Last week we launched off into some of the particulars of the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, and peace; but of course, there’s more to this delightful fruit produced in disciples of Christ through God’s Holy Spirit. This time we’ll take a look at patience, kindness, and goodness. While we probably know the basic meaning of these qualities, let’s dive a little deeper.
The Greek word here is macrothumia and it means simply “long tempered” (sometimes “long suffering”). It is the opposite our our common term “short-tempered”, because it points to a heart that is not quickly moved to anger, passion, or even disappointment. It is, of course, a characteristic of God Himself, who has been “long tempered” with mankind, although our actions have virtually begged for Him to pull the trigger on us long ago (2 Peter 3:9).
Patience in the Christian fails to throw in the towel on discouraging events or situations, choosing instead to soldier on in hope that either God will act or men will change. Patience in the Christian is integral part of the truth that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). It enables us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3), because we won’t give up on one another. In essence it is the self-disciplined choice we make to wait—despite being fed up, discouraged, provoked, or inflamed—before speaking harshly or acting rashly.
Kindness is a sympathetic generosity of heart that deliberately seeks to give, to do, and to speak things that benefit others, especially those who are in need. The Greek word, when it was used of things, meant well-fitting, nonabrasive, or sometimes without bitter taste. Kindness is attributed to God as He blesses and saves men; take for example, Ro 2:4 “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”, or Eph 2:7 “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” While the opposite of kindness might be thought of to be active “meanness”, it can also be the heart that is either callous or so self-absorbed that it never sees the needs of others and so never benefits them. When the Christian faithfully bears the fruit of the Spirit; he actively sees others, desires to help, and in sympathetic generosity benefits them with a smile and a gentle touch.
Goodness and kindness are very close in their meanings. A close study of the Greek words indicate that the difference lies in the second-mile attitude that “goodness” carries. Greek writers contrasted their word for justice and goodness this way: justice prompted a man to give exactly what he was due, goodness prompted him to do enough to really help. “Goodness” would then be “generosity” or “open-handedness”. And once again, we can see how the fruit of the Spirit is a direct reflection of our Savior.
The fruit of the Spirit will certainly be kind, but more than kind, it will be good. It will go the second mile, giving open-handedly enough to really do some good.
When the fruit of the Spirit is really manifested in our lives, it becomes obvious how Christians really are the light of the world and the salt of the earth—and how evangelism really begins. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a Savior who teaches and inspires this kind of life and these sorts of qualities? Is this fruit in your life?