God's kindness leads you toward repentance...Romans 2:4b (NIV)
This fifth fruit of the Spirit is a hard balancing act, if you ask me. On the one hand we want to be loving and generous toward everyone around us, and on the other hand we don't want to be foolish or careless in bestowing resources where they will be misused or abused (casting pearls before swine). The verse above, to me, is an amazing picture of this. God's kindness is bestowed on us at a time when we need to repent, but in the process of receiving God's kindness we want to change. Let's look at the context:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Romans 2:1-4
There seem to be three key thoughts here. First, when we judge others we condemn ourselves. Have you ever noticed that the things that annoy you in other people can often be traced back to something you do yourself? There are several things that I get frustrated with in my daughter only upon reflection to realize that I do the same thing, simply in a more grown up manner. She procrastinates undesirable tasks until they are unavoidable sometimes forcing a confrontation. Anyone else around here doing countdowns at their house? It wears me out. Yet here I sit at a desk filled with papers that probably should have been acted on, filed, or discarded weeks ago. Who, indeed, am I to judge?
Second, God knows who we are. He is the final, honest, all-knowing judge and if we see something we don't like in someone else, we'd best ask Him to examine our own heart as well. Even if that particular sin, vice, attitude, habit, or character flaw isn't present, there is undoubtedly something else lurking there. I have a theory that the longer one walks in paths of faith the more subtle the lurkers are. Things that a new Christian would not even notice can be the biggest issue that an older saint is working on with the Lord. In His eyes, all things that are not holy and from Him are sin and keep us from Him. He is not pleased and He cannot tolerate the presence of such things in the hearts of His beloved and so...
He is kind to us. At another time in my life I might have finished that thought differently, but there it is. He wants us to change, to become ever more like Him, and so He demonstrates kindness. While we were still sinners, He died for us. (Romans 5:8). He guides us into all truth. (John 16:13). He patiently waits for us to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
Since God's spirit can provide this fruit of kindness in me if I rely on Him, the effect I should see on others is that they, too, will be drawn to repentance as I live out the kindness I have received toward others.