22 January 2020

Faking the Spirit’s fruit.

So you know we Christians need to be fruity. If we’re following the Holy Spirit’s lead, his character’s gonna overflow into the rest of our lives, and out pours his fruit.

And you probably know lots of Christians who claim they’re producing this sort of fruit. And yet… there’s something just a bit off-putting about the sort of “fruit” they crank out.

The love? Not all that loving. Their joy is either too manic, or has a lot of sadness and resignation mixed in there. The patience feels like despair. The kindness is artificial—and skin-deep; turn your back and they’ll say some really awful things about the people they were just kind to a moment ago, and you can only imagine what they have to say about you.

Peace seems to only come about after an awful lot of strife. Forgiveness has tons of strings attached. Grace is only extended to popular people, not everyone.

What’s going on? Duh; fruitless Christians redefining fruit. If you don’t have any real fruit, substitute fakes. Paint those road apples red, claim they’re real apples, and see whether anyone takes a bite. See if anyone notices—and if everybody’s faking it, nobody ever will.

Because fake fruit is easier. It doesn’t require real change. It means we can look good enough for church, but outside the church building we can be the same [rhymes with “gas tolls”] we’ve always been. Hypocrisy is always the easier, more popular path, found among just about every Christianist.

No, it’s not a perfect simulation. When we aren’t practicing the real thing, there are plenty of cracks in the veneer. You should be able to identify the frauds… and if you can’t, here’s this article.

Gotta pretend to love.

Take a Christian who doesn’t have love. Paul and Sosthenes described love like so.

1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL
4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly.
It’s not emotion out of control. It doesn’t draw attention to how great it is. It doesn’t exaggerate.
5 It doesn’t ignore others’ considerations. It doesn’t look out for itself. It doesn’t provoke behavior.
It doesn’t plot evil. 6 It doesn’t delight in doing wrong: It delights in truth.
7 It puts up with everything, puts trust in everything, puts hope in everything,
survives everything. 8A Love never falls down.

Naturally, fake love—the way ancient Corinth defined love, and the way popular culture misdefines it—lacks these characteristics entirely. Fake love behaves impatiently and unkindly. It’s wild, self-promoting, exaggerated, dismissive of anyone or anything else as lesser, provocative, scheming and conniving, willing and ready to shatter existing relationships and break every law. Over time, sometimes very little time, it fades away, and doesn’t persevere. Fake love rarely lasts without a strong helping of denial. Or liquor.

Among hypocrites, the absence of actual love produces people who don’t look at our fellow human beings as creatures to love. Just resources to tap. We’ll care about our friends and family, and be very loyal to them (although not always), but that’s largely because we think of them as extensions of ourselves, or possessions. But we won’t give a crap about strangers or neighbors. Depending on our politics, either the poor are nothing but a societal burden, or the rich are nothing but societal parasites. Either way, other people are inconvenient… till we need something from them.

Works the same way in relationships. We don’t date or marry people because we wanna self-sacrificially care for them. Oh, we’ll do that to a point. But we have ulterior motives: We want to bang them. We like the comfort and security of knowing they (or their wallets) will be there for us… even though we don’t guarantee we’ll be there in return. If we do stuff for them, they’ll owe us, and we can extract payment in all sorts of fun ways. And every time they object, we’ll claim, “But I love you”—and that makes everything all right, doesn’t it?… till we fall out of love, or find someone else to tap, and bail on them altogether.

Works the same way with parents or kids. If they do for us, we love ’em. If not—if the “but I’m your kid, and I love you” con won’t work anymore; we disown them. Maybe not in words, but we’ll just never be around any longer.

We won’t care to know the other people in our churches. At best it’ll be on a superficial level, and at worst the same parasitic relationship we have with our significant others. Always take, take, take. If someone in the church is too poor, too needy, has too many problems, we’ll unfriend ’em, and use the excuse, “He just can’t get his life together; it’s gotta be because of sin, and I can’t be around that.” That usually works. Successful people must be good Christians, right?—and they’re the only people worth knowing, so we’ll stick to those cliques.

Quite often you’ll see hatred. Hypocrites hate sin—so we claim. So we hate anything which has any whiff of sin to it—and that’s pretty much everything. Everything’s tainted. Anything other people enjoy, anything popular in the secular world? We’ll find something wrong with it. Anything popular in the Christian culture? We’ll find something wrong with that too. There’s nothing good under the sun, nothing. Especially when it outrages us personally. Depending on our politics, we’ll hate liberals and Democrats, or we’ll hate social Darwinists and Republicans. We’ll complain way too much about our least favorite sinners, and absolutely hate Satan. (What, you thought true Christians get to make an exception for the devil? No. Any hate corrodes the hater.)

Redefine every fruit.

INSTEAD OF JOY. Joy is actual happiness and optimism and hope. Those who fake joy will instead be unhappy, pessimistic (or “just being realistic,” we’ll claim), and hopeless.

We’ll claim it’s okay we’re joyless: Apparently joy in the bible doesn’t really mean joy. It means being content, despite our rotten circumstances. It means tolerance. I have joy because I put up with you and all your crap. Isn’t that magnanimous of me?

If the joyless have any sense of humor, it’s bent; it’s all about mocking and slamming others. Our so-called realism cynically dismisses any of the good in the world, as we only fixate on evil. We’re quick to find problems—in our families, churches, jobs, in the government, in society. We nitpick, not because we care, or are trying to improve things, but because that’s just what we do. We never expect anything, including our own lives, to get any better. Any Christians who do, we mock as naïve or idealistic—or of loving the world too much.

INSTEAD OF PEACE. Ever notice how many paranoid Christians there are? They constantly worry about what the devil’s up to. Not to mention its minions in the media, big business, the press, the government, other religions… We’re especially fond of conspiracy theories and End Times stuff. Any sign can mean the great tribulation is coming. So we’re fret about gun control, our constitutional rights, our personal data existing in any computer anywhere, or about other groups gaining on us. We’re scared.

And we make trouble: We like to create drama around us. Hey, life is boring when people aren’t fighting. So we’ll hang around fights, or pick one. We like to debate. We love apologetics and politics. If there’s an issue we can either fight over or forgive, we’ll never, ever pick forgiveness.

What about peace? Oh, we doubt it exists. Any time someone tries to make peace, we’re pretty sure that’s what’s fake.

INSTEAD OF PATIENCE. Impatience. We’ll complain whenever a worship chorus gets sung more than three times. We’ll give dirty looks to a parent who has a crying child in the service. We’ll get really angry when the pastor doesn’t get to the point, and the service cuts into lunchtime. We prefer quick fixes, easily summed-up theology, ideas easy to grasp, and people who don’t waste our time. We take it as a personal insult when people violate any of these things. We offer little grace. We don’t forgive or forget.

INSTEAD OF KINDNESS. Rudeness. There are two kinds of rude: Those who treat others like scum are obvious enough. Then there are those who are politely rude—the folks who don’t really care what people have to say, and just impose ourselves. These’d be the brainiacs in the bible studies, who never catch the leader’s hints to shut up and give someone else a turn. These’d be the people who drag people forward for prayer, without asking if they want or need prayer—or, just as bad, they ask, but never wait for an answer.

INSTEAD OF GOODNESS. Some Christians won’t even try to be good, but take full advantage of God’s grace. And full advantage of the Christians who extend us grace. We justify all our evil: We undertip and blame the waiter, or a society which expects us to tip all the time. We steal office supplies and blame the boss for underpaying us. We’re undependable, untrustworthy, unsympathetic, uninterested, ungenerous… we’re irreligious, and unchristian.

INSTEAD OF GENTLENESS. Out-of-control emotion. When we’re happy, upset, anxious, ecstatic, sad, whatever, you’re gonna know it. We don’t contain ourselves. We claim we can’t—“It’s just the way I am,” or “That’s just my personality,” or “That’s just my behavior quirk.” No, it’s not because we’re suffering from serious psychological problems, and we’re wandering the streets instead of being institutionalized or heavily medicated: We’re trying to rework the emotional environment around us in order to suit our mood swings. And because people don’t understand psychology (or what “gentleness” even means) they let us get away with it.

INSTEAD OF SELF-CONTROL. No control. Our lives are a mess and we don’t lift a finger to sort them out. We won’t grow as Christians because we refuse to give up sinful habits and minor idols. We figure one day we’ll magically wake up all better. Or since all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, Ro 3.23 it’s too late to seek improvement—so we’ll try to not commit any of the mortal sins. But there’s grace, right?

Perhaps we oughta follow the Spirit.

Where’d I get these descriptions? Simple: My own misbehavior. I used to be an awful hypocrite. Now I’m concentrating on being fruity. I still have a way to go. As do we all. Once we recognize these failings in ourselves, we can concentrate on letting the Holy Spirit get rid of them.

What I find works best is confession. I admit my past misbehavior—like the things I listed above. I talk about my less-than-noble motives for doing such things. I tell people it was sinful. I condemn it. And I ask ’em to call me on it if I repeat these old habits.

What if they’re practicing these things, ’cause they’re trying to fake the Spirit’s fruit instead of legitimately producing it? Well, some of ’em get convicted, and repent. And some of ’em pretend they would never, and praise me for being so transparent… and strive all the harder to hide their misbehaviors, ’cause they realize I’m on to them.

Every so often, a Christian has taken me aside and rebuked me for confessing. No, really. “You need to be careful who you confess this stuff to. You realize people might use it against you.” Um… how? I’ve already told on myself. It’s impossible to blackmail someone who’s publicly confessed the crime! The pure paranoid irrationality of their concern, exposes it for what it really is: They have sins to confess, and are terrified if they do, it’ll ruin them. So I need to stop it, lest my example ever become the norm. Darkness hates light.

If other people are doing the same things, and happen to be personally convicted because of my confession, that’s fine. I don’t try to figure out what sins other people are committing, nor customize my confessions to convict them. (I don’t bother with passive-aggressive behavior; I just go straight to aggressive.) I talk about myself, call a spade a spade, and confess I was self-centered instead of Jesus-focused. If they repent, great. If not, oh well; it’s between them and the Spirit.

But as for me, I’m gonna grow the Spirit’s fruit. I’m not gonna swap it for vastly inferior knock-offs.