Summary: Using goodness as the starting point for how Christ Followers should respond to the death of Osama bin Laden.
Last Sunday night, well after midnight in Washington DC, President Obama addressed the nation to confirm that Osama bin Laden had been killed, an announcement which sparked celebrations such as this.
I’ve got to admit that the news of bin Laden’s death, as well as much of the reaction to that death really produced some conflicting emotions in me. I was frankly surprised that I didn’t feel as much happiness and satisfaction regarding his death as I thought I would have. So it has been really interesting to me to watch much of the discussion this week among Christians about how we ought to respond to the death of this terrorist.
So I’m going to take a different approach this morning as we look at the sixth element of the fruit of the Spirit – goodness. Rather than focusing on how we are to develop goodness in the way we treat each other and in our corporate worship, I am going to utilize the concept of goodness as a starting point to see if we can’t draw some Biblical conclusions about how God wants us to respond to the death of Osama bin Laden.
As always, it is helpful to begin by defining what Paul meant when he described the fruit of the Spirit as goodness. Of all nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, goodness is by far the most difficult to get a handle on because the word that Paul uses in Galatians 5 to describe this aspect of the fruit is only used three other places in the New Testament. However, the root word “good” is actually used much more frequently and we can get some insight into goodness by looking at its meaning.
As we have seen with several other aspects of the fruit, there are actually two different Greek words that are translated as “good” in English:
agathos = inherently, morally, or practically good; that which is profitable or beneficial to others
This is the root word for the Greek word that is translated “goodness” as an aspect of the fruit of the Sprit.
kalos = aesthetically good, beautiful, fair and appealing to the eye
Perhaps the most effective way for us to understand the difference between the two words is to look at a passage where both words are used together. This is one of those places where the ESV translation is really good because it is the only major English translation I looked at that actually translates these two different Greek words as two different words in English as well:
17 So, every healthy [agathos] tree bears good [kalos] fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy [agathos] tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good [kalos] fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good [kalos] fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 7:17-19 (ESV)
In this passage the tree is agathos – it is inherently good. That is the character of the tree. And the fruit that the agathos tree bears is kalos – it is beautiful and pleasing to the eye. Another way to look at the relationship between these two words is to say that good character –agathos – produces fruit that is alluring and attractive – kalos.
By now, you’re probably all wondering what this has to do with Osama bin Laden. The words of Paul in Romans chapter 12 give us some great guidance about how our goodness should be paramount in how we deal with this event:
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good [agathos]…
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good [agathos].
Romans 12:9; 14-21 (ESV)
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that just as there are two Greek words for good, there are also two Greek words for evil and Paul actually uses both of them here in this passage: