"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Psalm 40:2

Some thoughts about unkindness

Some time ago, in a rather unpleasant meeting, my husband and I listened to a professing believer lament the ‘judgment’ he had received from other believers. We weren’t involved at all in the situation he related, and listened patiently as he shared with us.

Among many other things he said which rang in the same tone as retorts we’ve heard from unbelievers, he said in his defense that it wasn’t like he had cheated on his wife or anything, he had just been unkind.

As if there was nothing wrong with that. As if unkindness is less of a sin than adultery. As if we were naïve enough to believe that being chronically unkind, as it seems he was (by his own admission!), is okay.

Unkindness is a sin that is often excused. Alongside anger, envy, self-seeking, and lust, unkindness seems to be one of the favorite breeds of pet sin. The number of professing Christians I encounter who pamper this fleshly lap-dog is staggering.

Yet, it seems to me that the Bible makes it pretty clear that unkindness is not okay:

– Unkindness is a work of the flesh, and the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 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. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” {Galatians 5:19–26, ESV, emphasis added}

– Unkindness violates apostolic injunctions (you know, commands given in Scripture to believers by the apostles).

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”{Ephesians 4:32, ESV, emphasis added}

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” {Colossians 3:12, ESV, emphasis added}

And the Lord’s servant [elder/pastor] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,” {2 Timothy 2:24, ESV, emphasis added}

– Unkindness is the opposite of biblical love, and reflects a lack of love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant” {1 Corinthians 13:4, ESV}

– Unkindness violates the commands in Scripture to love, since kindness is an attribute of love.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” {Matthew 5:43–44, ESV}

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” {Matthew 22:35–39, ESV}

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” {John 13:34–35, ESV}

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” {John 15:12, ESV}

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” {Romans 12:9–10, ESV}

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” {Ephesians 5:1–2, ESV}

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,” {Philippians 1:9, ESV}

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” {Colossians 3:12–14, ESV}

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” {Hebrews 10:24, ESV}

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” {1 Peter 3:8, ESV}

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” {1 John 2:10, ESV}

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” {1 John 3:23, ESV}

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” {1 John 4:7–8, ESV}

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” {1 John 4:11, 20–21, ESV}

We need to open our eyes and see that unkindness is not a good pet, and cuddling that little lap-dog is living in disobedience. John even said that lack of love for our brother reflects lack of love for God Himself! (see 1 John 4:20-21)

That should initiate some serious prayer and self-evaluation!

Sorry to burst any bubbles, folks, (including my own) but unkindness is not okay. It’s sin.

And, yes, it’s no worse than other sins — but it’s also no better.

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3 Responses to “Some thoughts about unkindness”

  1. measureofagift

    Spot on. I think also, that I am guilty of often justifying unkindness because of a specific situation. Like an adult version of the childish reaction: “But she did it first!” As if someone else’s sin allows me to be unkind. Not that we oughtn’t confront each other’s sin, we ought, as one sister or brother to another, in love. But I catch myself assuming it is perfectly justified to be unkind to my children after they have disobeyed, thinking it is all part of the discipline process. It is a hard fence to walk. We must discipline, but we must do so in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, not provoking our children, but teaching them, guiding them. I know unkindness is an easy pit to fall into in that situation. I struggle so much with that. Thank you for the timely scriptural reminder that kindness is a virtue, and unkindness, a sin.

    • Jenni

      Well said, sister! Thinking through it was a good reminder for myself, too! It is so, so difficult — the whole indwelling sin battle. One of our gut human reactions to sin in others and to offense is, indeed, to be unkind in some way. And, boy, can I understand the temptation to fall into that pit as a mom – it goes right along with my tendency to take my child’s sin or disobedience personally rather than see it as an opportunity for training. Parenting is tough!

      It’s SO encouraging to me to remember that recognizing our sinful tendencies and striving to mortify them through the Spirit is a sign of being on the ‘right track’, spiritually. It’s when we pretend we don’t have a sin problem, or embrace it and justify it in order to continue in it, that we deceive ourselves and are headed for deep trouble. So I take heart that if I am struggling against my own sinful tendency to be unkind, or whatever the sin may be, that it’s evidence of the Spirit at work in my heart and life! And He Who began a good work in each of His children will be faithful to complete it! ❤ We must simply abide in Him, trust, and strive to obey.

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