“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
-Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I’ve been slowly working my way through the Bible verse above, sharing my thoughts on the fruits of the spirit and what it means to live a fruitful life with God. And if you read my last post, then you also know that I’m pregnant (talk about bearing fruit… hehe). You may or may not know that one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy in the first trimester is fatigue. Well, I may not feel pregnant in any other way, but I’ve definitely been experiencing this symptom. So if you ever start to wonder if I’ve fallen off the face of the planet, don’t worry. I’m probably just too busy lying on the couch in my pajamas to write a blog post.
For the moment, however, I am here and ready to write. So let’s get down to business… in this post, I’m writing about the fifth and sixth fruits of the spirit, kindness and goodness.
These two virtues are so simple, in my opinion. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that being kind and good are, well, good things to aspire to. Even many people who aren’t Christians believe that kindness is the key to a better planet. If we’re honest, we might even say that people who aren’t Christians often appear to be better at being kind to others than Christians are. Maybe it’s just a minority of Christians who give the rest of us a bad reputation by being judgmental, self-righteous, and unloving. But either way, I have grown uncomfortably familiar with the seemingly popular negative perception of Christians. Is it just me, or does anybody else feel that it’s ironic (not to mention twisted) that people who claim to follow Christ are often thought of as harsh and unwelcoming? We should be known for our unconditional, God-like love for others above all else. So where did things go wrong? Why does Christianity have such a negative connotation for many people?
If you ask me, it happened because some Christians, both past and present, forgot to love. Or, even simpler than that, they forgot to be kind. They forgot that every single person on this planet is cherished by God. It doesn’t matter what a person has done or how they live, God still loves them beyond reason. And even though many people reject him over and over again for their entire lives, Jesus would still willingly and gladly die for them. He just loves them so much. Now I understand why it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to love every single person that we come into contact with. But even if we fail to love them, we can still always choose to be kind. Treating every person with dignity and kindness should not be negotiable for those of us who use Jesus’ name to identify ourselves.
Of course, we can neither love others nor live in kindness towards them every day without help. We are human, and we are weak. My kindness can often dissipate in the blink of an eye for any number of reasons; perhaps I’m hungry, or hormonal, or in some cases, perhaps I’ve actually been wronged in some way. But God doesn’t want us to be kind only when we feel like it, or when the other person deserves it. He wants us to be kind always! Since that doesn’t seem to be possible (at least for me), I am relieved to know that I don’t have to struggle to do it on my own. Kindness is a fruit of the spirit, meaning that the Holy Spirit (God’s “agent” on Earth) produces this characteristic in us when we keep our hearts and minds focused on God.
So why do so many Christians seem to struggle with this? Maybe it’s because they don’t keep their focus on God. They get distracted and lured away from God by the tempting things in this world. They decide to live as “Christians” by their own power, instead of by the power that Jesus feely gave. The result is that Christians are often more human-like than Christ-like. And it’s sad, because there is so much more available to us if we are just willing to reach out and grab it.
The same is true with goodness. The way I think of goodness is basically a deep desire to do what is right. People who are good are considerate of others, treat people well, and understand that there is a higher system of right and wrong than our own constantly changing opinions. Being good may be something that we naturally want to do, but it usually isn’t something that we naturally achieve on our own. At least for me, my humanity gets in the way. Instead of acting based on my morals and what I know is right, I act on my emotions and my impulses. And even though I consider myself to be a “good girl” based on the world’s standards, I know that based on God’s standards I have fallen short—very, very short.
That is why I need God. (Well, it’s one of many reasons.) I need the Holy Spirit to be the one guiding my actions each and every day. Without him, I am simply not good. Yet the last part of that sentence sounds so wrong to me, because I know that now, with Jesus, I am good. I am perfect and whole and overwhelmingly good in God’s eyes, because when he looks at me, he sees Jesus. Knowing that just makes me want to live up to the person that God has shown me I truly am. Jesus made me good, my Father sees me that way, and his Holy Spirit works in me every day to help me live it out. All I have to do is let go of my own attempts to control my life and let God take the wheel. Fortunately, he’s a much better driver than I am.