Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Kindness: the Fruit-Bearing Branch

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Trees, green pastures, vineyards and vines are often used in the Holy Bible to symbolically represent life, lusciousness and growth. The Holy Book of Isaiah's prophesies concerning the blessings of Christ's Redemption and our salvation are revealed in this verse, "'They shall feed along the roads, and their pastures shall be on all desolate heights. They shall neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat nor sun shall strike them; for He who has mercy on them will lead them, even by the springs of water He will guide them.'" (Isaiah 49:9-10).

David, the psalmist, refers to God as "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters" (Psalm 23:1-2). He also refers to a righteous man as "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither;" (Psalm 1:3).He also says, "Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine" (Psalm 128:1-3).

In the New Testament we read the parable of the vineyard and the stewards working there in. Our Lord Jesus Christ describes Himself as the Vine and us being the branches. St. Paul refers to the virtues as fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) This series will discuss each fruit of the Spirit in a separate article. This article deals with Kindness.

Kindness is an offshoot of the branch bearing fruit of LOVE. Kindness starts first and foremost in the heart and is translated in thoughts, words and actions. The book of Proverbs describes a kind tongue saying, "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little" (Proverbs 10:20). Also, "The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse" (Proverbs 10:32). So, what is the opposite of kindness?

The opposite of kindness is hatred. The expression "I hate you" is unfortunately frequently and liberally used. Those who say "I hate you" to their parents or brothers and sisters, are developing a deep seated problem in their personality. It is both wrong and unhealthy. Hating one another is not alluded to anywhere in the Holy Bible as acceptable or beneficial. It is doubtless that hating one another is wrong. The only proper hatred that the Holy Bible recommends and teaches is the hatred of sin.

Therefore, pronouncing hatred onto parents, siblings or anyone is committing a very sinful act because you are pronouncing hatred on people and not on their wrong acts. Choosing kindness as a response for a wrong act outlasts hatred by far. The Lord hated sin but not sinners. Kindness defuses hate and affects people's sinful nature. It serves as the most appropriate thing to demonstrate in any given situation and is proven both psychologically and physically to be the healthiest thing to do.

Hatred and bitterness can lead to many physical complaints including heart disease, ulcers, and other somatic pain. In addition, it increases our internal stress level, leading to premature aging, and ultimately to premature death which is a severe cost of hatred. Our Lord teaches us that prayer is the most effective and precise act of kindness towards our opponents.

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).

Polycarp (c. 135) taught, "He that has love is far from every sin." We must put forth the image of God,

"The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious,..." (Exodus 34:6).

The Lord Jesus Christ, while on this earth, was the epitome of Kindness capable of making the common person feel special, the unbeliever believe, and the unrighteous desire righteousness. The Lord Jesus Christ showed much kindness to others, did many good things to the unfortunate, cared for the poor and suffering and in his teachings and preaching, He did not undermine those who were outside his cultural understanding. Through His enduring loving kindness, the Lord Jesus Christ neither boasted of his self-worth, nor ridiculed the weak, or belittled the simple minded or those burdened and heart laden. Through His loving kindness, not only did He relieve them of their life challenges but restored them and fortified them to further exemplify and rekindle kindness. Great was the effect of THE TREE that bore the fruit of kindness.

The Lord Jesus Christ's kindness must have branched forth from Him as the sun radiates from heaven. His loving heart and favor were renowned and His reputation preceded and followed Him wherever He journeyed. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said,

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own" (John 10:14).

Thus, He knows our needs and through His kindness and favor, lavishly fulfills them. He is in deed good to us.

The fruit of kindness is abundant in its effects as it brings forth comfort signifying a healing deed performed from the heart. St. Clement of Alexandria said, "Fear works abstinence from what is evil, but love exhorts to the doing of good, by building up to the point of spontaneity" (c. 195).

There are many symbolic inferences in the Holy Bible referring to the Lord Jesus Christ's kindness. David the Psalmist wrote:

"Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).

A rod and a staff to the multitudes of sheep in a shepherd's flock meant caring, guidance, and safety. Used correctly, it could be a lifesaving act to his herd incorporating the young, the middle aged, and the elderly among the sheep. The herd possibly comprised of a pure or mixed bred, ram or lamb, sickly or healthy, straying or obedient, submissive ones. Nonetheless, the rod and staff symbolized kindness, caring and comfort to all of them.

For us an act of kindness can also be found in simple teaching, redirection, and an act of faith.

"So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Feed My lambs'" (John 21:15).

In this context, the Lord is instructing Simon Peter to do works of kindness...Feed the hungry, minister to the sick, the handicapped, and terminally ill, remember the neglected and forgotten (the sick and shut-in), care for the homeless, love the hated and transmit the Lord's love and kindness to all those who are willing to listen.

St. Peter entered into this experience of transmitting love and kindness. He certainly did not expect to take the Word of God to the gentiles. The thought most probably did not cross his mind or enter into his heart for mere reflection and consideration. But being provoked in a dream and receiving visitors sent by Cornelius (Acts 10), St. Peter understood the need to cross cultural boundaries, his own weak understanding, and courageously ventured forth to extend the Lord's loving kindness and teachings to all those needy people and who would listen.

The Lord Jesus Christ exhibited His loving kindness at every opportunity and situation and encountered all desperation and discourage with His holy look of compassion. He did that for the hemorrhaging woman suffering from the most untoward situation imaginable and who, by the Jewish law was condemned as unclean and for twelve years was labeled as an outcast because of an illness incurred through most probably no fault of her own. The Lord's kindness inspired her to dream and interpreted this dream into action when she decided to overcome all obstacles and just reach out and touch the hem of His cloak. Thus she earned a strong, clear and well defined faith that enabled her to become, not only physically well, but also spiritually born and up lifted. The Lord had turned an outcast into a woman of great faith and a witness recorded by history as an example for others. The despicable woman with a bleeding disorder, an outcast of her own culture, would be a chosen example of the Lord's kind heart which would live on in history outlasting her earthly existence. At her death, she departed no more as an outcast of the Jewish law but as an example of kindness bestowed by the epitome of KINDNESS, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another example is the blind man. He definitely could not see the commotion nor the cause of the excitement around him when he was told Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. But could the blind man discern the voice of the Lord when he actually did pass by? We know he added his voice to the crowd. Did the Lord Jesus Christ happen to stop at just the right moment in His lengthy and unceasing travels, and/or did the blind man faithfully recognize and relate to a kind voice? It was clearly documented that the Lord Jesus Christ directly and purposefully asked the blind man about his request to which the blind man responded with a direct answer; he wanted back his physical sight.

"So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' He said, 'Lord, that I may receive my sight.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God" (Luke 18:40-43).

It is almost obvious that the man possessed the ability to see spiritually in his recognition of his ability to ask the Lord for sight and expect to receive it. The Lord Jesus Christ's kindness, giving sight to a blind man, increased his followers that day by another faithful one; one now prepared to follow him. His kindness had made a willing heartfelt follower out of a blind man.

Other acts of kindness included preventing the stoning of a woman, causing a sinful man to give half his goods to the poor, restoring fourfold to those he had taken from with false accusations.

It can be thus concluded that kindness can be heard in one's voice as well as seen on one's countenance. It is an old adage that some people are unable to see because of egotism, materialism, prejudice, greed, fear, love of power or revenge, and sometimes because of self-hate. Blindness can indeed also be of a physical nature. The voice of kindness is more readily listened to willingly and can often be better understood without defense. The voice of kindness can induce someone to inspect and see the damage or defect in their eyes and want to correct it.

Kindness affects in different ways but it typically AFFECTS people. Let us pray to the Lord to grant us kind hearts that feel for people with love and not hatred. Kindness can change the lives of others and we should and can serve as the branch to produce its fruits in the lives of others today.

"Lord You know the alertness of my enemies; and as for my weakness, You are aware of it, My Creator. Therefore, I, hereby, place my soul into Your Hands. So cover me with the wings of Your goodness (kindness), lest I might sleep to death. Enlighten my eyes by the greatness of Your sayings, and raise me up at all times for Your glorification, for You alone are good and lover of mankind" (Blessed Prayer of the Veil).

Glory be to God forever.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Table 1: Christian Considerations

Do you find yourself judging others?Luke 6:37
Do you hold a grudge against a friend?Luke 6:37
Do you condemn the behavior of another?Luke 6:37
How can I truly show kindness towards others?I Peter 3:19
Who will "See God"?Matthew 5:8

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