet earth.

But our natural human frailty doesn’t easily bear this kind of fruit and there are two things that get in the way. First, we believe people must earn the good things we are to give them. But Jesus commanded:

Freely you have been given. Freely give.
Matthew 10:8

And also, Paul asks:

Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7

Secondly, we don’t offer the kindness of God freely, because we haven’t accepted the kindness of God freely. Read the opening verse one more time:

He has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord requires of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

What does it mean to walk humbly with your God? The first thing we think of is the fear of the Lord, and rightly so. But the often misunderstood and neglected portion is that to walk humbly with your God means to accept the kindness of God. God is always showering us with His fruit, yet so often we reject it. Why and how do we reject it?

The why is because we think we must earn it. As the Christians in Paul’s day turned back to the law and the flesh, we turn back to our good behavior and what our own hands can do.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
Galatians 3:1-5

The question that Paul asks is very poignant: After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Our human nature always seeks self-sufficiency. We begin in God, but then, at a certain point we believe the lie that we’ve become good enough to go it on our own. But this is folly. God works His fruit among us when we believe in Him, rely on Him, and humbly walk with Him. Our prayer should be that of the ancient poet:

O Lord, truly, Your grace is not from our work,
But from Your mysterious giving.
Save us from what our own hands might do.

Save us from what our own hands might do. Have you ever prayed such a prayer? Do you now see the need? Walking humbly with your God means not relying on the flesh, but on the kindness of God. We reject the fruit of God when we try to earn it, or when we rely on our own sufficiency to produce it.

This is what it means to bear fruit, to be a restorer who loves to do kindness and humbly relies on the kindness of God and not on what his own hands might do, so that he might bear fruit that restores what is broken.

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