This is an ongoing “Fruit of the Spirit” series featuring my past perspectives from December 2019 along with my present-day reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro, my first post about love, my second about joy, my third about peace, my fourth about patience, my fifth about kindness, and now my next installment about goodness below.
Dean from December 2019
I have always wondered why righteousness was not one of the fruit of the Spirit but goodness is. We put on the breastplate of righteousness, after all – why goodness as a fruit, then?
Perhaps it relies on what the words truly define. Righteousness is a description of actions. One does righteous acts. One is righteous only because one’s displayed actions are described as such.
Goodness is a state of being; one is good or not good. The rich young ruler called Jesus “good,” and Jesus responded, “Why call me good? Only God is good.”
Only God is good.
These days, “good” is thrown around so much that it seems to have no meaning. “Good” just means “not bad enough to criticize.”
Apparently, goodness used to have a greater connotation.
If goodness is a state of being, then its presence as a fruit of the Spirit challenges me. How can I be something that is only possible for God to be?
I am fallen. Identity in Christ aside, I am still in a body of sin and death, as Paul said.
I fight a fallen flesh every single day. How can I be good? How can goodness be a fruit of mine?
Additionally, how can I exemplify such a fruit if I am someone the church often reviles as evidence of the Fall?
No matter what I do, many Christians will never accept me as capable of being truly good, because I am not straight.
Even if I don’t believe I have to be straight to be good, or that my sexuality somehow designates an inherent brokenness, I have to wrestle with the presence of broken identity in many ways, queerness or otherwise.
No matter what you believe, how can any of us demonstrate goodness while living on this earth in a fallen body?
Will goodness be a part of my 2020 . . . ?
Dean from September 2020
My friend’s words rang so clearly in the room. And that’s when it hit me — that’s goodness as a fruit of the Spirit.
I had brought up with him my wrestling with goodness, acknowledging that each fruit has gotten significantly more difficult to process as the year has progressed.
As 2020 keeps getting more 2020-ish, my journey to understand the fruits of the Spirit has also grown more challenging.
My friend and I were discussing what God was teaching us. He asked me outright: “Dean, what are you learning?”
I began to rattle off my ponderings on goodness.
If only God is good, if I am trapped in a body of sin, if my flesh is at war with the Spirit of God inside me — how can I ever be good?
I shared my question with my friend and began to connect some Scripture together:
“The Bible says ‘Only God is good’ — Jesus said this. Yet we are called to be ‘holy as God is holy’ and ‘be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh’ and to ‘imitate Christ.’ So, if Jesus said that ‘only God is good,’ we say that as well. Then we strive to be holy and imitate Christ.”
My friend then gave his response:
“The result is the ability to say, ‘Yes, only God is good. And my goal is to reflect Him.'”
This was it.
This was the piece I was missing.
You see, I kept trying to make goodness about me. How could I be good? How could I demonstrate goodness with my own identity and actions?
What if goodness depended upon me only insofar as I point goodness back to God? Goodness is not about me — it’s about the God to whom I belong.
If God is good, then I, in belonging to Him and being as close to Him as possible, demonstrate goodness.
Then I have to say, “Why call me good? Only God is good.”
Regarding my sexuality, this means goodness is by no means hindered by my queerness. Indeed, I can say, “I’m queer, I’m God’s, and He is good.”
What a freedom this gives me. Goodness might just be my favorite fruit so far.
Do you struggle to identify with goodness as a fruit of the Spirit, whether for reasons of sexuality or otherwise? What’s your most challenging fruit of the Spirit to pursue and practice?
It’s funny, I never thought to try to draw a distinction between righteousness and goodness. For me they’ve always been entwined if not equal, like justification and sanctification. I definitely struggle to identify as a good person. Particularly over the past six years, it seems like my badness is getting worse. Everyone around me seems to think I’m a stand-up guy, and it takes everything in me not to laugh at them. I do not know if this is a problem of my actually becoming a worse person or if I’m just now noticing how bad of a person I’ve always been. Either way I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome as a result.
I know the struggle with imposter syndrome well. I think Goodness is helping with that because I cannot be blamed for taking credit for something I am not I being honest about myself and God — how can any of it be a lie?
Praying you see your value and see yourself as God sees you.
“I’m queer, I’m God’s, and He is good.” Thanks for writing that! I needed to see that today. And we are loved.
You’re very welcome, Richard! We are indeed loved deeply.
Maybe my favorite “fruit” from you so far, Dean. Although I’m still eagerly anticipating your thoughts on self-control, as that’s always been the most ~resonating~ of the fruits for me.
This one hits home because I’ve always seen myself as pretty “good.” Not in a prideful sense, but just practically…never getting in trouble at school, getting straight A’s, valedictorian, no tattoos or piercings or slicked back hair or leather jackets, etc. It really wasn’t until my porn addiction hit me in college that I realized, oh, right, I’m sinful. And quite sinful at that. How I need God’s ultimate and only goodness to cover me. Daily.