These three qualities: goodness, kindness and gentleness express love, patience, peace, joy, faithfulness and self-control, the other qualities of the fruit of the Spirit to a T. But are we Christians known by our goodness, kindness and gentleness? What do those qualities have to do with spreading His word, with serving His people? And yet, aren’t they the very essence of love? Think of it: if everyone spoke to me with goodness, kindness and gentleness, wouldn’t I feel affirmed and valued? Wouldn’t I feel like I belonged? These are the primary qualities of love. Just look at the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father greets the errant son with love and welcome; he is just so happy to have him back that he throws a party, restores him to his place in the family. There is not one word of judgment about what he had done, not one word of warning or of punishment or of loss of status. Is this like the world at all? No! That is goodness, kindness and gentleness!
As we see the prodigal son, he had come back to his father after acknowledging that his choices and profligate spending had landed him in servanthood, feeding pigs of all things when he could be at least a servant to his father instead of this stranger. So he headed back to his family home. And he expected to be reprimanded at least, maybe punished, definitely reduced to servanthood there. But none of that happens. He is loved and welcomed and feted and back in his true place in the family. Goodness, kindness and gentleness are the hallmarks of this father. Not one word is spoken about the error of his ways!
Goodness, kindness and gentleness–they are to be the qualities that we grow into as we become followers of Jesus. They are the essence of love. And love is what we are to give out to the world. For love is the great converter of behavior. Love expresses true worth and a place for each of us and a sense of belonging.
These graces are bestowed on us as we are healed of our defensiveness, our anger and fear—the gross and self-protective emotions which are destructive to any human relationship. As we grow in our capacity to put God first in all things, we are graced with these three qualities. As we grow in trusting the Lord in all things, we no longer need to protect ourselves; we stand in the truth of who we are and Whom we serve.
As these defensive mechanisms disappear, we find ourselves in a new relationship to others. As we grow into goodness, kindness and gentleness, we feel more drawn into the other person, ready to really get to know them, to affirm who they are and what they have been through. We see them as they really are, not with the mantle of prejudice and judgment that we wore before. We acknowledge that they, too, are made in the image of God. That we value who they are and whatever they contribute. We welcome them into the body of Christ, the community of those whom God loves and who love God in turn.
The personal and limited lens that I have written of recently is the big thing that stands between us and being good and kind and gentle. Once that cloudy lens begins to be dismantled, we can see more and more clearly what is true and real and eternal in everything and in everyone. Then we are living in the truth about ourselves, about everyone and, as Jesus promises, “the truth will set you free.” Free to live as we were created to live. Free to be the person God created us to be. Free of so much garbage and especially of that personal lens. And we walk side by side with Christ through our lives with only His yoke and His burdens: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Goodness, kindness and gentleness are the essence of what we are to attain in loving God. As we are healed and transformed on our journey with the Living Christ, we gradually are able to manifest these very qualities, the very opposite of what we experience in the world. And then every person we meet will experience that lightest of words and touch which expresses all the love it can. The other person is not experiencing us, but the Holy Spirit working through us—pure and holy love!
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I treat everyone with goodness, kindness and gentleness? Or with anger, fear and anxiety? Am I self-protecting or self-giving? Am I expressing God’s love in this world or my own personal point of view? How could I come to express God’s love? His forgiveness to everyone I meet? What stands in the way of my allowing His love to flow through me? [Just ponder the ones that seem to call you.]
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who express God’s love, His goodness, kindness and gentleness in this world. May we see each and every person as a child of God, each made in His image.
If you’d like to receive my blog five days a week in your email, go to patsaidadams.com/by-the-waters-blog/. There’s a gift waiting for you.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. July 5th’s is titled “Come and find the quiet center.”
 Galatians 5:22-23
 Luke 15:11-32
 John 8:32
 Matthew 11:29-30