I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Psalm 27:13
Let’s continue to look at the fruit that we bear when we abide in Jesus. Jesus assures us (in John 15) that he is the vine and we are the branches. And when we stay attached to Jesus, we will naturally bear his fruit. What is that fruit? Paul identifies this fruit in Galatians 5, in a list that he calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are qualities of a spiritual life that naturally occur when we abide in Jesus. I have looked at five of these so far, love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Now let’s look at the sixth: goodness.
The Bible translation that my congregation uses, the NRSV, actually translates this fruit with another word: “generosity.” I spent some time on this and have decided that “goodness” really is a better translation. But I also came across another way of thinking of this fruit that captures both of these: a “generous goodness.” And then there is the paraphrase in The Message that I think does a good job at describing what this fruit is all about: it is a “conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people” (Galatians 5:22).
So, putting all of this together, what do we have? I think that we have a fruit of the Spirit that is something other than simply goodness or generosity. It is a fruit of the Spirit that sees the good in others. It is a generosity of spirit – a belief that there is goodness in everyone, if we look hard enough. A belief, in the words of Samwise Gamgee from the movie version of “The Lord of the Rings,” that “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
This fruit of the Spirit, in other words, is not so much about being good, or even of doing good, as it is about believing in good – believing that there is goodness in this world, that there is goodness in people, and that it is worth fighting for, and looking for. It is there. It’s just, sometimes, hiding.
When the goodness of this world seems to be hiding from view, what do we do? Well, I will say it, one more time: we must abide in Christ. That has been my theme throughout this series, because I sincerely believe it. If we are going to believe in the goodness of this world, if we are going to have a truly generous spirit, and see, even in very dark days, that the good in this world is worth fighting for, and even dying for, then we must be attached to the vine. We must be connected to Jesus.
When we look at the world through the eyes of our Savior, we see goodness. We see a basic holiness permeating things and people. We see the world through eyes that are loving and kind and generous and good, and the world begins to look that way, too.
It is not rose-colored glasses, mind you. Jesus never looked at the world that way. He saw evil, and was a victim of it. It is not rose-colored glasses through which we see the world, but cross-shaped glasses. We see, even now, a world redeemed by the blood of the lamb. We see the goodness of this world, because we see the love that God has for all this world. And we see that most of all on the day that we call good: Good Friday. The day when the world was redeemed by the most generous, good, loving act that has ever taken place.
When we look at the world through cross-shaped glasses, we see nothing but good, because we see nothing but love. We come to believe, as the psalmist put it, that we “shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” That is from Psalm 27. I thought about what Scripture to use on this theme of “goodness.” I considered Psalm 23 as well, because of its assurance that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life. But I decided on Psalm 27 because of the Psalmist’s conviction that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
When we abide in Christ, we believe this. That we will see the goodness of the Lord. We believe in God’s goodness. And believing this, believing in the goodness and love of our Creator, helps us to believe in the goodness of our world. The world that God created, that God saw is good. The world that still can be good. The world that is good. Thanks be to God. Amen.