I can still remember sitting in my first ever sociology class of my first year of uni and hearing the lecturer tell us “there is no place for God in sociology”. Kind of challenging for a young Christian to hear. Rather than giving it too much thought, I chose to sit in my seat, respectfully disagree, and get on with the course. Then, further on in my study we came to the theory of post-modernism which states that there is no absolute truth. Again, not something that really sits well with me. While I can understand that there are different perspectives on certain things, at the end of the day there are some things which are truth and some that aren’t. In a lot of ways I feel like the first character trait we’re going to look at today, goodness, has fallen victim to a post-modern world. The concept of what is good and what is not has become so muddled and so debated that we can become paralysed by uncertainty. Hopefully we can untangle it a bit today and pair it with the second trait, kindness, to find some ways of putting it into practice.
Dictionary.com includes in its definitions of goodness “moral excellence; virtue”, “kindly feeling; kindness; generosity” and “the best part of anything; essence; strength”. So when we look at goodness as a character trait, it’s putting these things into practice. In fact, when you take a step back and look at the Fruit of the Spirit as a whole, putting them into practice is displaying goodness. When we live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control we are showing the goodness in our character. When we looked at love, we saw that love is the fuel for us putting the Fruit of the Spirit into action. Goodness is the spark that lights that fuel. When we have goodness in our character we want to do good things to others, it inspires us into actions fuelled by love so that we can pass the spark that we have on to others. Goodness seeks to do good, so that it then sets off a chain reaction of goodness moving forward.
So if love is the fuel and goodness is the spark, where does kindness fit? Kindness enables us to put our goodness and love into action in any situation. Kindness is what helps us to look past the situation we are in, the characteristics of the other person, or our own feelings on the day and to take action anyway. Kindness enables us to see even the smallest thing which can be done to help someone else so that we can then be sparked by goodness and fuelled by love to act. Kindness sees past the need for big gestures and values the seeds planted by small actions to help or encourage those around us. Kindness is what helps us put aside our need for gratitude or recompense or reciprocation and simply act. Without kindness we may be discouraged by situations or responses, with kindness we can look past those and see that every seed planted bears fruit.
Goodness may seem like a very subjective term, but when we look at it as a character trait it’s really not. Goodness is what sparks us into actions that benefit others. Goodness seeks to encourage, to help, to support, to bless those around us. When combined with kindness which helps us to act even when thing may be hard or uncomfortable, or may even come at a cost to us, we see that we can positively impact the lives of others in any given situation. We see that we don’t need to do big things to make a difference, but that even the smallest seed can result in a big outcome. Goodness and kindness together are truly powerful.
What can you do this week to build more goodness and kindness into your life? How can you allow goodness to spark you into action? How can you allow kindness to help you move past the things that get in your way and move into using every opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of those you come into contact with?