When I look at the fruit of the Spirit the one thing that strikes me most is how foreign these characteristics are to human beings. By this I mean that while there may be some rare soul who is naturally bent toward this type of behavior it is the aberrant person and not the common one. And even then it must be noted that these characteristics would be flawed in the application by a person not given over to the control of the Spirit of God.
This is why the definition of Goodness in Easton’s Bible Dictionary caught my attention. Here it is, “Goodness — in man is not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.” I love this definition because it firmly places the ability of man to be and do good far outside anything that is attainable. If we are honest even when we succeed in choosing one thing that is good in the very next instant we fail by choosing something that is not good. We are sinful creatures. We are incapable of doing anything good without God’s help.
Feeling a little challenged yet? I am. I know that I am not a good person, but it is encouraging to see that even though God knows this He has instructed in His word that we exhibit Goodness. This is reassuring in the fact that I know God does not ask us to do what He will not help us to accomplish. One quote that comes to mind is that, “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” I am not good, but in Jesus I can be good. Before you go there let me point out that there is a distinct difference between goodness and righteousness. Goodness is a manifestation of Godly character (a fruit of the Spirit) and righteousness is a positional stand before God by the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross.
So, practically, what does Goodness look like in the life of a Christian? Rather than try to define or explain this allow me to illustrate by example. I will not try to take examples from history but rather from the Scriptures. Disclaimer: there is no perfect example of Goodness on record in human history (save Jesus himself).
King David is an individual that evokes strong responses from Christians. Some will quickly go the fact that, in all of Scripture, David is the only one mentioned as a man after God’s own heart. Others would be quick to point out that even Godly men can, and do, fail. Regardless of where in that wide spectrum you fall it is important to remember this, David is a great example of Goodness.
How can that be? He was and adulterer, murderer, liar, etc. I know. And so does God and yet after all these things God still calls him a man after His own heart. Why? Because David was quick to reject evil when confronted with it. You see, David was as human as the rest of us. He was a sinful man, just like you and me. So, how did he demonstrate Goodness? By repenting quickly. In all of his sin David always came back to humble repentance before God. How does this relate to Goodness? Take the definition we gave above. Repentance is the acknowledging before God that what we choose is not what we should, that we did that which is contrary to Gods perfect character. It is agreeing with God that our actions fall short of holy conduct and moral character. Now try to put the definition of Goodness into practice without the reality of confession of sin and you see that it would be impossible short of heaven. We all fail and sin. But how often do we react like David? How often do we fall on our faces before God and acknowledge that we are sinful and seek forgiveness and restoration?
Ever read Psalm 51? This is what Goodness looks like. Humble acknowledgement that we are fallen creatures. Agreement with God that we have fallen ever so short of His holy character. Rejecting our sin. Asking for cleansing and restoration. Praise to God for His mercy and grace. Worship from a heart aware of its short comings and rejoicing in forgiveness. That is what Goodness looks like on this earth. Not just a consistent attempt at doing good things but quick admonition of having failed and seeking forgiveness. Romans 3:12 reminds us that there is not one person one earth who does good. At least not by nature. Thank God that our old nature is on the way out and that God is in the process of changing us into the likeness of Jesus.
Let me leave you with these thoughts.
Our Goodness stems from Christ’s righteousness in us. Without a clear conscience before God we can never do good. Without true repentance for our sins we cannot have a clear conscience. The simplest way to have Goodness in our lives is to do what Romans 12:9 says, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”