It’s your kindness, Lord
That leads us to repentance
Your favor Lord, is our desire
It’s your beauty, Lord
That makes us stand in silence
Is better than life
“Kindness” (Chris Tomlin)
As we continue with our Fruits of the Spirit series, this week I get to ruminate on what is perhaps the most easily understood fruit – kindness. We’re all intimate with this action, through our demonstration of it, through reception of it, and sometimes through lack of experiencing it.
When we act in kindness, we’re showing love to another. But the word carries an additional connotation; it seems to be intertwined with the idea of grace. Kindness is loving another, whether or not they deserve it. In fact, kindness is so moving, sometimes, because it’s unexpected.
There are many anime characters that demonstrate kindness, but one stands above the rest. In a harsh world whose violence resembles the wild west as much as the garb of it’s citizens, lives one who is unnaturally kind. The man in red, Vash the Stampede, first appeals to us through his goofy humor and superhuman abilities. But as Trigun wears on, we come to love the show’s hero because, without fail, he always tries to act for the good of others.
Vash’s kindness is unusually strong. This defining characteristic becomes ingrained in him because of a model in his youth. Rem, the older sister figure in his young life, taught him by example to love without borders, without regard for how others treat you, and in fact, to show kindness in all circumstances – even in the face of death.
By the time the Trigun series has started, Rem is a memory and Vash has been on earth for many years. In an early episode, we get a glimpse of Vash’s battered body – his peaceful intent in all situations has led to his own pains. But Vash never responds in a vengeful manner. Instead, he continually and consistently responds to anger, rejection, and violence with kindness.
In my own life, I know that among my many shortcomings is a lack of kindness. I blame stress, upbringing, genetics, and other reasons for the lack of kindness I demonstrate to those closest to me. But when all the noise goes away, a solitary truth remains – I am the reason for my sin and if I really want to change, the Holy Spirit will most certainly work to make that change happen.
When I was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago, I felt frustrated, bored, and stressed – nothing that would indicate any type of spiritual work was happening in me. But the Holy Spirit was working, despite myself. In the two weeks since I’ve been out, I’ve found myself to be a much nicer person – quick to kindness, more patient, and less selfish. The change has taken me by surprise, and my family as well. And as I continue to (imperfectly) display a kinder self, I’m happier and so are my loved ones.
Although I left the hospital a changed man, I felt uneasy. Why? Because I know myself – it would be more than easy to slip back into my old ways (and on some days, I have). I knew right from the beginning that if I wanted to continue a new lifestyle of kindness, it would need to be purposeful. I had to make a choice to be kind. And I had to make that choice every day, moment by moment.
Vash, too, makes the choice to be kind. Sometimes, the choice hurts him. And sometimes, the choices will hurt us, too. But in times when the pain is unbearable or when we think it’s easier or more right to choose an action other than kindness, it need only take us to think of Christ, who in His mercy chose to be killed by those He came to love, to strengthen us and help us in our resolve.
I won’t blame you, though, if Vash pops into your mind, first. That’s okay, because if there ever was a Christ figure in anime, it’s Vash the Stampede. Just remember, the relation between the two is probably purposeful. So if you find Vash to be as great a fictional hero as I do, think of the real model of kindness upon which he is based – the Humble King.
Note: My original plan for this post was to talk about Daikichi of Usagi Drop, who most certainly also displays the kindness I wrote about in this post.
Other Posts in the Fruits of the Spirit Series: