It’s funny that goodness is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit. I immediately think of the story of the rich young ruler who approaches Jesus, ”Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone.’ And then Jesus proceeds to ratlle off some commandments. Of course the rich young man has kept all of these and is morally above reproach. And then the punch, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ Ouch! Someone who has been able to control his path, manage his wealth, manage his morality and have a relatively stable life is called to abandon everything that he has accomplished and engineered under his own power and follow God unabashedly…that doesn’t sound so good.
Often times we think, that since goodness is one of the fruits of the Spirit that we are measured on the morality that we exude and therefore we start to judge ourselves (and sometimes other) with a sliding rule of commands instead of being in a love relationship with Jesus. The word used for goodness in Paul’s list in Galatians speaks of ‘uprightness of heart and life’. I think it could be that maybe goodness speaks more of the motivation of our character versus the character itself. I ran across a great Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote recently that puts this into perspective, ‘Being a Christan is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will’. All to often, especially in Holiness and Evangelical circles, we tend to find ourselves so bent on identifying/avoiding sin and moral failures that we forget that we are not put on this earth to be moral blueprints for society. We are here to be disciples of Christ, not moral hall monitors.
The rub comes when this becomes our faith versus Jesus. Moralism is something we have control over and is set out in a clear defined path. I can read the Bible and put everything into a black and white category and be absolutely above reproach. Or I can follow the Jesus of scripture, embark on a path of uncertainty trusting only God and never again be ‘safe’. Trusting in God’s goodness can only come about by experiencing him in an every day walk. And our resulting “goodness” is a heart trait born out of wildly following a God who is at best unpredictable and awesome. The journey of Christ is not about morality…it is so much more than that.
And just to leave you with something fun about God’s goodness…this is one of my favorite excerpts from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
“‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver…’Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. but he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.'”