A Divine Gift
Kindness, in our culture, is often perceived as soft, fluffy, and even a little boring. Being described as a person who is “kind” is fine, and certainly better than “mean,” but we’d like other adjectives to go with it: risky, adventurous, creative, strong. It conjures up images of walking old people across the street, holding the door for someone, picking up after yourself — normal, everyday things that your standard decent human being should do.
Yet this act, this thing we assume as the bare minimum of human decency, is named a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5. It’s an outward sign of the grace and power of God. But it doesn’t seem like the power and filling of the Spirit would be necessary to be kind. Isn’t everyone able to be kind just on their own?
In the Greek-Hellenistic world, when Paul was writing Galatians 5, the concept and expression of kindness was a unique quality that was reserved for their mythical gods. These gods would periodically express some sort of radical kindness towards humanity— a gift of insight or wisdom, a powerful weapon or tool in time of need, a specific role or title, and many times, mercy when punishment was deserved.
This act was anything but common or soft. It was a gift from the gods. It was a rescue. A grace. A source of power. An act of the divine moving towards the common. It was someone of higher and greater position, lowering themselves in a move of mercy to bring aid to someone beneath them.