God’s Kindness is His Essence

Haley Bodine | October 30, 2023

How would you describe God? 

Great? Mighty? Powerful? Worthy of praise? Just? 

If we want to get really honest, maybe we’d throw in that we imagine God is angry or somehow vengeful or disappointed. 

But what about…kind? Not the sterilized type of kind where Jesus is painted hanging out with lambs in an ancient petting zoo, but radically kind; powerfully kind? 

A few years ago, I read a book called Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund that transformed my view of God in a powerful way (seriously, I cannot recommend the book enough). 

Ortlund says this: 

“…[T]he Old Testament speaks of God being “provoked to anger” by his people dozens of times (especially in Deuteronomy, 1–2 Kings, and Jeremiah). But not once are we told that God is “provoked to love” or “provoked to mercy.” His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, ready to gush forth. 

We tend to think: divine anger is pent up, spring-loaded; divine mercy is slow to build. 

It’s just the opposite. Divine mercy is ready to burst forth at the slightest prick.” 

God could have told Moses to tell people, “My name is the Lord, angry and terrifying. My name is the Lord, powerful and mighty…” but God says, “My name is the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6). 

God’s kindness is His essence and His preferred adjective. His anger—though from a perfect place of justice and righteousness—is the exception; His kindness is the rule.

Now, let’s look at humanity for a moment. I don’t believe many people desire to be unkind. I don’t believe many people wake up and think to themselves, “I’m going to make this world uglier than it already is through bitterness and vengeance and apathy.” I believe most of us are drawn to kindness, moved by kindness, and believe the world could use more kindness. 

My question is what are we as Christ-followers doing about it? 

If  I ask myself, “Is kindness true of me the way it is of God?” I must honestly, in dismay, confess that left to my own devices, “abounding in kindness” is not the natural truth about me. But as a Christ-follower, I believe that God is actively transforming me to become more like Him; not simply through behavioral modification but through true heart transformation, making me a conduit of His kindness.  

And so, I believe God’s invitation is not simply to become more kind. We cannot manufacture true, powerful kindness. Instead, I believe God invites us to look to Him and ask for His Holy Spirit to flood us with a spiritual blood transfusion: out with the old, dead and diseased blood and in with the pure, clean, radically-kind DNA of the Living God. And the only way to receive a transfusion is by laying still for the doctor to work. 

In order to become more kind, we must be still with God, talking to Him and considering who He is. And then we must let the Spirit of Kindness Himself move us to not just emulate His heart but truly share it. We grow in love of who He is—the Lord, the Lord compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. And the more we love Him, the more His spirit flows through our veins and outward to the world around us where we live, work, and play. 

So this week, I encourage you to, yes, look for opportunities to be actively kind to people around you. But more importantly, to be still and consider that of all the things that God is—-omnipotent, omnipresent, mighty, glorious, righteous— God prefers to be known as kind.