TO CHEW ON: "Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness...." Romans 15:14a
A while ago I read a novel in which a young woman mysteriously drops out of university and takes up mute panhandling on the streets of Toronto. Through summer and winter she wears gloves on her hands and on her chest a felt-penned sign that says "GOODNESS."
Her family is mystified. They take care of her as in bringing her packages of food and clothes, though it appears she gives most of these things away. Her mother puzzles over especially that "Goodness" sign. What can it mean?
It turns out (SPOILER ALERT for Unless by Carol Shields) the girl was on scene when a young Muslim woman poured fuel over her body and lit herself on fire. Our young heroine tried to beat out the flames, got seriously burnt (thus the gloves) and was so traumatized by the incident, checked herself out of the ER and took up residence on the street in silent and passive protest (as her mother interprets it) to the state and treatment of women in this world.
The word goodness that Paul uses here (agathosune) means ["Beneficence, kindness, in actual manifestation, virtue, equipped for action, a bountiful propensity both to will and to do what is good, intrinsic goodness producing a generosity and a Godlike state or being. Agathosune is a rare word that combines being good and doing good" - Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1573.] It would seem that Carol Shields got "goodness" somewhat right.
It's notable that Paul expresses his desire that they be full of goodness after he bequeaths on them other fullnesses: "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" - Romans 15:13.
Joy, peace, and hope are inner qualities of feeling or emotion. They minister to our inner well-being. Agathosune goodness works these things out in actions.
Though the self-sacrifice and generosity of our fictional "saint" may work as a literary symbol, goodness is usually lived out through simple acts in the course of unexceptional, day-to-day life. Through the Holy Spirit's empowering, let's be full of goodness today!
PRAYER: Dear God, I so often fall short of living the homogeneous goodness of being and doing. Please show me my faulty attitudes that work themselves out in pettiness, meanness, impatience, anger etc. instead of goodness. Amen.
MORE: Personification of goodness
When I think of actual people who exhibited goodness, Jesus comes to mind, of course, and the next person is Mother Teresa.
Who personifies goodness to you?
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.