02 July 2021

Bad fruit: The “works of the flesh.”

Galatians 5.19-21.

In Paul’s letter to Galatia, before he even got to his list of the Spirit’s fruit, he made another list of τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός/ta érya tis sarkós, “carnal works,” KJV “the works of the flesh.” It’s not the Spirit’s fruit; it’s our fruit.

There’s a recent fad where cake-makers create something which looks like something inedible—a shoe, a purse, a toy—then they sliced into it and revealed it’s cake. There’s a much older fad where vegetarians create fake meat, like a veggie burger: They’re doing amazing things with veggie burgers nowadays, but for the most part whenever you bite into a vegetarian “hamburger,” or “chick’n,” you’re expecting meat… and it’s not meat. It’s close; it’s not bad-tasting (well, usually), but it’s wrong.

Flesh instead of fruit is the same thing. It’s popular, and most definitely appeals to us humans. But it’s wrong. It is technically fruit; Jesus refers to it as bad fruit when he speaks about fake and fruitless prophets.

Matthew 7.15-20 KJV
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Fleshly works are fruit gone wrong. Rotten fruit. But Paul didn’t even wanna call this stuff “fruit.”

Galatians 5.19-21 KWL
19 Fleshly works are obvious in anyone who practices the following:
Promiscuity. Uncleanness. Unethical behavior.
20 Idolatry. Addiction. Hatred. Rabble-rousing.
Too much zeal. Anger. Partisanship. Separatism. Heresy.
21 Envy. Intoxication. Constant partying. And other people like these.
I warn you of them just like I warned you before:
Those who do such things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

Here’s the disturbing thing: You know Christians who totally do such things. The weed-smoking Christian who’s never not high. The partisan Christian who’s entirely sure those who are in the opposition party can’t be Christian. The Christian who doesn’t mind lying, cheating, and stealing, ’cause “justice has to be served”—but really they mean vengeance. The Christian who absolutely hates how the megachurch in town has all the people and resources, and never misses an chance to criticize ’em. The Christians who can’t stop going to concerts, conferences, celebrations—all of ’em Christian, but none of ’em actually get these Christians to love their neighbors. And of course angry Christians, jerkish Christians, overzealous Christians, and dark Christians.

I could give you loads more examples. You could probably give me a few too. Heck, we ourselves might even be practicing most, if not all, of these works.

Yet we figure, “We’re saved by God’s grace, right? Not good works. Agreed, these ‘works of the flesh’ aren’t good—but even if I indulge in a few of ’em, I’m still covered by the blood of Jesus. Still going to heaven. Still saved!”

No, not really. ’Cause that’s not how God’s grace works. Grace is for people who are trying to follow him. Christians who indulge in fleshly works? Ain’t trying. Usually trying to hide how they ain’t trying. Plenty interested in Christianism, but have little to no interest in God’s actual kingdom, nor our king. And since they don’t actually want his kingdom, they won’t inherit it. If they did, they’d make the effort!—and have a living, visible relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Those Christians who indulge in fleshly works are in the same boat as pagans who indulge in fleshly works. Doesn’t matter how many times they’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer. They’re not transforming, not repenting, have no new nature, have no relationship. No evidence of the Spirit in their lives. Ergo no saving grace.

Big problem, but simple solution: Repent! Seek God while he may be found. Go get saved.

Okay, now while those people are off saying the sinner’s prayer again (or they’re still in heavy denial, or trying to drown their consciences with another glass of wine) let’s analyze fleshly works in a bit more detail.

Following one’s flesh.

FLESH flɛʃ noun. Muscle and fat, found between the skin and bones of an animal. Meat.
2. Skin, or the surface of the human body.
3. The part of the mind where self-centered, instinctive impulses, or physical needs, come from.
[Fleshly 'flɛʃ.li adjective, carnal 'kɑrn.l adjective.]

Most of the time when people bring up “flesh” they mean meat or skin. As do we Christians. Like when “the word was made flesh,” Jn 1.14 meaning when God became human. And let’s not forget when people bring barbecue to a church potluck.

But the rest of the time, we’re talking about psychology. In the New Testament, Paul and the other writers used σάρξ/sarx, “flesh,” to talk about human depravity—the self-centered, sinful nature we humans were born with. The “flesh” represents the part of our minds which wants to do whatever feels comfortable, powerful, superior, happy—however long that happiness lasts.

In contrast to sarx, Paul used πνεῦμα/néfma, “spirit,” to represent the part of our minds which follows the Holy Spirit’s lead.

Romans 8.5-13 KJV
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

If you’re familiar with Freudian psychology, you’ll notice Sigmund Freud (who wasn’t unfamiliar with the scriptures, though agnostic) borrowed Paul’s ideas of flesh and spirit to describe the mind—but secularized the terms. The id is our flesh, our self-centered part; the superego is our spirit, our conscience-following part; and the ego (Greek for “I”) decides which of these two impulses to follow.

Here’s the problem: When Christians borrow popular culture’s ideas about flesh, then read ’em back into Paul.

I’ve encountered plenty of Christian therapists who basically swipe Freudian psychology, and Christianize it. Instead of referring to superego, ego, and id, these Christians call ’em “spirit, soul, and body,” 1Th 5.23 and use “body” as a synonym for “flesh.” Problem is, they say all the same things Freud claimed about the ego—it’s the center of one’s mind, will, and emotions—but they insist on calling these things “soulish,” and in so doing really misuse the word soul. In the scriptures, a soul is a person’s lifeforce. Ge 2.7 It describes a person’s actions. But when it comes to one’s mind, will, and emotions, the scriptures use לֵבָב/leváv, “heart,” to describe our thoughts. Hence we’re taught to follow the LORD with all our heart and soul Dt 10.12 —our thoughts and actions. Ain’t nothing “soulish” about thoughts.

Then there’s the really old idea, extending all the way back to Plato of Athens, that matter is bad and spirit is good. Matter is evil, corruptible, decaying; spirit is good, clean, and pure. And plenty of pagans—and Christians—believe this: Flesh is nasty. They look forward to death, ’cause they expect they’ll be spirits, even angels, living in heaven from now on. Resurrection? Ugh.

So we Christians have to fight these false definitions whenever we, and the scriptures, talk about flesh. Fleshly works aren’t about physical needs, physical impulses, physical desires, as opposed to pure spiritual and intellectual thought. Y’notice some of these fleshly works can be quite intellectual. A heretic has to use their brain to reinvent and justify heresies. Some partisans specialize in coming up with “spiritual” excuses for why Christians oughta embrace their group’s ideas… and shaft the needy right along with them.

Flesh is about indulging our selfish impulses. Whatever form they take. And those who indulge it, aren’t prepping for God’s kingdom.

The Galatians list of traits.

Naturally, Christians debate about what each of these words specifically mean. ’Cause the easiest way to pretend you’re not committing them, is to redefine ’em till they don’t apply. We humans sure do love our loopholes.

Like the Spirit’s fruit, Paul didn’t produce an exhaustive list. Wasn’t his intent. But here are the words he listed.

ADULTERY (Greek μοιχεία/miheía). This word is in the Textus Receptus, not current Greek bibles. It got added to Galatians by the 300s… because, duh, it is a work of the flesh. It’s in Jesus’s list, Mk 7.22 if not originally Paul’s. Unrepentant adulterers don’t inherit the kingdom. 1Co 6.9-10

Now as to what the scriptures mean by “adultery”—as opposed to what popular Christian culture claims it is—that’s a whole other discussion.

PROMISCUITY (Greek πορνεία/porneía, KJV “fornication”). Certain people are way too interested in sex or sexuality. It’s always on the brain. They want it. And lots and lots of sexual partners.

And sometimes they’ll settle for one sexual partner… whom they expect to do the work of many. See, that’s one of the more popular Christian loopholes for promiscuity: They’re totallly monogamous! They’re married; they only have the one partner. But they’re still inordinately interested in sex.

Hence certain pastors claim Christian couples oughta have sex daily. Which is totally fine if they want to, but it’s actually not because both of ’em want to: It’s because one of them (let’s say it’s the man; it’s usually the man) lacks sexual self-control, and the woman is expected to accept this as a fact of life, and prioritize his desires above her own. After all, if she doesn’t, as the less mature Christian, he might have to resort to porn or adultery or something. Ro 14.1-13

Obviously when marital sex is no longer about ministering to one another, but about the wife indulging a horny husband (or vice-versa, of course), the issue is about submission and self-control, and the husband’s lack thereof. Bluntily, it’s trying to disguise promiscuity as a nice Christian arrangement. It’s sex without spiritual fruit, without concern for one’s spouse. Or God. Ex 20.14

UNCLEANNESS (ἀκαθαρσία/akatharsía). Most Christians presume all the terms in verse 19—adultery, promiscuity, uncleanness, and unethical behavior—have to do with sexual misconduct. Hence “uncleanness” must be about unclean sex. Not so.

One of the regular themes of Galatians is how the Old Testament Law now functions in the Christian life. And quite a lot of the Law’s commands have to do with ritual cleanness: What makes you clean, or unclean, for worship. If Hebrews were unclean, they had to get clean before they went to synagogue, temple… or, the ancient Galatians figured, church.

Here’s the thing: As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit in us. We don’t have to get clean before going to temple: We are the temple. The Spirit within makes us ritually clean. Already.

Well… assuming one does have the Spirit in ’em. ’Cause some self-described “Christians” don’t. And like Jesus pointed out, cleanliness has more to do with what’s inside us, than what’s outside.

Mark 7.20-23 KJV
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Unclean behavior is an obvious sign there’s no Holy Spirit within, cleaning us up. A Spirit-led Christian should naturally shun all the sins which make us ritually unclean.

And all the other behaviors associated with ritual uncleanliness. Like not bathing. Unconcern for dead and decaying things. Unconcern for bodily fluids and disease… and face masks. Unconcern for what foods we put in our bodies. It just makes sense to shun some of these things for hygienic reasons, and one who’s led by the Spirit oughta have the good sense to be clean.

People who live in messy houses, who perpetually wear dirty clothes, who smell bad and don’t care who it alienates: Something’s wrong with ’em. People should care about propriety, aesthetics, or cleanliness. Not so they can dictate it to others, but to have some standards of their own.

UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR (ἀσέλγεια/asélgia, KJV “lasciviousness”) There’s an ancient Pisidian city called Selgi, known for its ethics. Asélgia literally means “not from Selgi.” Historically Christians assumed asélgia word is also sex-related, and refers to unethical sexual behavior, or overt sexuality.

In fact it refers to people who don’t care whether their deeds are good or evil: Whatever helps them achieve their goal, they’ll do. Yeah, usually they’ll do good deeds, just to look good, and stay out of trouble… but if they gotta do evil, well the ends justify the means. Their greater goal always takes priority over actually following God.

IDOLATRY (εἰδωλολατρία/eidololatría, “idol service”). Misplaced religion. Idolaters, instead of devoting their time, thought, reverence, and practices to the one true God, prioritize something or someone ahead of him. Could be family, which is why they’ll quit being Christians after a loved one dies. Could be money, which is why they never donate. Could be status, which is why they never do ministries which require them to do grunt work. And so forth. Anything can become an idol.

ADDICTION (φαρμακεία/farmakía, “druggy”; KJV “witchcraft”). Ancient “physicians” were not scientists, who diagnosed diseases and prescribed proven treatments. They were witch doctors. They called upon Apollo or Asclepius, or any of the other “minor gods,” to magically cure their patients. Hence the KJV’s translation “witchcraft.”

But properly these’d be addicts: The drug-minded individual who’s hooked on narcotics as a way to dull the pain of their lives. Or really anyone who’s looking for a quick fix to their problems… but who’s chosen some really lousy, destructive methods of getting there.

HATRED (ἔχθραι/ékthre). This includes your racists, bigots, homophobes, anti-religious, anti-capitalists, anti-this, anti-that, anti-everything. Cynics too.

This also includes people whose knee-jerk reaction towards certain things is to be irritated or outraged. I know certain people who can’t stand Republicans. Or who get outraged by the thought of illegal immigrants. Or who are furious over tax breaks for corporations. Or who fear the wrath of God (you know, hate by proxy) upon our nation because of same-sex marriage. Pick your hate and relabel it whatever you want. It’s all the same thing.

RABBLE-ROUSING (ἔρις/éris, “strife”; KJV “variance”). Some people love to pick a fight. (Not necessarily a fistfight, though I know some of those.) They like to argue. They like to whip up a good debate. They like to trash-talk one another during sporting events. They like to push people, just to see what they’re made of.

And if you find this sort of behavior bullying or alarming, and rebuke them for it, they wanna know what’s wrong with you. ’Cause they’re just having a little fun!

Yep, bullies fall under this category. Sometimes they’re the passive-aggressive bully who wants others to do the fighting, while they sit back, watch, and enjoy. They’ll start things, then step back and be entertained by the chaos. They prefer insanity to order, or obnoxiousness to civility.

TOO MUCH ZEAL (ζῆλος/zílos, “zeal, jealousy”; KJV “emulations”). These are the people who care way too much about their cause. Which cause? Might be politics. Might be sports. Might even be Jesus: Plenty of Christians have no trouble being totally unlike Jesus if it means defending the faith. (See “unethical behavior,” above.)

But yep, zeal’s a work of the flesh. Like idolaters, the zealot’s cause takes priority over all else. Certainly priority over other people. And God.

ANGER (θυμοί/thymí; KJV “wrath”). Many Christians are quick to point out anger isn’t in itself a sin. And they’re right; it’s not. But a lifestyle of anger—a lifestyle of any fleshly work—means the Spirit isn’t there to help us clamp down on our out-of-control emotions. So we give in to them, and that’s where this sin comes in.

Anger manifests in lots of different ways. The aggressive type is the most obvious. The passive-aggressive type may be most common: They’re those people who are constantly bitter, cynical, pessimistic, or sarcastic. They won’t forgive, hold grudges forever, can’t trust others, and won’t love others.

PARTISANSHIP (ἐριθεῖαι/eritheí’e/“resentfulness”; KJV “strife”). This refers to people who see others as having what they don’t deserve—and have made it their purpose in life to get those things away from them. Like rich people who have money they don’t deserve. Or gays who have rights they don’t deserve. Or politicians who have offices they don’t deserve.

Yeah, the fight to take these things away is usually a political one. Sometimes not; sometimes they form lynch mobs. But in its least barbaric form, they organize, then fight. Like the overzealous, like the unethical, they don’t care what it takes to get their goal. If they claim Christianity, it’s gonna be reinterpreted to suit their cause: Jesus must be remade till he’s on their side.

SEPARATISM (διχοστασίαι/dihostasí’i/“standing apart”; KJV “seditions”). The Holy Spirit is about relationship, but this fleshly work is about breaking or refusing relationships. It ranges from the loners who want to avoid church, to segregationists who want to drive out everyone they don’t like, to madmen who want to kill everyone they don’t like. (Or whose version of the End Times has Jesus kill for them, while they sit on the sidelines and cheer.) They aren’t willing to overlook, forgive, or resolve differences. Differences can go to hell.

HERESY (αἱρέσεις/erésis/“choosing”—namely a position they shouldn’t). If the Holy Spirit guides us to truth, Jn 16.13 those of us who follow him shouldn’t embrace heretic beliefs and cultish behaviors. But some folks insist they’re religiously special: They’ve experienced God in a way nobody else has. They get special instructions from him. Or secret knowledge. Or can do things others can’t. We should follow them. ’Cause everybody else is lost, ignorant, inferior, or stupid. They’re God’s only prophets.

Even fruitless Christians are agreed heresy is a sign God isn’t with such people. Problem is, they’re quick to overlook their own heretic behavior.

ENVY (φθόνοι/fthóni). Some folks covet other people’s stuff, positions, success, popularity… all sorts of things. They’re dissatisfied with their lot in life, and bitter that others are doing better than they. Unlike partisans, they won’t necessarily organize and try to take those things away from people. Nah; they’ll just sit and fester.

INTOXICATION (μέθαι/méthe, “drunks”; KJV “drunkenness”). True, méthe has to do with overindulgence in alcohol. But nowadays we gotta expand this to every form of intoxication—via alcohol, marijuana, pills, meth, you name it. And anyone who chooses intoxication over reality, who chooses a lifestyle of avoidance, is exhibiting this fleshly work.

CONSTANT PARTYING (κῶμοι/kómi, “revelers”; KJV “orgies”). You know the sort: They leave a party, but they’re in such a festive mood, they wanna keep partying. They don’t want the fun to end. They seek a new party, or start one. They seek a constant good time—long past any appropriate stopping point.

AND OTHER PEOPLE LIKE THESE. (καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις/ke ta ómia tútis, KJV “and such like”). Like I said, it’s not an exhaustive list.

When they’re disguised as fruit.

We humans excel at inventing excuses for our bad behavior. Hence every one of these works of the flesh has been disguised as a Christian behavior. We invented justifications for all of them. Some Christians have even turned them into ministries, if you can believe it. And if you can’t, keep reading. You’ll realize just what I mean.

RABBLE-ROUSERS. Argumentative people love love LOVE Christian apologetics. If you paid ’em to tear atheists a new one all the live-long day, they totally would. Just show ’em anyone whom Christians would consider it socially acceptable to not love so much—like heretics, like people with different politics—and they’ll go fight ’em. They’ll spend way more time arguing than worshiping.

Fighting Christians disguise their misbehavior as all sorts of things. Watchdog ministries, which claim they’re just looking out for heresy or sin. “Encouragement,” where people bully others into behaving as they want. “Mentoring,” which doesn’t build up so much as tear down, which uses legalism to find flaws to pick at. “News” which is really just gossip and backbiting.

PARTIERS. Fake Christians don’t take God seriously. As you can tell by the fact they never attend the serious church functions. Only the fun ones. They skip the outreach groups, the work groups, the prayer groups, the bible studies, the planning meetings. But they’ll definitely be there for the holidays, potlucks, festivals, trips, concerts, and conferences.

They stick around for the worship music, and duck out before the sermons, ’cause discussions about becoming better Christians are such a downer. (And don’t get ’em started on sin, hell, or the violent bits of the Old Testament.) To them, Christianity is nothing but fun. Don’t harsh their buzz.

They pretend to be more religious than they are: They claim they pray all the time. (Just on their own.) They study the bible a whole lot. (But alone.) They minister to coworkers, or evangelize coworkers, or give at the office; that’s why they can’t pitch in at church. And if they only attend church once a month, they’ll act as if they’re going to other churches every other week. But they’re really not.

A few basic questions will reveal just how little depth there is to them. But the instant they realize you’re trying to get ’em to take God seriously, expect them to disappear: They’ll switch churches, and go to one which asks nothing of them. Which they seem to do an awful lot.

THE ANGRY. Most angry Christians try to get away with their ungodly behavior by labeling it righteous anger: It’s selfless, not selfish. It’s done on God’s behalf, not our own.

We point to the story of Jesus whipping the merchants out of temple. Jn 2.13-17 We point to other passages where God is outraged at the sins of his people. But we ignore this salient fact: Regardless of what Jesus felt, he stayed entirely in control of himself. He stopped what he was doing the moment it had the effect he was going for. He exhibited the Spirit’s fruit despite all. And we never do so well.

We lose our cool immediately. We lose our righteousness soon after. We figure anger justifies all sorts of ill behavior. Unkindness, impatience, wild emotion, and no control; we slide right into sin. And justify the sin.

Righteous anger has permitted every sort of wickedness to take place in Jesus’s name. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch trials, every single religious war, every single religious political party, the defense of slavery-based economics, white supremacy, male supremacy, cultural supremacy, homophobia, xenophobia, and every idol Christians have seen fit to justify with bastardized bible verses. We twist our churches to fit our agendas, then worship the agendas instead of Christ.

Whole churches, whole angry churches, flare into being from time to time, and grab a few headlines with their outrageous, godless behavior. Thankfully they shrink and decay, which indicates the Holy Spirit is still running things despite the sideshow. Jesus still knocks over the lampstands of the unrepentant. Rv 2.5 And it’s for this reason we don’t wanna be in those churches if we can help it. We must be very, very sure our anger, “righteous” or not, never leads us to sin. Gentleness means we remain entirely in control of our emotions, not vice-versa. We make sure we have good reason for what we’re feeling… rather than assume every angry outburst must have a good reason.

THE ENVIOUS. You know how angry Christians will defend their misbehavior by calling it “righteous anger”? Well, the envious Christians may not call their misbehavior “righteous envy,” but they’ll sure preach envy: “God wants you to be prosperous! God wants to give you everything your heart desires! You just have to claim your birthright!” And so on.

Sometimes envy means we covet others’ stuff, and sometimes it means we want to do better than they. And envious people will preach this too: “Christians oughta have the best of everything. We ought to be so wealthy and prosperous, we make other people jealous and want to seek the God who gave us all these things!” The idea is actually borrowed from the bible. Dt 28.10 But in practice, all these people really want is the material wealth. They don’t care so much about winning any neighbors.

Just as often, their envy becomes bitterness: “Why are those people doing so well? We should be doing well!” I’ve seen envious Christians who were really irritated when another person was put in charge of a ministry, and not them. Or when the pastor got a nice car, and they figure Pastor has no business driving something nicer than they. Or when God cured a neighbor of an illness, but not them. They feel shortchanged.

Which leads to partisanship: Sometimes they try to “make things right,” and in so doing hurt a lot of people. But they don’t care: They only want what they figure is theirs by right. They’ll claim their cause is a righteous one. But it’s wholly selfish; the farthest thing from righteous.

THE PARTISAN. I already mentioned adjusting Christianity to fit one’s politics: These people bend the scriptures till Jesus sounds totally okay with letting the wealthy exploit the weak, and that it’s the poor’s own laziness (or the wrath of God) which keeps them lowly. Or they’ll argue, “Well, Jesus never talked about that issue”—so since only the red letters count, and Jesus never condemned abortion in the gospels, they can ignore everything else in the scriptures on the subject.

Then there’s the political animal who claims, “My religion is private.” They try to practice a sort of separation between church and state in their own minds. That’s why you can’t tell at all they’re Christian through their public statements and acts. And they’re proud of it. But it means they have no fruit.

They’ll still claim to be Christian though. When they’re in church, they’ll praise Jesus. But when they’re at political conventions, they’ll back Satan with all their might, if it helps get their candidates elected.

There are so many inconsistencies between our political parties—all of ’em, no exceptions—and Christianity. Parties seek power for their own ends. Whereas we Christians surrender all power to Jesus. We have opposite goals. Anyone who claims otherwise is a traitor to God’s kingdom.

THE PROMISCUOUS. When hypocrites try to hide sinful behavior, often they overcompensate in the other direction. Got a promiscuous church leader? Expect him to preach like crazy against every form of promiscuity, every sort of sexual misbehavior. Expect him to blame the collapse of society on it. In fact every single discussion with him will slide right into these topics. He can’t stop himself. ’Cause promiscuous people always have sex on the brain.

This’ll regularly include gender roles. Is a man not acting “manly” enough for them? A woman not “womanly” enough? You see, a promiscuous heterosexual man is attracted to those characteristics he considers “womanly.” And when he sees any of these traits, to the smallest degree, in a man—well, he’s outraged. He’s so sexually-fixated, seeing these traits in a man turns him on, which freaks him out. This is why gender roles are so very important to such people—even though most of our culture’s “gender roles” were never determined by God. But give the closet horndog a few minutes to find some scriptures to misquote, and he’ll find plenty of reasons to condemn stay-at-home dads, men who earn less money than their wives, men who do cook and bake and clean, men who don’t hunt or watch sports or grow beards or shoot, or any men who don’t suit his stereotypes.

No, this doesn’t mean homophobia automatically means you’re a promiscuous hypocrite. Often it only means you’re hate-filled, overzealous, partisan, separatist, or envious. But it does mean this more often than people realize.

But enough about the subtle signs of promiscuity; let’s jump right into the most obvious one. That’d be good old-fashioned unchastity, the inability to commit to one person. Like the woman who’s on her fifth marriage, and expects that one’ll end too. Or the boy who tries to have sex with everyone he dates. Or the “serial monogamist” whose actions are really a mockery of monogamy. Or spouses who simply won’t be faithful, whether with other people or pornography.

I’ve known many unchaste Christians. One adulterer described himself as a “love addict”—he just loved women, and couldn’t help himself. Of course, that’s not love. What he really loved was the sex—and the thrill of sneaking around. But he loved that more than Jesus, and that’s what turns it into idolatry, and makes us unsuitable for God’s kingdom.

THE INTOXICATED. More than once I’ve had fellow Christians tell me, “I’m gonna have a beer. Can you not tell anyone? I don’t want to make anyone stumble.” As if when word gets out they had one beer, half the church will plunge headfirst into an orgy of drinking.

See, hypocrites hide their drinking, smoking, and other intoxicants. Not because it’ll “make others stumble,” but because they don’t wanna answer to anyone for their behavior. They figure it’s nobody’s business if they get stoned every morning. Even if they’re in ministry—and according to Paul, getting regularly intoxicated disqualifies them from ministry. 1Ti 3.3, 8

Yeah, there are legalists who think no Christian should drink. And sometimes those legalists are our bosses or pastors, and might fire us for doing so. If you signed a contract promising you won’t, they’re totally right to fire you. So don’t drink. Keep your word. Mt 5.33-37 Or don’t give it in the first place. But don’t go back on it.

And regardless of what others think, don’t hide your casual drinking. Because secret drinking is far more likely to turn into secret alcohol addiction. And if you’re getting hammered on a regular basis—if you’ve turned to alcohol or weed to solve your problems, instead of Jesus—it easily slides into idolatry.

THE IDOLATROUS. I know so many Christians who claim they’re too busy for church functions. I also know those very same Christians were able to devote Sunday nights to their favorite TV shows, Monday nights to football, Tuesday nights to video games, Wednesday nights to a long, inebriated dinner with their friends… I could go on, but you get the idea.

“Too busy” means these other things take priority over God. They’re idols. They’re anything where we say, “Oh, I’m open to God changing that in my life… but he probably won’t, because that’s just who I am.” It’s what I used to say about my sarcasm. (Had to give that up.)

Hypocrites are never honest about how much time we spend on our idols. Not even with ourselves. We don’t watch 40 hours of TV a week; we watch “a few hours every night.” We don’t spend more on sports than we contribute to our churches; we spread out the sports budget between “clothing” and “the cable bill” and “entertainment” and never notice how much it totals. We “don’t have time” for church functions, but never budget our time to find out what we do make time for.

Back when American Idol was on TV, I knew more than one pastor who absolutely wouldn’t schedule any church function on the nights it aired. Somehow they never caught the irony.

The fearless moral inventory.

Check yourself. Are you displaying any of these traits? I certainly have. I used to be a huge hypocrite, so naturally I produced works of the flesh, and tried to pass them off as Christian. That’s why I can pick ’em out so easily.

If you find these traits resemble you a little too much, stop doing them. Concentrate on the fruit of the Spirit. As you do so, and see how these works of the flesh are incompatible with a Christian life and attitude, the Spirit will replace them, one by one. A loving person won’t hate. A patient person won’t pick fights. A joyful person won’t live in anger. A good person won’t be unethical. And so forth.

Those who have a true relationship with God, or want one, are gonna make the effort. Those who don’t, will do as they’ve been doing, and hide it, or try to convince you it’s okay. Refuse to accept their redefinitions. Call them what they are. Not to condemn, but to be honest. Promiscuity isn’t love. Separatism isn’t holiness. Uncleanliness isn’t freedom in Christ. Intoxication isn’t joy.

Don’t lie to yourself either. Confess. Repent. Go and sin no more. Bear better fruit.