Fruits of the Spirit 'Goodness': Galatians 6 v 1-10 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Now there are different types of goodness and one we are perhaps over-familiar with is the goodness or otherwise of food. What is Biblical Goodness then? ‘Goodness’ can appear a rather negative word these days. It can come across as boring, goody-two-shoes, looking down on others, the so-called pew-fillers of church as it was 50 or so years ago who helped spread the idea that churchgoers are naturally morally superior to those who do not attend. Growing up, we were often told to “be good.” Maybe this looked like helping your mum with the household chores or getting good grades in school. Goodness can be seen as someone who does not have enough imagination to behave otherwise and perhaps someone who does not get involved in the muck and grime of everyday living. I think the true meaning of the word “goodness” is commonly overlooked, though. Goodness is action; it is not something we do only for the sake of being virtuous. When we strive to be “good” only for our own benefit, it is not truly goodness that we possess. In Greek, the word goodness, “agathosune,” means “an uprightness of heart and life”. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, our character is transformed. In the areas of our lives where we once held onto sin, which reflects our human nature, we can now possess the fruits of the Spirit and reflect God’s character. One of the fruits of the Spirit is goodness. So, what does this mean, and how can it be applied to our lives? Goodness & the Life of Jesus Christ One of the challenges of living in goodness is that every conscious act of goodness we do brings with it a sense of ‘Oh, I’ve done a good turn’- we fluff ourselves up, we feel better for it, so isn’t it just a nice way of making ourselves feel better about ourselves? The predicament was faced in that deeply philosophical series, ‘Friends’. How do we commit to good deeds and a life of goodness without feeling that what we do and the way we live is ultimately selfish and only committed to self-aggrandisement? Well, firstly I would say that we shouldn’t be put off doing good because we have this good feeling from it! Jesus spoke often in the Bible about rewards for doing good things. Luke 12 v 33, 34.: ‘’Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in Heaven’’. But He did warn against the temptation to practise good deeds too overtly before people: Matthew 6 v 1: ‘’Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly to be admired by them, for you will lose the reward from your Father in Heaven.’’ His promise of ultimate reward is made clear in Matthew 16 v 27: ‘The Son of Man will come with His Angels in the glory of His Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.’ And Paul encourages the same outlook in Colossians 3 v 23, 24: ‘Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.’ Secondly, because we are talking here about the fruit of the Spirit, so that which naturally flows out from someone as a result of the presence of the Spirit in their hearts, then we are referring to much that a believer in the God of love will do unconsciously and without awareness that they have done something good. Sometimes that will be praised by another, and that praise can be received graciously and acknowledging God’s help, but much good will be done without anyone, least of all yourself, being aware of it. When we act out of true goodness of the heart and reflect the fruit of the Spirit, we are obedient to God’s commandments and seek the benefit of others. Our actions come from a place of selflessness, and we place the needs of others before our own. Does this sound familiar? The life of Jesus Christ is the perfect example of goodness, as He died on the cross for the sins of humanity in order to give us the gift of eternal life. His ministry and sacrifice are an example of God’s goodness toward mankind. After all, the term “gospel” means “good news.” In my exploration of the word goodness during this last week, my mind has often reverted to the words of the apostle John at the beginning of his Gospel. Here he speaks of Christ coming as a light into the darkness. This reminded me that Jesus has always been GOOD, but His one ambition was not to preserve that goodness by keeping Himself out of the world’s troubles. No, He came, He got stuck in, He made Himself vulnerable to Satan; He was willing to experience His own and other peoples’ pain. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, talks about the goodness of Jesus’ ministry in Acts 10:38: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” In addition, Jesus is called the “good shepherd” in Scripture, because He laid down His life for His sheep. In that way He became COMPLETE IN HIS GOODNESS. You may ask me ‘How can that be, that someone who is already perfectly good can become through experience completely good?’ It reminds me of the works of C S Lewis. He wrote ‘The problem of pain’ as an academic answer to those who questioned how there could be a Loving God when there was so much suffering. Later, after he was married and his wife had fallen gravely ill and eventually died, C S Lewis wrote ‘A grief observed’. Now it is not to say that he was wrong in his assessment of the meaning of suffering when he wrote his first book, but the second was far more powerful because it involved his own personal suffering watching the one he loved most suffer. Christ learned by His experiences on earth and so did His Father when He suffered with His Son on the cross. Conclusion We are called as Christians to live in a way that reflects the character of Christ. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, (Jesus is speaking in the Sermon on the Mount about believers being the light of the world) let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” In other words, reticence in doing this is not helpful to spreading the Good News of Jesus. Goodness is not about doing elaborate things to gain recognition. Often, it is the small acts of goodness we do throughout our day that mean the most to those around us. Is your friend having a bad day? Write them a note to let them know how much you care about them. Is someone putting you down? Pray for them. It is in these acts of goodness that we reflect Christ’s character and possess the fruit of the Spirit. While it may seem like no one notices, God does. Ultimately, when we show goodness, we bring glory to God’s name.
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