Kindness: to show one’s self mild, fit for use, manageable, virtuous, and good.
The most interesting definition means to show oneself useful. (Strong’s/Vines)
Our world and many Christians today have a disdain for the biblical concepts of submission in marriage as described in Ephesians 5:21-25. But the whole Christian life is characterized by submission and sacrifice. God does not only call women to recognize the leadership role of their husband over the home, but it also calls the husbands to love as Christ. Verse 21 calls us each to submit to one another out of reverence – or deep respect – for Christ. Both husband and wife should humble themselves to serve and love the other. When this is done as a reflection of the kindness of God through the sacrifice of Christ, it provides the stability and strength God can give to build a solid foundation for all to thrive.
If we look back at the context in Chapter 4 leading to these thoughts on marriage, we see Paul explaining how to be renewed in Christ and changed to live in fellowship with one another. We are to put away all wrath, laziness, corrupt talk, and old ways to walk in kindness and forgiveness toward one another.
Men and women alike are equal heirs through faith in Christ. Both have the same expectations to love and humbly serve the other. Both receive the same Spirit and call to live worthy of our salvation. Marriage doesn’t remove their distinctions and personhood. It enhances them.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:21-25
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves hiswife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:28
Growing up, I felt some negative perspectives within the church that have caused many to cringe at the idea of submission, as I saw women treated as lesser people to their husbands. These specific men had not humbled themselves to the point of death nor shown their usefulness as husbands.
That is what kindness is. Being useful and good.
The “be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another” doesn’t stop applying to those in marriages. Based upon the intimacy level as they become one, the standard becomes even higher.
The Kindness of God
As I think about the kindness of God, I am left in awe of a God who drew me to repentance through his humility, grace, and sacrificial love.
That is how a man is to love His wife. It’s a tall order. Christ came to set us free and marriage should never leave someone feeling trapped and enslaved to the will of another. A husband should be able to trust and believe that his wife seeks the best for their family. According to Proverbs 31, a husband that safely trusts in his wife doesn’t have to worry about her taking the credit card and running it up, putting them in financial jeopardy. That is not kindness. That is not useful.
Leadership does not mean to rule and own. Married couples still have personal relationships with Christ and have to work on their individual lives to grow together. Only Christ rules and reigns in our hearts. There is no room for any other, even a spouse.
Jesus led with tempered strength. As we learned from Day 1 of the marriage series, we are to be long suffering. If we don’t start there, we will never be able to be kind in the way God intends.
As someone who has been married for over a quarter of a century, I can tell you that a Christian woman that is seen as an equal heir to the kingdom, unique and distinct in her femininity, and lifted to be who God designed her to be, has no bitterness toward her husband’s ability to lead their family. It is a beautiful, kind gift.
And a husband that can safely trust his wife is able to watch her succeed without envy or fear. He will find joy in watching her bloom in her unique giftings.
So many men these days don’t have an accurate picture of how God shows kindness. Many women think that power frees them, but it is Christ alone that sets us free. Free to live useful lives, helping each other be faithful to Christ. Free to humbly submit to one another in love.
Kindness does not demean or demand. It doesn’t seek to abuse its power or force its will on another. It sees God’s creation the way He designed it. With structure that leads to peace and prosperity. With mutual affection and submission that loves Christ above all and then seeks to express it to others, all the more those God has entrusted us to live and grow with.
If our marriages truly exhibited the kindness of God, there wouldn’t be such a high divorce rate or struggles for power over one another. Christ came in humility and laid down His life to set sinful people free. He forgives and forgets. He holds us close. He desires for us to be whole. Do we want that for our spouse?
Kindness let’s us be our true, image-bearing selves. Salvation frees us from all curses and sin and gives us power through Christ to live in His kindness and grace toward others. As new creations, right relationships can be had as we submit to the Spirit working in our lives.
In future verses, we will see that love does not seek its own. This means we seek the good of our spouses and family.
It all begins by mirroring the kindness of God. When we do, we will all flourish.
Applying The Truth of Kindness
Be useful. Do one small practical thing like bending to pick up the dirty socks, filling the toilet paper roll, warming the car, making the coffee, running an errand, etc. – just because you want to without acknowledgement.
Be mild. Consider the tone of your words today. Avoid snide remarks, rolling of the eyes, huffing, resentful thoughts, or harsh words. What comes out of our mouths and expressed in our bodies reveals what is on the inside.
Be manageable. Sometimes our expectations are not manageable. Sometimes our spouse has no idea of what they even are. Talking about our expectations in marriage is vital. We can’t know what is important to the other without discussing it. But, no one can meet everyone’s expectations, and frustration will come if forced to. Make a list of the things that irritate you and then think about why. Usually we will find that we had an expectation that wasn’t met. Often they weren’t communicated or were unrealistic for the other person. Perhaps we have too many and need to prioritize our greatest needs. Managing expectations with finances, meals, how to spend free time, family, holidays, vacations, children, education….is a kindness to a marriage.
Be of good virture. Seek to learn and grow in your faith, in marriage, and in virtue/goodness. Commit to reading your Bible, talking with God, and sharing that with your spouse. Read a book on biblical marriage and mutual submission. Ask the Spirit to increase your character to mirror God’s – one right choice at a time. Make every effort to grow in kindness by practicing it until it becomes a natural extension of who you are in your marriage.
When we mirror kindness, we will reap kindness. What choices will you make this week to actively mirror the kind and gracious love of God?