Faking the fruit of the Spirit.

Way easier to pretend you have it, than actually grow it.

Y’might know we Christians need to be fruity: We Christians have to do good works and produce good fruit. Namely the Spirit’s fruit. You know Paul’s list in Galatians

Galatians 5.22-25 KWL
22 The Spirit’s fruit is love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faith.
23 Gentleness. Temperance. The Law isn’t against such things.
24 Those who follow Christ Jesus crucify the flesh with its pathology and desires:
25 If we live by the Spirit, we can walk by the Spirit!

Problem is, there are plenty of hypocrites who don’t live by the Spirit, don’t walk by the Spirit… but want everyone to think they do. So they fake the Spirit’s fruit.

There are three ways to do it; all of ’em rather easy. The most common method is to change all the definitions. The popular culture has its own definitions of all these things, so hypocrites simply borrow those definitions and claim they’ve got fruit.

Love is an obvious example: Pagans haven’t a clue what love is. They might realize it’s selfless and sacrificial, but largely they don’t. Take Paul and Sosthenes’s definition in 1 Corinthians 1Co 13.4-8 and flip it over entirely: Love is impatient, unkind, envious, self-promoting, self-important, rude, self-centered, provocative, scheming, breaks rules, lies… and easily falls apart, mistrusts, loses hope, fades away, dies. That’s how the ancient Corinthians thought about love, and too often that’s how today’s pagans also imagine it.

And if a Christian tries to pass off that so-called “love” as the stuff they got from the Holy Spirit… well, 99 times out of 100 people won’t realize there’s been any switcheroo. In many churches, when Christians teach on love, talk about love, encourage loving our neighbors and enemies, we don’t mean actual godly agápi/“love.” More often we’re thinking of a reciprocal love, where we only love the worthy—those who might eventually love us back, or otherwise reward us for our efforts. A love that’s karmic, not gracious.

As you can see, misdefining love in order to help hypocrites hide their fruitlessness, invariably poisons the rest of the church. People are gonna grow up with hypocrite definitions of the Spirit’s fruit, and wonder why their “fruitfulness” looks and feels so empty and selfish and so unlike Jesus. Yep, this’d be why.

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Fake it till you make it.

The second way—which isn’t easy at first, but gets easy with practice—is pretending to be what you’re not. It’s acting. You know, like the original definition of ypókrisis/“hypocrite.”

You might actually hear Christians claim this is how we develop the Spirit’s fruit in our lives. “So you don’t really love your enemies. That’s understandable; they’re awful. But you don’t have to feel it; you just have to act like you love them. Act like it until eventually you do love them.”

Yeah, this is terrible advice. I tried it when I was a kid. Doesn’t work at all. School bullies didn’t stop bullying me because I acted like I loved ’em. They just had more fun at my expense because I was “being weird.” Punching them in the testicles was way more effective. (No I don’t recommend you repeat my far-from-Christian solution. John Eldredge will, but that’s because he follows his own godless ideas of masculinity instead of Jesus. Stick to Jesus.)

If you start with fake love, you don’t end up with actual love. You end up as someone who’s an expert at faking love. You look like you care, have compassion, have patience and kindness and all that. But a hypocrite doesn’t really have any of those things. While love never fails, 1Co 13.8 fake love will, pretty quickly, and the hypocrite will try to get out of any love-based obligations they put themselves into. Fr’instance marriage. Once the attraction and lust wear off, people can’t fake marital love any more than a few years, and as soon as they find a reason to separate, they do.

And if you start by faking it wrong, you’re gonna creep everyone out. The reason “happy Christians” are some of the most annoying Christians in the world, is because their fake enthusiasm isn’t contagious, isn’t fun to watch, isn’t kind and patient and gives others a chance to catch up. People aren’t gonna love to be around such positive, joyous people; they’re gonna avoid them like they avoid boisterous drunken uncles. God forbid they think all Christians are supposed to be that way.

I don’t have to remind you that when you’ve been faking the Spirit’s fruit, and people find out you’ve been faking, it’ll horrify them. Seriously. It won’t just disappoint them; it’ll horrify them. Because if a relationship with Jesus produces fruit, and it turns out you’ve been faking the fruit, it implies you have no relationship with Jesus. And if people thought you were Christian, and now think you’re not, just about all of them immediately go to a dark place and think you’re a devil.

And y’know, they might not be wrong. After all you have been lying to them all this time.

So I regularly remind newbie Christians: Fake nothing. Ever. Be yourself, flaws and all. Because that’s the only way we (us and you) can detect true spiritual growth in you. Plus learn what we still have to work on.

Faking it in church.

When I was a young hypocrite, the reason for my faking the Spirit’s fruit had nothing to do with trying to grow the real stuff. It was only about looking good. I wanted to look like one of the good Christian kids, not one of the bad Christian kids. And not just because it meant I could get away with more.

So I didn’t have to fake the Spirit’s fruit all the time. Just Sunday mornings, when I had to interact with church people. And Thursday nights, when I went to the church’s youth group. And when we had longer church functions, like weekend camping trips or missions trips. Though at the longer functions, I had to fake it longer… and sometimes the real me would slip out, ’cause I’m not that good a liar.

But many people live dual lives. A hypocrite named George, fr’instance: When he’s around people who know him to be Christian, he’ll adopt the persona of Church George, and be that guy around those people. The rest of the time he’ll be Actual George. Well… he might take on many other personas, like Home George, Work George, Visiting the Parents George, Visiting the In-Laws George. Once you construct one artificial persona, it’s not all that hard to invent many.

The downside? You have to make sure people who know you as Church George never ever encounter the people who know you as Strip Club George. Nor meet that persona. Once again, it’ll horrify them.

But in our well-connected society, it’s not at all easy to keep the different worlds of one’s personas from colliding. Everybody, both from work and church, wanna see your social media page… so if you’re one way at work and another at church, people are gonna see one of those two on your Twitter feed. (Unless you do as a certain pastor friend of mine does, and post nothing but cartoons and memes.)

Our hypocrite named George might invent the persona of Internet George, and make him anonymous, but even that world might someday collide with one of the others. I’m reminded of a certain well-known pastor who used to visit an internet forum and post really harsh, crude things. Once people discovered who “William Wallace II” really was, once again: Horror. Their pastor wrote these things? Some went into denial; some left the church; some left Jesus.

I sincerely hope my past hypocrisy hasn’t driven anyone away from Jesus, nor served as their excuse for quitting Christianity. But I have no idea. I just warn others: Never start. Fake nothing. Christianity has plenty enough hypocrites as it is. Be one of the real people.

The absence of actual love among hypocrites, produces people who don’t look at our fellow human beings as creatures to love. Just resources to tap. We might care about friends and family, and be very loyal to them (although not always), but only because they’re ours; they’re our possessions. But we don’t give a rip about strangers or neighbors. Depending on our politics, either the poor and needy are nothing but societal burdens, or the rich are nothing but societal parasites. Either way, other people are inconvenient… till we need something from them.

This is the sort of “love” which easily turns into hatred. When our possessions won’t do as we want anymore, we replace them. Works the same for humans. And if we can’t be rid of them, we grow angry that they’re around, dissatisfying us, irritating us. You know those Christian who have no patience for sinners, for people in the opposition party, for heretics, for gays? Not only do they not know how to love their neighbors (or “enemies,”) watch what happens when one of their relationships turns sour. Woe to their exes.

Happens all the time. People

So as you know, Christians need to produce fruit, specifically the fruit of the Spirit. And as you may know, if you’ve been around Christians long enough, a whole lot of us claim we’re producing this sort of fruit… yet there’s something just a bit off-putting about the sort of “fruit” we’re cranking out.

The “love”' isn’t all that loving. The “joy” has an awful lot of sadness and resignation mixed in. The “patience” feels like despair. The “kindness” is artificial, and just a bit deceptive. The “peace” seems to have come about only after an awful lot of strife. The “forgiveness” has a bunch of strings attached, and the “grace” is extended only to popular people (“the elect,” as Calvinists call ’em) —not everyone.

So what’s going on? Is it just that Christians are terrible at producing the Spirit’s fruit? Is the problem that we’re attempting to achieve these traits by our own efforts, instead of letting the Spirit grow ’em naturally, so because they’re human they came out wrong?

No and no. The problem is we’re not attemping to develop the Spirit’s fruit. We’re trying to substitute real fruit with quick ’n dirty substitutes. We’re faking it.

Why? ’Cause it’s easier. ’Cause it doesn’t require us change for real. ’Cause it means we 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. It’s why the Christianists take it. But the only time we encounter Jesus on it is when he’s trying to wave us off it.

Gotta hide the bad 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.

Paul referred to bad fruit as ta erga tis sarkos/“works of the flesh,” and pointed out to the churches of Galatia how they’re obvious in people who do the things in the list above. Which is precisely why hypocrites know better than to act like that. Not in public, anyway. Not among fellow Christians. They hide that stuff.

So what happens when we’re caught indulging in fleshly works? Relax; thanks to the work of generations of hypocrites before us, every fleshly work can be explained away in Christianese.

  • Promiscuity and unethical sexual behavior are blamed on the spouse who won’t “humbly submit” to such things in their bedroom.
  • Idolatry and addiction become “hobbies.”
  • Hatred, rabble-rousing, anger, excessive zeal, and partisanship are the result of “concerned groups” who disguise their offense at moral failings or doctrinal impurity as God’s outrage and coming wrath.
  • Separatism and heresy are either “concern for doctrinal purity,” or “concern for proper biblical headship.”
  • Envy is “the pursuit of God’s promises” which others seem to be getting while you aren’t.
  • Hatred and hostility and rage are justified because you hate sin—you’re “hating the sin, loving the sinner,” although 99 percent of your effort is put into the hating.
  • Misbehavior of all sorts will often be turned around on the accusers, who are in turn accused of legalism, of unforgiveness, of gracelessness, of lovelessness.
  • Minor infractions will be relabeled “freedom in Christ.”

Fake Christians get expert at hiding their fleshly works. And get away with it for a good long time because they only real friends they make at church, are hypocrites just like them: They use the same explanations, let them slide, never take them to task for living a lifestyle that’s the antithesis of the Spirit’s fruit, and permit the fraud to continue.

Gotta pretend to love people.

As I said in the beginning, frauds have got pretty good at faking actual fruit of the Spirit. But no, it’s not a perfect simulation. Because they don’t have the real thing, there are plenty of cracks in the veneer.

Take a Christian who doesn’t have love. Paul (and his cowriter 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 sort of thing both ancient Corinth and our present-day culture confuses with love—lacks those characteristics. Fake love is impatient, unkind, 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… and over 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 we don’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—until 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 like how they make us feel, whether emotionally or physically. We like the comfort and security of knowing they’ll be there for us… even though we won’t guarantee we’ll be there in return. If our lives are a mess, a significant other with a good job can really bail us out. Or if we bail them out, they’ll owe us, and we can extract payment in all sorts of ways. And every time they object, we’ll claim, “But I love you”—and that makes everything all right. Right? Until 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 doesn’t work anymore—we disown them. Maybe not in words, but we’ll just never be around.

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 sort of 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 if 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 a little too much about homosexuals, or crack gay jokes. We’ll express way too much concern about Muslims and heretics. We’ll absolutely hate the devil. (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—actual happiness and optimism and hope—fake Christians will be unhappy, pessimistic (or “just being realistic,” we’ll claim), and hopeless. We’ll claim it’s okay we’re joyless: 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, we’re paranoid troublemakers. Paranoiacs constantly worry about what the devil is 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.

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, fake goodness. We take full advantage of the Christians who extend us grace. We do evil, and justify all of it—we undertip and blame the waiter, we steal office supplies and blame the boss for underpaying us. We’re undependable, untrustworthy, unsympathetic, uninterested, ungenerous… 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 our lives are a mess and we won’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 not commit any of the bigger sins, like murder. But there’s grace, right?

…Or 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 growing fruit. 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 fruit of the Spirit 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 the same behaviors in their own lives.

…And if I’m speaking to them one-on-one, they’ll take me aside and warn me, “You really need to be careful who you confess this stuff to. You realize people might use it against you.” I fail to see how; it’s awfully hard to blackmail someone when they’ve confessed the crime to anyone and everyone. But its pure paranoid irrationality exposes it for what it really is: A fruitless Christian who’s afraid their own similar sins might someday be found out. I need to stop it before exposing my flaws exposes them too. 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 do passive-aggressive manipulation. I just talk about what I was gonna talk about—myself—and call a spade a spade, and admit 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.