Several years ago, the phrase ‘random acts of kindness’ (RAK) entered our language. It refers to selfless acts done for someone else to either help them or brighten their day. The talk about RAK seemed to start a movement and people were encouraged to pay attention to others around them and watch for opportunities to show kindness. For example: pay for someone’s parking, help carry groceries, or offer time and words of encouragement for someone facing a trying situation. For it to be a true RAK, you needed to do this for a stranger – someone you didn’t know at all. In many ways, the people promoting RAK are acknowledging that, much of the time, we live in a harsh and uncaring world. How much better the world would be if we were all more thoughtful towards others!
Of course, we should do these kinds of things. After all, kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we should be growing in our spiritual life, maturing into a Christ-like behaviour. Spiritual fruit, like kindness, isn’t something that is fully mature when we first become believers – rather, we are to work at our behaviours until they reflect these Christian values. It’s a learning experience and it’s work. It is also something we need the Holy Spirit to help us with. Left on our own, we couldn’t possibly develop the kind of character we are called to live out.
Truthfully, I don’t have that much trouble showing kindness to strangers. My real challenge lies in showing kindness on a daily basis to the people who are closest to me. Where our faith gets its real workout is in our homes with our families. Let me ask this: would the members of your family describe you as someone who consistently demonstrates kindness? Are you mindful of the needs of others in your home? What tone of voice do you use with your children? Do you resent having to slow down your plans to help others get caught up? What was the last act of kindness you did for your family?
The toughest place to be a Christian is with the people we call family. They see us at our best and worst. There is no hiding our true identities and character from them. The good news is that this is where the fruit of the Holy Spirit can mature and grow. We are supported and encouraged by the Spirit to develop all the qualities we need. We are not alone in trying to live out our faith: the Spirit is our guide and comfort. Our homes will be happier and more pleasant when we remember that “The fruit of the Spirit is […] kindness.” (Galatians 5:22)