The Fruits of Goodness
By Regular Contributor Peter
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22-6:5)
The world of people is sometimes a very perverse place. Have you ever had someone do something really rotten to you, and then have them turn on you as if you had done something rotten to them? Or, when you struggle with something and succeed, you find that former friends become envious critics? Have you ever witnessed husbands and wives, brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters, coworkers, or parents and adult children compete with and belittle each other? And what of people who seemingly try to build themselves up in the eyes of others by tearing someone else down? And doesn’t it seem that there is nobody more unlikeable than someone who demonstrates that they don’t like us? I, like most of you, have witnessed all of these things, and more; such perverse human characteristics are everywhere and yet they make so little sense. The slights, the envy, the competition, and criticisms suffered are often directed to the innocent. The reality is that merely by existing we are, through no intent or fault of our own, subject to criticism and injustice in the words and actions of others.
And indeed, we may ourselves perpetuate these perverse types of attacks on others, casting ourselves as judges, smugly identifying ourselves as different and better. We fail to make the connection between our own hurt, and hurting others. Without a doubt, it is common that hurt becomes anger, one bad turn leads to another. Viciousness begets viciousness.
For me, there are few things that have personally hurt as much as being the victim of a false accusation or unfair criticism. This hurt is all the worse for me, as I think is true for most of you, and even more so in situations where I have been especially trying to do good. I recall as a child of about four years old (about the only memory I have of that age) being at a neighbour child’s birthday party. After lunch, a hired clown appeared. As part of his routine, he took a photo with his big clown camera. Only the camera, on taking a photo, jumped wildly apart, seeming broken, bits dangling on coil springs. It was meant to be funny. But me? I remember him going around the table, demanding of each individual: “Did YOU break my camera?” When he finally came to me, and accusingly asked this question, I was mortified, indignant, and upset. I screamed, as only a four-year-old can, “NO” and ran home. The injustice of the accusation left me upset for a very long time (for about a half century it seems!).
And so I was introduced to injustice in the world. Of course, injustice in its many guises has always been a part of the world, and almost certainly will always be a part of our earthly existence. To ‘grow up’ in the world is to come to some kind of understanding of injustice as it affects us, and as it affects other people. One might even go so far to say that the one overwhelmingly important factor concerning a person’s character is found in how they choose to embrace justice or the opposite.
Reality is that the world is an unjust place for many, if not all people. We jokingly say that “No good deed should go unpunished”, “Nice guys finish last”, and that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Or, more seriously, as a friend of mine has often observed: “They always crucify the Christ”. Not that we are Christ, but we do – all of us – embody some goodness being created in God’s image.
Goodness – the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” written of in The Bible and quoted above – is no protection from injustice. And in fact, history shows us that at times these very characteristics invite injustice. So what are we to do? Perpetuate the evil, and continue to crucify the Christ “with our passions and desires”? Or, wouldn’t it be more edifying to accept the gift that Jesus the Christ gave us by shedding His precious blood on the cross, and, subsequently, live and walk in the spirit of goodness?
In the latter option, we can change one small part of our world by breaking the link in the chain of human perversion, choosing neither to provoke nor envy others. We can escape injustice when we accept God’s love, and His promise of our salvation. We can be filled with His peace and joy in our hearts. Most of all, the fruits of goodness would mean that we are doing God’s will; there is no need for more.