22 July 2021

The fruit of holiness: Let’s get weird.

Holiness is a fruit of the Spirit. And every time I point this out, there’s always some numbnut who says, “It is not. Holiness is good, and Christians oughta be holy, but it’s not in Galatians 5, so it’s not a fruit.”

Okay, three things. First, Galatians 5 isn’t a comprehensive list of the Spirit’s fruit, and was never meant to be. Jesus and his other apostles talk about fruit from time to time as well. Simon Peter’s the guy who brought up holiness, in his first letter.

1 Peter 1.13-16 KJV
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Lv 19.2

God expects his kids to be holy. It’s one of his traits that’s gonna inevitably flow into dedicated followers and make us holy.

Second, y’notice how tons of Christians regularly confuse holiness with goodness? So if you claim holiness isn’t a fruit of the Spirit but goodness is, and you think holiness and goodness are the same thing, what’re you doing claiming holiness isn’t a fruit of the Spirit? Although here’s where briefly I point out holiness is not goodness; it’s a different thing, and I’ll get into that, ’cause it’s the point of this article. But I won’t digress further.

Third and last: Fruit of the Spirit is empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Who is—duh!—holy. It’s in his name. It’s bizarre to imagine the Spirit won’t try to push us towards holiness.

But back to how holiness isn’t goodness. It’s not, y’know. Holy means we stand out separate from the rest of the world. We’re unique. We’re trying to act like Jesus. We’re trying to be better people than we were, and that includes not being jerks about it. We have higher and better standards for our lives.

We live in the world, in the wider culture around us, all the way into the world. We don’t isolate ourselves like hermits or cultists, because that’s what Christians do when they don’t get how holiness works. Jesus never isolated himself; even the bible’s “isolationists” like John the baptist didn’t isolate themselves. How’re we gonna reach the lost if we don’t go out and find ’em? But despite how immersed in the world we get, we don’t conform to the world, because we know the world doesn’t know what it’s doing or where it’s going. The Spirit does, and we follow him.

Yep, holiness means we’re different. Or as the world more often calls it, we’re weird.

Which is fine. I don’t mind being called weird, so long as we’re talking good weird. There’s good weird and bad weird. Dark Christians are bad weird. That’s fruitless and honestly meant to alienate people, because they figure offending people is the best way to purge the hypocrites from their ranks. Problem is, fleshly Christians make the best hypocrites, so what it really does is alienate Christians and recruit hypocrites. That’s why I try to keep people away from ’em; I’d much rather convert hypocrites and get ’em to follow Jesus.

Anyway we’re looking for good weird. God calls us to be unique. What’s that look like?

Let’s start with the ancient Hebrews.

After the LORD rescued Israel from the Egyptians and tried to turn ’em into a new nation, you’ll notice there were certain oddball things he expected of his new citizens. Certain commands in the Law which instructed the Hebrews to be, well, strange. Not just not Egyptian any more, and not “more Hebrew” like the existing Hebrew nations of Midian, Moab, Ammon, and Edom. They had to be their own kind of nation.

So the LORD instructed ’em to wear certain fabrics. To decorate themselves and their tents and buildings a certain way. To eat certain ritually clean animals, and not others, if they wanted to worship their God. To celebrate certain unique festivals. To worship God in certain ways which other religions didn’t, and to not worship him in certain ways other religions did.

And the LORD gave no explanation for many of these odd behaviors. Except to say,

Leviticus 20.23-26 KJV
23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. 24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. 25 Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. 26 And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.

Yep, that’s the very context of the statement Peter quoted.

So does the Hebrews’ odd behavior mean Christians are meant to have likewise odd behaviors? Well, if you ask your average pagan, mission accomplished! Some of us are downright weird. We have our own subculture, our own popular culture within the subculture (i.e. favorite Christian musicians, authors, artists, movies, etc.), our own lingo, our own political movements (which are just as willing as the other political movements to compromise everything we hold dear), and all sorts of uniquely Christian or Christianist traits which make us stand out from everyone else.

Does God want his people to be weirdos? Obviously yes. We’re not to conform to the patterns of this world; Ro 12.2 we’re to follow Jesus. If the rest of the world goes one way, and Jesus another, we follow Jesus. Sometimes because the world is wrong… and sometimes simply because the behavior may not be evil in itself, but conformity is thoughtless, brain-dead behavior, and Jesus wants his followers to think. Holiness means we don’t simply go along with every benign fad there is, just to fit in.

Because “fitting in” is one of the faster ways to derail our relationship with Jesus. We’d be following the people around us instead of him.

Conformity and uniqueness.

This is a hard teaching for most people, because human nature wants to fit in. Sometimes we call it conformity and peer pressure: People don’t wanna be oddballs. It’s an instinctive defense mechanism: Oddballs stand out… which means predators go after the oddballs first.

Yeah, there are people who appear to be exceptions. In my high school days we had “goths,” which still exist, so you should know what I mean by that; basically kids who dress like vampires, listen to a lot of death metal and punk music, and deliberately try to be weird, try to not fit in. But one of the things I quickly noticed was how badly the goth kids tried to fit in with all the other goth kids. They didn’t wanna be wholly unique.

And of course no human was ever meant to be alone. Ge 2.18 We need one another. It’s why Jesus created his church. We need one another. But the goths are far closer to God’s idea than many Christians are: We’re meant to stand out from the crowd. Not blend in.

Matthew 5.14-16 KJV
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Whenever Christians blend in with the crowd—ostensibly to get along with them, and maybe win a few of ’em for Jesus—we’re not being a lamp. Not being a light. Not standing out and pointing to Jesus. Not being holy.

In the United States a great majority claim to be Christian. They’re not really. They’ve created a Christianist culture which makes ’em feel Christian, but their relationships with God suck, as demonstrated by their lack of spiritual maturity and good fruit. They still go to church, but they’ve nothing but dead religion. Christianists have influenced popular Christian culture to such a degree, the way to “look Christian” is to act Christianist: To look like we’re following Jesus… but in a way where Jesus’s teachings have been neutered of power and stripped of fruit. Anybody can do it. Heck, devout Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus can fit in quite easily with their Christianist political allies, with minimal effort. Nontheists too.

In poll after poll, it turns out American Christians aren’t any different than the rest of the world. We’re just as good: Just as charitable and generous, just as helpful and friendly and courteous, just as nice. We’re also just as sinful: Just as gluttonous, just as petty and ill-tempered, just as lustful. We don’t stand out. And since “holy” means unique, of course this means we aren’t unique. The Spirit’s fruit is greatly absent among American Christians.

So yeah, holiness is a big deal. And since it’s the most obvious of the Spirit’s fruit, one we have to cultivate.

Conformity and idolatry.

I mentioned “fitting in” is one of the faster ways to derail our relationship with Jesus. It should be obvious as to why: We’re either following peer pressure or Jesus, and if we’re following our peers closely enough, it rapidly turns into idolatry.

This includes our Christian peers. One of the more insidious forms of peer pressure is when Christianists try to make us conform to them—and claim it’s because they’re following Jesus, and therefore we oughta follow Jesus in the very same way. They’re awfully fond of Paul’s line, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1Co 11.1 KJV But do they follow Christ? How’s their fruit? Or have they swapped it with the fake stuff, and hoping no one noticed? Have they rebranded all their fleshly activities so they sound sorta fruity?

Are our Christian peeers going through the motions of religion, and emphasizing these motions instead of the living relationship meant to be at the core of our religion? Do they have rules which “all good Christians” must follow, and legalistically push those instead of Jesus’s teachings? And how critical are they of their political parties?—assuming they criticize their own party at all?

Yep, holiness means we have to be separate from them too. Any Christian who looks just like all the other Christians in their own church, isn’t imitating Jesus. They’re imitating peers. Who might be great peers, but they’re not Jesus! And once Jesus calls us to step away from that practice too—and he will—when we can’t, it’s ’cause idolatry.

Jesus’s focus isn’t on outward things anyway. It’s the inward things; the attitudes and emotions and thoughts and impulses which turn into outward things. Fruit of the Spirit, such as love and patience, is supposed to manifest itself in our behavior as we love others and graciously deal with the difficult things about them. It’s these actions which make us “weird.” Not our theology, not our Christianese language, not our clothing, nor the various lifestyle choices which tend to make us stand out from pagans. Certainly not our politics.

Holiness means following Jesus is gonna make us strange. To everyone. Fellow Christians included. Which, if they’re truly following Jesus, should be no problem whatsoever, ’cause they’ve learned to practice God’s grace, and recognize we’re being unique because we’re pursuing Jesus. But if they’re following the crowd, it’s gonna become a big problem, because the crowd demands conformity, and thinks that’s how you properly follow Jesus. The crowd insists holiness isn’t uniqueness but goodness… and it’s good to follow their crowd. You see the problem.

It’s gonna become a big problem, because when we follow Jesus, their hypocrisy becomes more obvious by comparison. Hopefully they’ll realize their hypocrisy and repent and follow Jesus too… but historically, they tend to kill the weirdos. Nowadays they just ask us to leave. That’s a little better; way less murdery. But still.

Their poor choices shouldn’t change your commitment either way. Pursue holiness. Get weird for Jesus.