Where has all the goodness gone?


But the fruit of the Spirit is …
gentleness and
Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The fruit of the Spirit is … goodness. This is a trait sorely missing in our world today, and in society as a whole. Every morning you open the paper it seems a new low in human decency has been reached, and a new high in evil has been unleashed on the world. Terror, random violence prevails. Common courtesy, common decency, good will and overall benevolence are in short supply.

I used to deliver a southern California newspaper (The Pasadena Star-News) that carried on a tradition of putting only good news on the front page on Christmas Day. It’s a great idea, yet one wonders if you could do that today for lack of suitable material. Of course there are still good people in the world; they just don’t seem to be currently very newsworthy.

And truly good people — philanthropists and such — are not necessarily going to be Christians. In fact, for some time now, Christians have not placed a very high regard on what I would call goodness in the material world. Christians have, as long as I can remember, had a tendency to relegate goodness to another world, and a sense of ambivalence at best, and utter distaste, at worst, toward this one.

So what would goodness look like for a marketplace Christian?

Goodness is what happens when no one is watching. Goodness is when you do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do, even though you could have gotten away with the wrong thing, or perhaps nothing at all. Goodness is also Grace Turned Outward. It touches us, but it touches those around us, and that’s what gives it presence in the marketplace.

“Peace on earth good will toward men,” is the most frequently quoted angelic proclamation to the shepherds. But that is the ancient King James Version. All the newer translations have different meanings, and those fall into three basic camps, as follows:

Peace on earth among men of good will.
Peace on earth among those who please him.
Peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased.

I presented this conundrum to our Biblical language expert, David Roper, this morning, and will let you know what he comes up with, but in the meantime, as we wait on his good thinking, at the very least, any way you look at it, it’s a limited peace, and that peace seems to be in one way or another tied to goodness on earth. And since goodness on earth is a fruit of the Spirit in our lives, then we must be the ones most holding forth the truth of goodness in the marketplace, beginning with those closest to us. Call forth the Spirit in your life, because the world needs goodness that comes from God. Goodness that comes because we ask for it, and God, who is always ready for us, says, “As you wish.”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Would that they would write something similar about us.

The fruit of the Spirit is … goodness. Against such there is no law.

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2 Responses to Where has all the goodness gone?

  1. …And in despair I bowed my head;
    “There is no peace on earth,” I said;
    “For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The wrong shall fail,
    The right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
    ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1863)

    Where has all the goodness gone, John?
    It has gone nowhere. It has not left us nor this world behind.
    It’s still here manifesting itself as vigorously as ever before.
    You answered your own question when you wrote:
    “Goodness is what happens when no one is watching. Goodness is when you do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do…”
    Jesus is not seeking splashy headlines that focus attention on the good deeds of churches and individuals. He is wanting our loving actions and obedient service to speak louder than the words printed in the newspapers or reported by the news anchors.
    As for those churches and individuals that strive for media attention because of their “goodness”, well… “Truly I tell you, they already have their reward.” (Matt.6:2)

    It may seem as if things are worse today than in all of history but the only real difference is that now we have the non-stop onslaught of information being streamed at us from every part of the globe through every means imaginable.
    There have always been wars, tragedies, scandals, disasters, injustices, plagues, bad behavior, and stupidity. There have also been times of peace, prosperity, help, hope, revivals, recovery, medical breakthroughs, aversions from man-made catastrophes, and good sensibility.
    In the 21st century, though, there’s very little time to catch ones breath or veer ones eyes away from the “Breaking Headlines” of todays tragic or torrid stories.
    It takes a focused non-distracted individual to find the satisfying morsels of hope and kindness among the smorgasbord of juicy gossip, scrumptious slander, and fattening fear.

    Believers and skeptics both expect the church to put its best foot forward at Christmas and Easter so we place a greater importance on “human-interest” stories in lieu of the “darker” news items we’re accustomed to over the remainder of the year.
    The irony is: because of our heightened holiday-time senses the darker stories that get the really big coverage and the “feel-good” stories that make the front page news seem to strike an especially-sensitive nerve in our beings.
    Our responsibility lies in how we respond to either kind of story. Do we throw our arms up in disgust, or in prayer/praise to God? Do we wring our hands with consternation, or clasp them together in prayer/praise to God? Do we mumble and mutter under our breaths, or do we vocally proclaim, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”?
    Or, do we simply shrug our shoulders because we’ve finally become desensitized and paraphrase “The Preacher” from Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”?

    The bottom line is, despite the negative things we all see going on around us, and because of our keen awareness of what the season is supposed to stand for, we all want to see and hear and experience GOOD NEWS in these “darker” days.
    “The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
    For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn….”

    John, when you write about our fellow Catch members and how they serve their communities behind the scenes, the media may not notice but you’re making a “good news” headline out of it… and blessing the rest of us with that very lovely gift of sharing!
    Praise God!!
    When a person commits their life to Jesus, rarely does it ever make the front page… but there is a wild party going on in Heaven – probably every minute! (I have a very weak theory that thunder is the music, lightning is the disco ball, and snow is the confetti!)
    Praise God!!
    When those in far-off countries who suffer or have died for their relationship with God are ignored or marginalized by the press, they’re never forgotten because… “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Ps. 116:15)
    Praise God!!
    When low-income parents do their best to provide food, shelter, clothing, and loving comfort to their babies or others in need, it may be a nice little “filler” story that will be replaced by another “filler story” tomorrow; but, those moms and dads are not tossed aside because… “When Jesus is my portion, a constant friend is He; His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches over me…”
    Praise God!!

    There is good news AND goodness out there all around us 24/7.
    If you look for it, you’ll find it.

    Some final thoughts from Fred, Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew…
    ‘There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!’

    Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to my Catch family and to your families, and their families, and so on!!! Shalom to all and God’s richest blessings to all those of good will… 🙂

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