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Be Kind — It's the Spiritually Mature Thing To Do

The truth is that justice and civility aren’t enemies.

Two men encouraging each other

We can be both kind and courageous because we have the truth on our side. To be kind is seen by the Bible as a sign of spiritual maturity. It’s something the Spirit of God does in us over time.

There is a pervasive myth among many Christians that courage and kindness don’t go together, that to respect someone with whom you disagree is the same as capitulating on important truths. It’s also increasingly prevalent in churches and denominations, where quite often we score each other’s faithfulness to God by the meanness of our social media rants. And in families we often excuse unkind speech with, “Yeah, but did you hear what he said to me?”

The truth is that justice and civility aren’t enemies. Don’t take this from me — listen to the words of the apostle Peter, who was no stranger to confrontation. It was Peter who boldly declared Christ to be the Son of God, and it was Peter who stepped up to defend Jesus’ unjust arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter refused to back down from preaching and willingly went to jail. Tradition says Peter was martyred for his faith. It would be hard to find someone more courageous than him.

And yet what instruction does Peter give to the first-century church? In 1 Peter 3:15-16, he urges believers to “give an answer to everyone” but to do it with “gentleness and respect” (NIV). Bold truth-telling delivered with kindness.

"We can be both kind and courageous because we have the truth on our side."

Daniel Darling

Today some would see this as weakness. I often read Christians on social media decry kindness as “wimpy” and “weak,” and yet Peter says we can do both. Why? Because true courage isn’t displayed with ego boosting displays of hubris. Bravery isn’t about being the loudest person in the room. Jesus, at times, was quiet in the face of danger. And civility isn’t about caving in on key truths. 

We can be both kind and courageous because we have the truth on our side. If Jesus is our Victor, we can engage the truth with a firm confidence. We don’t have to wring our hands in fear and lash out at those with whom we disagree. And if we see ourselves as sinners who were once blind to truth and who have been miraculously and graciously rescued by Jesus, we can hold our opinions lightly and be gracious toward others.

I find it interesting that gentleness is in every qualification for church leadership. To be kind — not merely nice or a pushover — is seen by the Bible as a sign of spiritual maturity. It’s something the Spirit of God does in us over time.

So today, ask yourself: Have I practiced kindness to those around me? Do I need to repent of unkindness? 


This article was first published in HomeLife magazine.

Dan Darling is the director of The Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books and Bible studies. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a pastor who has served churches in Illinois and Tennessee. He lives with his wife, Angela, and their four children in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

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