Fruit of the Spirit: GOODNESS.

Galatians 5:22-23 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, GOODNESS, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Against such things that is no law."

Last year I was having lunch with a one of the guys from my staff.  We had finished our meal and were grabbing some mints where the host waits to seat people when I noticed a group of elderly women clogging the doorway as they slowly made their way out to the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.  As I was waiting for them, I made eye contact with one of them and said something about what a wonderful day it was to have a lunch outside on the patio.  They agreed and for whatever reason (I don't need much of one), I decided to give one of them a hug as they left.  It wasn't long before the grandma next to her asked if she could have a hug, too. I obviously obliged.  Just then a couple of their friends who were already standing outside the opened door saw what was happening inside and said, "Hey, do we have a hug from a handsome young man today as well?"

"You know it!" I said as I walked outside and hugged the rest of the sisterhood.  We talked a little bit about our town and the beautiful little place it was, so full of friendliness, almost like a big family.  I love bragging on our little village and it's community-mindedness.

As I turned to leave and headed to my car, I heard one of them say to the others...

"There is still GOOD in this world."

It put a smile on my face and the memory of that simple moment has never faded for me.  I think the reason why it's indelibly impressed upon my heart is because I think it's what we all wonder and wish for as we wake up each morning.  It might even be the reason we say "Good Morning" to each other as we greet the new day with high hopes.  Every day we wake up we open two amazing gifts, our eyes.  The third gift that we must open immediately following those two is our heart.  In a world of trouble-shooters we need more goodness-shooters, souls looking for the good in life and people.  The fact is that whatever you're looking for you will surely find, for the good or bad.

It's no surprise that Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.  It's embedded in the very definition of the Gospel which means 'good news'.  The message of God to the world is good news and the mission statement of Jesus himself in Luke 4 taken out of the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was "He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor..."  This is an anointing that must accompany every believer who names the name of Jesus.  We are commissioned each day to embody the good news of the gospel to a world drowning in and drunk on bad news.

Someone said, "Good people are like candles, they burn themselves up to give others light."  There is such great joy in serving that purpose, even if the process of dying to yourself is painful in the provision of that light for the world.

I love the way Paul encouraged the Roman church to pursue this quintessential virtue in his letter to their church.  His words are found in Chapter 12...

"Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - vs. 9, 21

Every good story is the epic battle of evil vs. good.  Every best-selling book or blockbuster movie carries this universal theme.  When a story doesn't do a good job of setting up the protagonist and the antagonist, the villain and the hero, the narrative doesn't get traction and the movie falls on its face.  People know that this is the plot of life itself.  Evil is seeking to take out the good, and someone has to rise up and fight against evil to preserve the good...it's predictable, but it doesn't make it any less intoxicating.  There are tons of new movies and new stories, but their is never a new storyline...this is the narrative the human heart understand best.

Jesus began his ministry with this mission ("Jesus went about doing good..." - Acts 10:38) and Paul continued to champion the desperate need of the church to overthrow evil with a life of goodness no matter the cost, even if it meant death.  I know it's hard for Americans to comprehend, but people have and are dying for the good news that we claim to believe.  People have clung to good and overcome evil with it since the beginning.  This is greatest weapon we have against the evil one, goodness.

So my heart cries out with the Psalmist....

"Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; let Your GOOD Spirit lead me on level ground." - Psalm 143:10

So when we have the Spirit bearing His fruit in our lives, it's a good Spirit makes us good people in a world needing 'good news'.  The early church faced such oppresive evil that was massacring their friends and family and was turning them and their loved ones into martyrs for the cause of Christ.  This was no joke.  You weren't a believer just because it was convenient or advantageous.  You believed in the power of "good overcoming evil' even if it cost you your life to advance that message to the coming generations.  I coudn't have been easy to live this ethos in such an oppressive environment, but they persisted in this belief that the fruit of a life connected to Christ produced goodness in the face of abject evil.

So Peter bouyed faint hearts in the early church with these words...

"It is God's will that by doing GOOD you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people." - I Peter 2:15

This was the repetitious message of the early apostles...keep goodness alive despite the resistance.  Don't repay evil with evil, but with blessing. - I Peter 3:9  Don't think that this was easy for them to swallow.  They were human just like us and the temptation to retaliate was in their blood just like ours.  But they leaned into the Jesus-way, the Spirit-fruit when push came to shove and it's made all the difference in the past 2000 years.

I believe I'm writing about it today because brave men and women, patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith, brothers and sisters in the family of God, lived the good news with good hearts doing good works in the face of sinister evil.

So the question is this: "Do I trust the power of goodness as God's weapon against evil?"  I have a feeling this is what seperates the Christ-fan from the Christ-follower.  When it's really on the line, do I react with my human spirit or do I respond with God's Spirit in me?  I need to grow in this...big time.

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