It wasn’t hard to be a good girl growing up. When you have a people pleasing personality and a hatred of conflict, being a well-behaved and obedient child isn’t that difficult. You learn that behaviour smooths the waters and deflects anger. You learn to suppress desire for the greater good. You learn that being good gets you the kind of attention that you crave and puts you in pretty good comparison to the people around you for whom this type of living isn’t so easy.
Being good to please and placate others can make you feel virtuous.
So this Fruit of the Spirit should be pretty easy, right? I mean, as people who follow Christ we’re supposed to be good. We’re supposed to live in a way that shows we’re different from other people.
We’re supposed to live under the grace of what Christ has done for us, sharing that with others, but the temptation to live as though our goodness got us there is strong, strong, strong, whether we admit it or not.
Many of the Fruits of the Spirit can be outwardly faked. We can seem joyful, kind, self-controlled, but what makes the Fruits of the Spirit different is that they spring from an inward well that comes from God.
What makes the Fruit of Goodness different from my people-pleasing nature is both its source and its fuel.
My childhood goodness would often come from fear of retribution. Fear of conflict, fear of displeasing others and causing a rift in the relationship.
It’s a goodness based on shielding myself rather than an outpouring of actual care for the other person.
That fear can also be directed towards God. If we lose sight of grace and forget that it’s God’s love for us that seals the relationship, we can fall into the trap that if we’re not good, God’s wrath will fall on us. That’s a real, true struggle for many of us. We have been shown through the actions of others and the lies of the enemy that grace is only given to the good. That the weak and defiant are punished and cast aside.
But God’s grace-filled love casts out fear.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 1 John 4:18
As we know him better, seek truth about him through the Bible and our own stories of his intervention and presence in our lives, this perfect love comes to the forefront and the baggage of our other experiences fades into the background.
Goodness sourced by God’s grace fuels us into action for others. When we know that we are beautifully created, gifted, forgiven, we are able to be good because of our confidence in His love rather than our insecurities.
And this love fuels our love for others. Because goodness isn’t just a state of being, it’s a state of action.
When we look at goodness in the Bible it is displayed through our actions on behalf of others.
No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:15-16
Our goodness is not intended to make us look great, but to point others towards God. Our actions on behalf of others shows them not only that God loves them, but that God fuels us to love them.
And if this fruit of goodness is pouring out of us, the answer to “how can you do it?” becomes, because Christ did it for me and shows me how to do it for you.
Fruit-fuelled goodness is grace-fuelled goodness.