“Be kind to one another.” Eph 4: 32.
OK, but how much? In the context of Paul’s letter, Christian kindness is so extensive that it replaces, “All bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander . . . [and] malice.” These are part of the old corrupt nature that must be stripped away. And kindness is the opposite new lifestyle choice that must be put on.
But should all wrath and anger should be replaced by kindness. Bitterness, yes. Outbreaks of aggressive bossiness, sure. Gossip, slander and back-biting, absolutely. All these, no exceptions, all these must go.
But what about wrath and anger?
Verse 26 says, “Be angry but do not sin.” And James 1:19 says, “Be slow to anger.” And Mark 3:5 says that Jesus looked on the Pharisees with anger. So, doesn’t the kindness of Jesus extend to the Pharisees? Was it kindness when Jesus made a whip of cords and drove out the money changers from the temple and turned over their tables (John 2:15, Matthew 21:12)?
How would Jesus have responded to the charge of unkindness? Maybe he would have said, “Sometimes a passion for the truth can’t express itself in the form of kindness.” Or he could have said, “Sometimes kindness -like love- has to be tough.”
Or would he have said: “Kindness is one form of righteousness, but not always the best one”?
No, Jesus was not being kind to the Pharisees, he was being severe with them. And Romans 11:22 separates the kindness of God and the severity of God. Kindness is not an absolute virtue. It is not always the most loving thing to do. It may involve a compromise with evil so serious that in the long run it hurts more than it helps.
So when Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 that we should be angry but not sin, and then says in verses 31–32, get rid of anger and be kind, what I take him to mean is this very thing: All inner bitterness and malice must go. Their eruptions in slander and brawling must go. But when it comes to emotional indignation and you perceive that the teaching of Christ is disobeyed and the glory of God is diminished and the good of the church is in jeopardy, then, under the sway of the Holy Spirit, you must choose: shall I give vent to my anger in severity because the cause of truth and holiness is at stake, or shall I mortify my anger with kindness because there is too much of self in it?
Both are possible in the path of righteousness. And so the extent of Christian kindness is not precise.
It may be wider or narrower than we think.