We have long been told by well-meaning people that everyone has good in them, I want to believe it, but I am keenly aware that while all may be made in God’s image, that doesn’t necessarily mean we reflect His goodness. The mantra has been developed in part because it is hard to face how susceptible we are to chasing our lusts, shocked by how driven we can be by impure desire, and humbled by the fact that without God, we are far from good. Understandably, we want to look at the brighter side of life and not be afraid to fall asleep in a world filled with others conquering or succumbing to the same temptations we know we face each day. However, that is not the only reason so many have come to believe the “all people are basically good”, it is also cherished because of its passivity. We appreciate things that reflect well upon us but require little brain power, which this line of thinking does quite well.
In the word of God we are told that goodness is fruit from the Spirit of God. There it is in Galatians 5 amongst a list of all the other qualities that comprise the fruit that is given to Christ’s followers. It is easy to identify when we are not being loving, kind, or patient, but there are certain attributes listed in the fruit of the spirit that seem harder to assess. To me, goodness is the most troublesome. If someone following Christ is self-controlled, faithful, and at peace, we acknowledge the fruit is present in their life. I can identify in my mind friends who excel at gentleness, or those who seem to be able to hold onto their joy even during hard times. Matthew 7:18-20 says, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” But goodness itself, what does that look like in a believer? How do we know if goodness is present?
Goodness it seems, is something active, present, and given to the larger community of a person’s life. Not much goodness spills out of an individual if they are a hermit, secluded unto themselves. A recluse can demonstrate patience, peace, and joy but goodness seems to need a receiver to be present.
When I think of a character who exhibited great goodness,I think of the adventures of the fictional Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings series. He enjoyed community, shared his life with others, and would have been perfectly fine staying in the Shire, but then came the day when his goodness led him into more. Sam, who faithfully supported his friend Frodo throughout the story, was a common man with simple desires, but with a depth of character that often made a tremendous impact, as in this scene from The Two Towers:
FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam. SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something. FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam? SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.― J.R.R.Tolkien, TheTwo Towers
Can we, like Sam, refuse to turn back? Do we wake with hope for the good that we may be able to unleash into a hurting world, because the Spirit of God resides within us? We can bring beauty; we can bring truth; we can bring the hope of the deepest love ever known, into dark places that have begun to forsake the possibility that there may actually be something that is good all the time.
Let’s plan for good, because good has already been planned for us.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”-Ephesians 2:10
Do things for the benefit of others. This will inconvenience you, but it will be worth it. Think about how to imitate the goodness of Christ, but don’t be weighed down by an expectation that you must earn righteousness. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”-Ephesians 2:28 We are freed from the weight of trying to muster up goodness because we get to rest in that Christ has already made us so, and just let it flow out of us. Find out what you are good at, what makes you come alive, and then make time to do it for others to show love, to encourage hearts, and to share the gospel with those who desperately need to see the glory of God’s goodness energizing a weary world.
Readers, How can you spread goodness today?