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  • Writer's pictureWill Stockdale

On Goodness

Updated: May 22

Goodness is different than greatness.



In the first episode of the BBC series Sherlock the viewers are introduced to a number of characters who will appear throughout the series. Two of those characters are Detective Lestrade of Scotland Yard and the man who will become Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, Doctor John Watson. Even though he is brilliant and especially gifted, the famed sleuth is notoriously difficult to work with. There is a dialogue early on when Lestrade is speaking with Watson and explains why he continues to seek Sherlock’s assistance in spite of his behavior and he says, “Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day, if we’re very lucky, he might even be a good one.”  


While the desire is not unique to Washington, D.C., it is the case that our nation’s capitol often prizes greatness over goodness. The names on public buildings and the monuments around the city are there to memorialize the acts and deeds of great men and women in our country’s history. Most of which we ought to be deeply grateful for. But greatness and goodness, while often connected, do not mean the same thing. 


Goodness is the sixth Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. In Scripture it’s a word that communicates a moral quality of righteousness and acts of kindness. Along with being a Fruit of the Spirit, it is a word that encapsulates much of God’s actions to his people. In Exodus 33:19 God said to Moses, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and I will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” It was God’s goodness that freed his people from slavery in Egypt and brought them out of bondage so that they could have fellowship with him once again. 


In the Psalms God’s goodness is praised time and time again. In Psalm 27:13 we read, “I believe that I will look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” And in Psalm 31:19, “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” 


The New Testament tells us that the goodness of God was most fully realized in the coming of Jesus Christ. Titus 3:4-5 reads, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”


If we want to see goodness we have only to look to Jesus. The words that he spoke and the mighty deeds he performed show it to us. He shows us the goodness of God and invites us to participate in it along with him (Philemon 14). We get to demonstrate this Fruit of the Spirit in our service to God as we love him with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. Growing in goodness happens when we live lives of mercy and kindness. It is a beautiful fruit of which this world is needy. 


If it is the Lord’s wisdom and choosing to bring you to greatness may it be shaped and fortified by the fruit of goodness–a goodness that is not wrought by your own efforts, but grown by the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. A goodness that shapes your life and character because you belong to Christ. Your Savior whose goodness was most fully demonstrated by the greatest display of God’s glory on the cross. He has made you his own, and has sent his Spirit into your life to work goodness within you.


 


Rev. Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C. and cohost of The Statement.

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