Our culture has a tendency to honor those who succeed regardless of the methods they use or the people that they harm along the way. In essence, the value of one’s cause is evaluated by the amount of effort, power and conviction that is necessary to bring it to fruition.
While few would ever admit it, this philosophy sounds very similar to the concept which is commonly known as “might makes right.” As we observe the consequences of embracing such a dangerous philosophy, it should make us keenly aware of how contradictory the teachings of Christianity are to this particular worldview.
Perhaps, you might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with the fruit of the Spirit described by the Apostle Paul as “goodness.” Actually, the word that he uses, agathosune, means “uprightness of heart and life.”
Thus, if our lives bear the fruit of goodness that Paul describes, we should demonstrate an integrity that is based upon the character that comes from our Savior. Jesus demonstrated uprightness of heart in every aspect of His earthly life.
Rather than focusing upon what was expedient or even practical at times, He focused His life in ministry upon that which was pleasing to His Father in every aspect of life. His willingness to submit His life fully and completely to the will of the Father kept Him on the path that would lead to our salvation.
Allowing the goodness of God to direct our lives can lead us in a direction that is sometimes uncomfortable. Obviously, the lifestyle that is molded by God’s goodness is difficult for those outside of His family to comprehend. Perhaps this is why believers should expect persecution if we choose to live in a manner that reflects the character of our Lord.
As followers of Christ our lives should be manifestations of goodness regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Living in a manner that honors our Lord can be difficult and even dangerous in the midst of a world that is consumed with so much self-centeredness.
Allowing the goodness of God to pour forth from our lives will be a stark contrast to the overriding character of the world in which we live. Of course, such a lifestyle will always be a challenge for us to flesh out. After all, demonstrating goodness is not simply doing the right thing, but it is about the motives and reasons behind our actions.
The Father enables us to live in a manner that reflects his goodness. The Holy Spirit enables us to act in a manner that is counter-cultural. In essence, certain attitudes and actions that we would naturally do no longer have the same appeal to us as they once did.
Every aspect of our character is now viewed in light of this “uprightness of heart” that the Spirit has infused into our lives. It is the very goodness of God that is now the standard by which our motives and attitudes are measured. He enables us to seek after those things that have eternal value, rather than the temporal concerns that often consume our lives.
Our lives are no longer about what matters to us, or is deemed of value to our friends and peers. Instead, that which resonates with the heart of God becomes the focus of our lives. Every aspect of our character and conduct reflects His character and goodness.
As my pastor used to say to us nearly every week at the close of the service, “You are the only Jesus that some people will ever see and the only Bible they will ever read.” Thus, we must allow the light of our Lord to shine forth from every fiber of our being.
If we are willing to allow His goodness to be evident in our lives, those whom we encounter will truly be able to see the goodness of God at work in us. In essence, it is not our character and goodness that people see. Actually, it is the goodness of God that is being demonstrated by the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of each believer.
Imagine what it would be like if the culture around us could begin to see the goodness of God, rather than our own individual goodness. The body of Christ would actually be able to adequately proclaim the love of God to the world around us in both word and deed.
Our willingness to submit to the Spirit’s leading in our lives will allow the goodness of our Lord to be proclaimed to the nations. Is that not the purpose for which we were created? (Mike Cooper is Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of Sunday School Discipleship.)