When the children of God show the kindness of the true and living God, the God of all kindness is made known, is glorified, and is enjoyed. What did the world learn from Stephen’s kindness? They learned Stephen was not in the grip of cruelty and animus like they were: “Look how these Christians so desperately want us to be forgiven!” That is what they learned from Stephen. Whether they came to worship the Lord or not, they learned the God whom Stephen worshipped was full of kindness toward his enemies. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer because kindness is first of God.
A vivid lesson on kindness found throughout Old Testament scripture is how frequently kindness is expected as a matter of reciprocity.
Abimelech expected kindness from Abraham in return for having shown kindness to Abraham: “God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned” (Genesis 21:22-23).
Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho, expected kindness from the spies whom she had shown great kindness, hiding and protecting them in the roof. “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign” (Joshua 2:12).
Upon ascending his throne, King David was eager to express kindness to any descendent of Saul because Saul’s son, Jonathan, had shown David great kindness. Learning of Mephibosheth, David said to him: “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always” (2 Samuel 9:7).
What do these scenes of reciprocating kindness have to do with kindness being a fruit of the Spirit? The Spirit of God creates kindness in the lives of all his redeemed children so the children may show others the kindness which God has shown to them.
This was beautifully displayed in the life of Stephen, an early deacon (Acts 7:60).
On the occasion of his grim death, being stoned by a violent and angry mob in Jerusalem, Stephen cried out: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” This was not the kindness of a worldling (Mt. 5:46).