Today I want to talk about the gift of kindness. Kindness, especially when unexpected and undeserved, is a potent demonstration of love. It can wake someone up as powerfully as the gift of truth.

There are lots of movies and books that illustrate this concept. Les Miserable’s is probably the best known. Play it Forward is one of the most recent. When we give the gift of kindness to someone who least expects it, it often motivates them to kindness as well. On the other hand, when we get caught in repaying evil for evil, the only result we get is more evil and more ugliness.

It is clear from the scriptures that one of the fruits of the spirit is kindness (Galatians. 5:20), and being kind is one of the very definitions of love (1 Corinthians 13:4). Yet, as with the other gifts, we struggle with giving the gift of kindness when we don’t feel kind or our husband or wife has hurt us.

Most often our first reaction when our spouse is acting in a way we don’t like is to treat him or her with contempt. However, contempt is the acid that will erode feelings of goodwill in a marriage quicker than bad behavior. Is that what you want to happen? Remember, God tells us “not to be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Through acts of kindness we are empowered, not overcome.

The last thing that we feel like doing is to be gracious to someone who has hurt us. For example, Joan’s husband, Adam, was an alcoholic and drug abuser. He spent more money on his habit then he did for food and clothes for their kids. His drug use was so out of control that Joan finally asked him to move out until he could get help for his problem (gift of consequences).

He continued careening out of control and sent less and less money for the family. One day Joan heard through mutual friends that Adam was sick with a bad flu bug. Joan went home and cooked up a big pot of soup and delivered it to his apartment. Joan gave the gift of kindness to her selfish and irresponsible husband. She was not enabling his sinful behavior, nor was she overcome by Adam’s evil. Instead, she was learning to overcome it with good. The kinder Joan was to Adam, the more obvious was Adam’s selfishness.

God speaks of kindness as a means of shaming our enemy (Romans 12:20) which may lead to their repentance. In the Scriptures, Joseph was kind and gracious to his brothers in spite of their cruelty toward him (see Genesis 37-50). Being kind and gracious doesn’t mean you ignore the wrongdoing or pretend it didn’t happen. That’s like putting your head back into the lion’s mouth after he has already bitten you once.

Being kind toward your enemy means that whatever happens to you doesn’t define you. It doesn’t shape you or turn you into something evil. Satan’s intention is to not only injure you but infect you with evil’s poison. It was by Joseph’s response to his brother’s injustice, deceit and treachery that good won out. He reminded his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” (Genesis 50:20).

Jesus tells us “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35).

Friends, we should be kind toward others because we want to be like Jesus, not because someone necessarily deserves our kindness. We are a representative of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore, our desire is to treat others with kindness and mercy because we are God’s ambassadors and his image bearers. Our kindness and mercy doesn’t depend upon whether the other person has been good or bad, wrong or right. They are gifts of love, not rewards for good behavior.

How have you given the gift of kindness? What are some ways that you’ve received the gift of kindness? 

Some of this blog is taken from Chapter 9 of my book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong.