Showing posts with label #Fruit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Fruit. Show all posts

Resolutions: Our little stabs at self-control.

by K.W. Leslie, 28 December

Speaking for myself, I’m not into new year’s resolutions.

Because I make resolutions the year round. Whenever I recognize changes I need to make in my life, I get to work on ’em right away. I don’t procrastinate till 1 January. (Though I admit I may procrastinate just the same. But not ’cause I’m saving up these changes for the new year.)

Here’s the problem with stockpiling all our lifestyle changes till the new year: Come 1 January, we wind up with a vast pile of changes to make. It’s hard enough to make one change; now you have five. Or 50, depending on how great of a trainwreck you are. Multiplying your resolutions, multiplies your difficulty level.

But hey, it’s an American custom. So at the year’s end a lot of folks, Christians included, begin to think about what we’d like to change about our lives.

Not that we want to change. Some of us don’t! But it’s New Year’s resolution time, and everyone’s asking what our resolutions are, and some of us might grudgingly try to come up with something. What should we change? Too many carbohydrates? Not enough exercise? Sloppy finances? Non-productive hobbies? Too many bucket list items not checked off?

Since our culture doesn’t really do self-control, you might notice a lot of Americans’ resolutions aren’t really about breaking bad habits, but adding new habits—good or bad. We’re not gonna eat less, but we are gonna work out more often. We’re not gonna cut back on video games at all, yet somehow we’re gonna find the time to pray more often. You know—unrealistic expectations.

True, a lot of us vow to diet and exercise. Just as many of us will choose to learn gourmet cooking, or resolve to eat at fancier restaurants more often. (Well, so long that the fancier restaurants provide American-size portions. If I only wanted a six-ounce piece of meat I’d go to In N Out Burger.)

True, a lot of us will vow to cut back on our screen time—whether on computers, tablets, phones, or televisions. Just as many will decide time isn’t the issue; quality is. They’ll vow to watch better movies and TV shows. Time to binge-watch the shows the critics rave about. Time to watch classic movies instead of whatever Adam Sandler’s production company poops out. Sometimes it’s a clever attempt to avoid cutting back on screen time—’cause they already know they won’t. And sometimes they honestly never think about it; screens are a fact of life.

As Christians, a lot of us will resolve to be better Christians. We’ll pray more. Meditate more. Go to church more consistently; maybe join one of the small groups. Perhaps read more bible—even all the way through. Put more into the collection plate. Share Jesus more often with strangers and acquaintances. Maybe do some missions work.

All good intentions. Yet here’s the problem: It takes self-control to make any resolution stick. It’s why, by mid-March, all these resolutions are likely abandoned. So if we’re ever gonna stick to them, we gotta begin by developing everybody’s least-favorite fruit of the Spirit: Self-control.

Bad fruit: The “works of the flesh.”

by K.W. Leslie, 02 July

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.

Some people don’t wanna argue. And they’re entirely right not to.

by K.W. Leslie, 24 March

Back in 2017 an acquaintance of mine started an “apologetics ministry.” It’s kinda defunct now.

Initially it consisted of his blog, his Twitter account, and a whole bunch of his spare time. (You know, like TXAB—except I don’t do apologetics.) Except he also created a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, got some friends to be his board members, and solicited donations. He was hoping to turn it into a full-time job… and got really irritated at me for calling it “getting paid to sit in his pajamas all day and argue with strangers on the internet.” But that is what he was doing.

In his mind, he was doing it for Jesus. He figured apologetics is a vital, necessary ministry, and there simply aren’t enough Christians out there… arguing with strangers on the internet, whether they spend all day in their jammies or not.

Like I said, his “ministry” is defunct now. He’s taken to arguing politics. Political organizations aren’t allowed under the 501(c)3 tax code, so I’m pretty sure he’s either no longer accepting donations, or totally breaking the law. As for apologetics, I guess he’s left that to all the other folks who continue to do the very same thing. Many have actually made a career of it. There’s like an army of pajama-clad Christian warriors, armed with the “sword of the Spirit”—and stabbing away at flesh and blood. Ep 6.12-17

Every so often these “ministries” beg me for money. I don’t sign up for their mailing lists. I get put on them ’cause they figure a Christian blogger should be sympathetic to their “plights,” i.e. a salary so they no longer have to work their day job at Kroger. One group has an office in the back of their church building, and (I kid you not) asked everybody on their mailing list for a donation ’cause they wanted to buy an espresso machine. Nope; no $40 Mr. Coffee device with bonus frothing pitcher; they wanted a commercial machine and a full-on coffee bar. Ostensibly so people could come to the office, have a cappuccino or two with them, and debate Jesus. Really because maybe their readers are suckers generous enough to free them from having to hit the Starbucks drive-thru twice a day. Google Maps revealed their office was in an out-of-the-way office park, so I’m entirely sure the only ones partaking of donor-supported espresso would be them. I unsubscribed from their mailing list with extreme prejudice.

Entitled first-worlders aside, if you’re getting the idea I’m not jazzed about such “ministries,” you’d be so right.

Why? ’Cause argumentativeness is a work of the flesh.

Galatians 4.19-21 NRSV
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“Quarrels,” in verse 20, translates ἐριθεῖαι/eritheíe, “picking fights” or “starting intrigues.” Its root is the word ἔρις/éris, “strife.” In Greek mythology, Eris was the goddess who started a fight between the ruling goddesses over who was the prettiest, and their bickering escalated into the Trojan War. So this word is entirely about picking fights.

But of course argumentative Christians—some of whom translate bibles—have muted this word, or translated it as things they personally don’t think they’re tempted by. The KJV’s “strife” makes it sound like full-on war, and they’re not doing that! The NASB, NIV, and NLT prefer “selfish ambition”—and yeah, we get into pretty heavy denial about how selfish our ambitions are, but that’s still not the best translation. Neither is the ESV’s “rivalries,” nor the MEV and RSV’s simple “selfishness.”

Argumentative Christians wanna fight. And the only fight they can justify to themselves, outside of misbegotten ideas about “spiritual warfare,” is arguing people into God’s kingdom. Not just sharing Jesus like an evangelist; shoving people towards him, like a bully. Proselytism.

In such people’s hands, the gospel is no longer good news. It’s bad. The fruit of such tactics are people who flinch at the gospel, and think all Christians are likewise jerks. If they actually succeed in winning people over, we just wind up with more argumentative Christians: More people who think it’s okay to be a dick to all people, that they might by all means save some.

I’m gonna take a break to throw things, then be right back to rebuke this idea further.

The seven deadly sins.

by K.W. Leslie, 18 December

The “seven deadly sins” confuse a lot of people.

Back in 2008, a rumor spread that the Vatican declared more deadly sins. It came from an interview with Gianfranco Girotti, the head bishop of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary. (I know; this sounds like the Vatican prison. It’s actually the theologians who handle questions about sin, repentance, and forgiveness.) Anyway, in Girotti’s interview with L’Osservatore Romano on 7 March 2008, he listed certain present-day practices which he believed have a harmful global impact: Pollution, drug trafficking, embryo-destroying research, other unethical human experiments, abortion, pedophilia, and economic injustice.

Somehow the press converted this into “The Vatican announced there are new sins!” And since your average reporter (lapsed Catholics included) know bupkis about the seven deadly sins, they just assumed there are now 14 deadly sins. Now littering is gonna send you to hell.

Like I said, they confuse people.

Most people figure they’re a Roman Catholic thing. And they largely are. Few Protestants teach on ’em. More of them, particularly the Fundamentalists, consider way more things to be deadly sins than seven. Like voting for the wrong political party.

Loads of people think the seven deadly sins are in the bible. And they actually are. Just not in the form of a list.

I’ve heard Protestants claim the list is found in Catholic bibles. Well, maybe if it’s a Catholic study bible, it’ll be in the notes, but no. You’ll find passages—in all bibles—which rebuke these attitudes and the behaviors they cause. And whether you’re Catholic or not, you might wanna know about them. So here’s the list, in convenient chart form.

DEADLY SINLATINOUT-OF-CONTROL DESIREOPPOSITE VIRTUE
1.LECHERYluxuria/“sexual lust”For sex. Cl 3.5Purity
2.GLUTTONYgulaFor food, drink, intoxicants. Ek 16.49Moderation
3.GREEDavaritia/“avarice”For money, wealth, possessions. Ep 5.3Generosity
4.LAZINESSacedia/“sloth, discouragement”To evade responsibility, avoid work, stay uninvolved. Mt 25.26Integrity
5.WRATHira/“anger”To fight, take revenge, act out of rage or bitterness. Ep 4.32Meekness
6.ENVYinvidia/“begrudge”To covet, be jealous. Mk 7.22Kindness
7.PRIDEsuperbia/“magnificence”To exalt oneself: Self-praise, self-promotion. Mt 7.22Humility

What makes ’em deadly? Well, they’re works of the flesh. And those who choose a lifestyle of works of the flesh don’t inherit God’s kingdom. Ga 5.21 Their lifestyle implies they’re not saved: They don’t have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, making ’em fruity, making ’em not want to sin, getting them to reject the sort of lifestyle which burps up deadly sins.

The fake fruit of fidelity.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 September

So as I wrote previously, the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians is πίστις/pístis, “faith.” Not, as too various bible translations render it, “faithfulness.” Like the ESV.

Galatians 5.22-23 ESV
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Faith is also a supernatural gift of the Spirit, and various Christians wanna make a distinction between gifts and fruit. (Usually ’cause they have some problematic beliefs about the gifts.) So they prefer the interpretation “faithfulness.” By which they mean fidelity—you can be depended upon to do as you say, to stand up for those you love.

And hey, fidelity can be an admirable trait. But that all depends on whom we show fidelity to. As humanity has demonstrated lots of times, we can show fidelity to some really godless people, ideas, and institutions. We can do profoundly stupid or evil things in their support—because we value them more than we do wisdom or goodness.

Should Christians be loyal? To Jesus, absolutely. To family members, friends, fellow Christians, and the suffering, sure: Part of love is not giving up, and enduring all.

But is it what Paul meant by pístis? No; he meant faith. It’s a lot harder to trust God, than it is to stand up for people. Humans can pretty much stand up for anything. Doesn’t take the Spirit’s power to do so. People can be loyal, dependable, steadfast Christians our whole lives long… yet when the Holy Spirit expects us to put our doubt on hold and trust him, often we can’t. We might be loyal to the Lord, but we don’t entirely trust him. And which of the two is more important?

Likewise we Christians tend to be just like everybody else in the world when it comes to loyalty and fidelity: It has a cut-off point. We love and support one another in good times and bad… until somebody violates something to which we show more loyalty. We’ll eat Big Macs every day… till that giant heart attack. We’ll love our kids no matter what… till they declare they’re gay. We’ll love our spouses through thick and thin… till they cheat on us. There’s nearly always another line in our minds, whether we realize this or not, and once it’s been crossed, that’s the end of our fidelity. We cut ’em off.

True fidelity among fellow Christians is hard to find. Oh, it exists. But you won’t see it unless we’ve done something that’ll alienate nearly everyone. Like murdering your parents: Most of your so-called Christian friends won’t stick around after that. (Even if they think you’re not guilty!—they’re too afraid of what others will think when they associate with you. Jesus might eat with sinners, but they would never.) The few which remain are truly loyal; the rest, not so much. We tend to only be loyal to the righteous. And sometimes the popular.

Affection—versus love.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 June

Affection is one of the eight things our culture defines as love. It—or more accurately a Greek word which gets translated that way, στοργή/storgí—took up a chapter of C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves, in which Lewis described it in some detail. Mainly to talk about what traits of storgí might be sorta-kinda godly. For even though affection isn’t at all what Jesus and his apostles meant by αγάπη/agápi, it’s got its positive qualities.

But no, it’s not a fruit of the Spirit. Anybody can be affectionate. Plenty of pagans are. It can be a good thing, and have positive effects: People tend to be accommodating to those for whom they have affection. But as you know, “accommodating” can be either a good or bad thing. Looking the other way as your kids commit crimes isn’t a good thing. People are way too affectionate towards our favorite vices.

Years ago I was curious to find all the instances of storgí in the New Testament, to see how various translators interpret it. To my surprise I found it’s not even in the NT. The authors never used it. It does appear four times in the apocrypha—in 3 and 4 Maccabees, books which only a few Orthodox churches include in the bible.

Er… why’d Lewis write a Christian book in which he spent an entire chapter examining a word not found in the bible? Mainly because Lewis wasn’t writing about bible. The Four Loves is about love—and as a scholar who studied and taught on the ancient Greek classics, he was really teaching on the classics. How the ancients perceived and practiced love. ’Cause the ancient Greeks had plenty to say about storgí, even though the bible doesn’t.

Storgí, and its verb-form στέργω/stérgo, refers to the mutual love parents and children have for one another. Or siblings. Or kings and subjects pretend to have for one another. Sophocles used it to refer to friends; Herodotus used it for spouses. It means you accept this other person. You’re fond of them. You show a preference for them. You’re content with them. You’re satisfied with them. You put up with them, or adjust to them.

It’s what we English-speakers mean by “like.” (But it doesn’t go as far as the popular phrase “like-like.” Just “like.” You don’t like-like your parents; ewww.)

As I said, not in the bible. Mostly ’cause in the Hebrew culture, they leapt straight to describing their affections as אָהַב/aháv, “love.” They didn’t really bother with degrees: You either love or hate something or someone. Jesus said if we follow him, we gotta hate everyone else. But only by way of comparison: We love him so much, comparatively we hate everything else. It’s extreme-sounding language because, much like French, Hebrew and Aramaic didn’t have different words for “like” or “like-like”: You loved something or you hated it.

For this reason a translator, or someone trying to describe Hebrew ideas in ancient Greek, wouldn’t have a lot of use for storgí: It wouldn’t sound strong enough. You only like your father and mother? Phooey to that. In the New Testament, the writers described people who loved their fathers and mothers, with the largely interchangeable words φίλος/fílos and agápi. They weren’t just affectionate towards these parents, or liked them, but loved them. Jesus described people who loved their parents, Mt 10.37 and his Father as someone who loves us. Jn 16.27 God isn’t merely affectionate towards us. He loves us. He is love, so it stands to reason.

We can talk, as Lewis did, about all the ways people are affectionate towards family members, and whether this behavior sounds anything like storgí. But if you wanna start quoting bible, or wanna grow closer to God, ditch storgí. God doesn’t want us to merely like him. (And none of this secular bushwa about how you can love someone but not really like them; that’s not love either.)

The fruit of faithfulness, or the fruit of faith?

by K.W. Leslie, 09 May

Where Paul lists the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians, a lot of bibles translate one of the words he used, πίστις/pístis, as “faithfulness.” But that’s not the usual way pístis gets translated in the bible. Typically it’s translated “faith.”

And that’s what I believe Paul meant: Faith. Not faithfulness. Not that faithfulness isn’t an admirable trait; not that good fruitful Christians aren’t faithful to God—and faithful to fellow Christians, even when we mess up or sin against one another. But then again, nontheists, pagans, and people of other religions, are frequently faithful to their beliefs and principles, and notoriously stick to them even tighter than Christians will to ours. Heck, dogs are faithful. Loyalty doesn’t take the Holy Spirit. Misbegotten loyalty proves that.

Whereas faith is obviously the product of the Spirit: When people don’t have the Spirit, we won’t trust the Spirit. We won’t believe the bible. We’ll invent all sorts of reasons why we needn’t believe it, shouldn’t believe it, ought never take it seriously, don’t gotta obey it. Our unbelief will overwhelm any chance for us to listen to him, step out in faith, and do the unlikely or impossible. And Christians who don’t trust the Spirit are seriously hindered in their Christian growth. Don’t practice much of the other fruit of the Spirit either.

I’ve written plenty on TXAB about faith, and expect to write plenty more. It’s a practice we always need to strive to do. It helps us grow like nothing else. Even small increments are profoundly powerful; like Jesus pointed out, mustard-grain faith can shove mountains over. Mt 17.20 But never be satisfied with that little faith! God always wants to grow our faith. So let’s follow him.

How does it grow? Simple: Practice. We step out in faith. When tells us something, we act on it. We don’t just leave it untested, in fear nothing will happen and we’ll look stupid. Those who lack faith, will never challenge their faith. This is why whenever they encounter real challenges to their faith—a loved one dies, or they suffer loss, or a cherished belief gets shattered like so much idolatrous pottery—their so-called “faith” bursts like a soap bubble. Untested faith, as James described it, is faith without works. And faith without works is dead. Jm 2.17 It’s fake faith, easily exploded.

So you wanna grow the fruit? Look for the faith-stretching opportunities the Spirit gives us. Step out. Watch him act. Watch your faith grow.

Goodness, and lawless Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 April

If you know Jesus—really and truly know Jesus, not just know of him—you’re gonna want to follow him. You’re gonna want to do as he teaches, and actually try to obey his commands instead of shrugging them off with, “Well, they’re nice ideals, but they’re not gonna be practical.” You’re gonna want to be good.

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. A rather obvious one: God is good, so shouldn’t those who have the Holy Spirit in us be likewise good? Shouldn’t he encourage us to be good, empower us to do good deeds, be gracious to us when we drop the ball and help us return to goodness? Shouldn’t he point us in the direction of sanctification, of living holy lives, unique from the rest of the world—where goodness is a huge factor in why we’re unique?

Likewise if you don’t wanna be good, not only do you lack the Spirit’s fruit: You’re probably not even Christian. And yes, bluntly saying so has a tendency to really offend people: “Goodness doesn’t make you Christian! That’s legalism. How could you say that?” Well I didn’t say that. I said you have to want to be good. You have to make the effort. You’re gonna suck at it in the beginning; everybody does; it gets easier with practice. And I didn’t say goodness makes you Christian; only the Holy Spirit does that. But the lack of goodness, or substituting it with hypocrisy and hoping no one will notice, indicates the Holy Spirit isn’t in your life—and if he’s not there, you’re not Christian. Period.

Let’s not be naïve. “Obey Jesus” is a hard lifestyle choice. The world is against us. Christianists have gone to a lot of trouble to swap real obedience with their cheap knockoff, and sometimes they’ll fight goodness just as hard as Satan itself. They’ll claim Jesus’s commands were nullified by a new dispensation, or they’re only meant to describe God’s kingdom after Jesus returnsnot before. They’ll claim our resistance to evil is really works righteousness and legalism; that trying to be better is another form of pride; that our commonsense interpretation of God’s commands is extremism, whereas the proper way to interpret them is to water ’em down till they’re nothing but water.

Plus our own selfish tendencies are gonna fight us. And yes, the devil might fight us too… but you’ll find the devil’s far easier to beat than your own flesh. We start off with a lot of ingrained bad habits, and conquering ourselves has to be done first. Which a lot of people never bother to do. Most of us simply relabel all our bad behaviors with Christianese names, and presto-changeo, we’re fixed now! But widespread popular hypocrisy is still hypocrisy.

Still, if we have the Holy Spirit in us, we’ll want to do better. And we’ve got to trust him to help us out with this. We absolutely can’t do it alone. God offers us power to live for him. Grab it with both hands. You accepted his salvation. Now accept his sanctification.

Redefining joy “because happiness is fleeting.”

by K.W. Leslie, 18 October

Ask anyone what joy means and they’ll tell you what the dictionary usually tells you: It’s happiness. It’s pleasure. You feel really, really good.

Ask a Christian and they’ll give you the very same answer. That is, till you bring up the fruit of the Spirit. Then suddenly the definition of joy changes to contentment. To being okay with whatever befalls us in life. To gritting our teeth and buggering on. All the happiness gets sucked right out of the meaning.

What’s wrong with these people? What, have they never experienced joy before?

No, they have! The problem isn’t that they don’t know what joy is, nor what it feels like. The problem is they don’t understand fruit of the Spirit. Christians have some really odd, wrong ideas about what it’s like. So these odd ideas worm their way backwards into the definitions of the individual fruits, and distort what we mean by love or any of the emotions encouraged by the Spirit.

Emotions, y’see, come and go. We all know this. Joy fades; love fades; compassion fades; patience wears off. We don’t want ’em to, but they do. That’s why we strive to get ’em back. Which is good! We should want to continually love, be patient, have compassion, and experience joy.

The fact these things fade, should inform our definition of the Spirit’s fruit: Fruit can fade. Because it absolutely can. In fact you’ve seen it happen in various Christians. (Likely seen it in yourself.) We don’t just acquire the Spirit’s fruit, then have it forever. Jesus told us we have to stay in him:

John 15.1-8 KWL
1 “I’m the true grapevine. My Father’s the gardener.
2 He lifts off the ground my every branch which doesn’t bear fruit.
He prunes every branch which does, so it can bear even more fruit.
3 You’ve already been trimmed by the message I gave you.
4 Stay in me and I in you, like a branch which can’t bear fruit all by itself
when it doesn’t stay in the grapevine—you never produce when you don’t stay in me.
5 I’m the grapevine. You’re the branches.
Those who stay in me and I in them, produce a lot of fruit.
You can’t do anything apart from me.
6 When anyone won’t stay in me, they’re thrown out like a stray branch:
They wither, are gathered up, tossed into fire, and burned.
7 When you stay in me and my words stay in you,
whenever you want something, ask! It’ll happen for you.
8 My Father is glorified by it when you produce a lot of fruit,
and become my students.”

The only way fruit’s gonna grow—or even continue to stay alive!—is when our branches are attached to the grapevine. We gotta stay plugged into Jesus, maintain our relationship with him, and work on this relationship religiously. If we take Jesus for granted or blow off the relationship, it stands to reason our fruit’s gonna wither.

But somehow popular Christian culture is under the delusion the Spirit’s fruit never fades. ’Cause if it’s from the Holy Spirit, it must be perfect, and last forever. Like wax fruit. But if you’ve ever accidentally taken a bite of wax fruit, it’s nasty. (Especially if people didn’t dust it. Yuck.) Wax fruit only looks good, and impresses people who aren’t paying real attention. Same as all the fake fruit Christians try to pass off as the real thing—which never spoils, never fades, never withers, but isn’t real.

You know, like the redefinitions of “joy” which generate fake plastic smiles instead of real happiness and pleasure.

Fake joy, evil joy, and joyless Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 October

There are a lot of joyless people in the world. Sometimes it’s a clinical problem; I’m not talking about them today. If you need medication, get it. Same as if you have too much joy.

Nope; today I mean the fruitless Christian who rarely experiences great happiness, the proper definition of joy, because their fleshly attitudes simply don’t reflect the attitudes the Holy Spirit brings out in us. Instead of joy, they’re angry, argumentative, bitter, divisive, envious, faultfinding, hateful, humorless, pessimistic, and unforgiving. When they encounter joy, they’ll actually try to stamp it out.

What do they do instead of joy? As is typical of fruitless Christians, they’ll find something else in their character which they’ll try to pass off as “joy.” If they lack fruit, fake fruit will do them.

The most common false definition of joy is “a state of well-being.” It’s not happiness; it’s being content, comfortable, okay with the way things are. Happiness is fleeting, they explain. Contentment isn’t.

This redefinition has even wormed its way into dictionaries. Most of my Greek dictionaries correctly define hará/“joy” as gladness, great happiness, delight, gladness, merriment, cheerfulness, and the opposite of sorrow; which it is. But one of ’em also defines it as “a state of being calmly happy or well-off.” Which it really wasn’t. As Ceslas Spicq put it,

The proclamation of salvation is one of great joy, which contrasts with the pessimism and despair of first-century paganism. This explains why a large proportion of the occurrences of hará in the papyri are of Christian origin, why pagan occurrences of the word are so rare, and especially why pagan joy is never that of the soul. Rather, it is the pleasure felt by a traveler returning to his homeland, fervor in spreading false news, rejoicing at a welcome, especially at the good Nile floods, or popular jubilation; hence there is no religious parallel to the NT.

Theological Lexicon of the New Testament at hará

You wanna know why Christians misdefine joy? ’Cause they’re still kinda pagan.

(I have heard people attempt to defend the misdefinition by claiming the root-word of hará is heíro/“be well,” commonly used as a greeting. Of course words evolve, so to say they both kept the very same meaning after centuries of common use (kinda like our English words “hello” and “hail”) is naïve. Watch out whenever somebody tries to claim such things about ancient Greek: They don’t understand how languages work, and aren’t always coming to that conclusion for the noblest of reasons.)

Are Mormons Christian?

by K.W. Leslie, 10 October

I’ve written more than once that we’re saved by God’s grace—which means we’re not saved by our orthodoxy. There are a lot of Evangelical Christians who’ve got it into our heads that we’re saved only once we have all the correct beliefs; a situation I call faith righteousness.

Faith righteousness is easily disproven by the fact God saves new Christians. Does any newbie hold all the correct beliefs about God? Of course not; they don’t know anything yet! None of us did. (Some of us still don’t.) But we’re pursuing a relationship with God, and as we screw up time and again, God graciously forgives our deficiencies. Might be moral deficiencies; might be doctrinal deficiencies. Makes no difference. Grace covers all.

Of course, when I teach this, people occasionally wanna know just how far they can push God’s grace. They wanna know just how egregiously they can sin before God finally says, “Nope; you’ve gone too far; you’re going to hell.” Not necessarily because they wanna sin (although let’s be honest; sometimes they totally wanna). The idea of unlimited grace sounds too good to be true. Nobody else offers unlimited grace. Even when commercials claim a company gives you unlimited stuff, there’s always fine print. Always.

Same deal with Christians who are fond of, or fixated upon, doctrines. They wanna know how heretic is too heretic. How far can we go outside the boundaries of historic Christianity before we’re simply not Christian anymore? So they wanna know about groups which call themselves Christian, but embrace heretic beliefs. Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are Arian; like the Oneness Pentecostals, who are unitarian; like the Christian Scientists, who believe reality is a mental construct.

So let’s talk about the Mormons.

A small number of ’em aren’t okay with the term “Mormon”; they prefer “Latter-day Saint,” or LDS for short. These tend to be the older Mormons, ’cause back in the 1970s, when I first encountered them, one of their leaders apparently had a hangup about it. (It’s sorta like referring to Christians as “New Testaments.”) Nowaday’s Mormons are used to it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the biggest of the heretic churches. For this reason I interact with plenty of Mormons; we have four of their churches in my city. I first learned what they supposedly believe when I went to Fundamentalist churches, who taught me to shun and fear them. A lot of that was hearsay from ex-Mormons with axes to grind. Since then I went to journalism school, and learned to always go to the source. So I did. Whenever the Mormons wanna evangelize me, I seize the opportunity and ask a ton of questions.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Mormons were kinda secretive about any of their beliefs which were outside the Christian mainstream. (No doubt they were made gunshy by all the hostile Fundies.) I guess somebody in their leadership realized how that came across, and got ’em to cut it out. So now they’ll tell you just about anything you wanna know. Including the weird stuff, which makes ’em a little uncomfortable, but they’re good kids and try to be honest. So if you wanna know about Mormons, don’t be afraid to ask Mormons.

Gossip, prayer, and trustworthiness.

by K.W. Leslie, 31 May

Sometimes it’s not a prayer request; it’s gossip.

The gossipy prayer request. High school likely wasn’t the first place I encountered it, but certainly the first time I became aware of it. We were in a youth group meeting, the pastor was taking prayer requests, and one kid raised her hand and proceeded to give us way too much detail about a girl most of us knew.

Definitely gossip. But that’s how gossips have discovered a loophole: Gossip may be bad, but praying for one another is good! So now they can gossip freely, on the grounds it’s all stuff we need to know. Right?

Wrong; rubbish. We don’t need to know a thing. All we need to know is someone needs God’s help, and that God can help. If your friend (let’s call him Vasko) needs prayer, all you gotta tell the prayer leader is, “Please pray for my friend Vasko; he’s having a rough time, and that’s all I can tell you.” A gossipy prayer leader will pry, but a wise prayer leader will say “Okay,” and respect it as an unspoken prayer request.

Yeah, you could try to leave Vasko’s name off it, but too many prayer leaders kinda prefer a name. They find it a little awkward to pray for “Jamillah’s friend,” or whatever your name is. But if you wanna conceal the name too, that’s fine; God knows who you’re praying about; tell the prayer leader, “Let’s call him [made-up name],” and that tends to work.

And yeah, if you’re in a roomful of immature Christians (namely kids) you might get someone who blurts out, “I know who you’re talking about.” Shut them up quickly: “Maybe you do, but I didn’t say who it is because I’m trying to respect their privacy.” Most times that’s enough of a rebuke to keep people quiet. Most times.

Is faith a gift?

by K.W. Leslie, 02 March

Mixing up the types of faith, is why a lot of Christians don’t develop their faith.

Oh, I won’t bury the lead. Is faith a gift? Well, supernatural faith is a gift. The other types of faith? Nah.

I know why various Christians claim faith, all faith, is a gift. It’s usually ’cause it says so in their church’s catechism. Fr’instance the Heidelberg Catechism:

65. It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: Where then does that faith come from?

A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

Various scriptures indicate that people have faith after hearing the gospel, Ro 10.17 and the writers of the catechisms kinda stretched these verses to imply it was the gospel, and God granting us the ability to understand the gospel, 1Co 2.10-14 which generated the faith in us. It wasn’t our ability to trust what we heard; it was God sorta flipping a switch in us so that now we had the ability to understand and believe.

Um… no. I can see how you’d get that by reading your own pre-existing deterministic philosophy into the bible. But I’m pretty sure if it all comes down to God dropping faith into us, and nothing else whatsoever, Jesus wouldn’t command people to believe or have faith. Mk 1.15, 11.22, Jn 10.38, 14.1, 20.27, 1Jn 3.23 If there’s any truth to the idea God grants us faith, he shouldn’t have to order us to use it: It should just be there, and we should just believe. But we don’t. Some of us struggle. Sometimes we cry out to God for extra help. Mk 9.24, Lk 17.5 And the reason we struggle is because it’s not just there. It’s a trait we have to develop. It’s fruit.

Why do the catechisms get it wrong? Mostly it’s ’cause their authors suck at grammar.

Fake goodness. (Yes, it can be faked.)

by K.W. Leslie, 30 January

It’s been long taught the opposite of goodness is badness, or evil. That’s not precisely true. The proper opposite of goodness is non-goodness. Which can take the forms of active evil, apathy (i.e. standing around doing nothing when we could be doing good—or stopping evil), or hypocrisy (i.e. pretending to be good when we’re not really).

We humans don’t like to think of ourselves as evil. Even when we totally are: We seek out ways to justify our misbehavior. Good excuses, like “It wasn’t my responsibility,” or as Cain ben Adam put it, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Ge 4.9 KJV Semantic justifications, like “It’s not technically doing evil, and here’s why,” like you’ll find in theodicy whenever determinists try to explain how their view of God doesn’t really make him culpable for all the evil in the cosmos. Our self-preservation instinct means we’ll do our darnedest to defend ourselves… or get high so we don’t ever have to think about it.

The usual route I find Christians take when it comes to fake goodness, is misdirection. Misdirection’s what stage magicians use when they want you to stop paying attention to what they’re really doing, and focus instead on something interesting or distracting—like a pretty assistant, sharp knives, or a white tiger. We Christian misdirect by pointing away from our own lack of goodness… and point at someone else’s lack of goodness. You know, like when Adam was in trouble and pointed to Eve, or Eve passing the buck to the serpent. Ge 2.12-13 Little kids figure out this technique pretty early in their lives: “Well but he set the garage on fire, which is way worse than what I ever did.” Because hey, with some of the dumber parents, it works.

Be good. It’s what God expects of his kids.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 January
Ephesians 2.4-10 KWL
4 God, being rich in mercy, loves us out of his great love.
5 Us, being dead in our missteps.
He makes us all alive in Christ: You’re saved by his grace.
6 He raises us and seats us together in the highest heavens, in Christ Jesus—
7 so he can show the overabundant riches of his grace in the coming ages,
in kindness to those of us who are in Christ Jesus.
8 You’re all saved by his grace, through your faith.
This, God’s gift, isn’t from you, 9 isn’t from works; none can boast of it.
10 We’re his poetry, creations in Christ Jesus,
for doing the good works which God pre-prepared. We should walk in them!

Too often Christians get the idea that once God saved us—once we said the sinner’s prayer, and gained free admission to God’s kingdom—there’s not a whole lot left for us Christians to do. We don’t have to earn heaven; we don’t have to do anything. We can just kick back, bask in the knowledge of our election, and wait for the sweet release of death—to be followed by the joy of resurrection and eternal life.

Yeah, no. God’s expectation has always been that now that he’s saved his people, we follow him.

True of the Hebrews after the Exodus. Remember when he rescued them from Egyptian slavery? (If not, read Exodus, or at least watch The Prince of Egypt.) The LORD saved the Hebrews—and as a saved people, he granted them his Law. If they were gonna be known as the LORD’s people, they’d better act like the LORD’s people should, and “be holy because I’m holy.” Lv 11.44 After all, how are they “the LORD’s people” if they’re no different than any other people? How are we Jesus’s people if we don’t actually follow Jesus?

So in a word, God expects us to be good. To walk in the good works which God pre-prepared. Ep 2.10 To be the creations he always intended.

Goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we truly belong to Jesus, we’re gonna make an effort to be good. We’re gonna try to obey God. We’re gonna want to be good. In fact, we’re gonna get frustrated because we’re not as good as we’d wish. We’re not gonna like our sins any more than God does.

Humility, and the “cage-stage” Christian.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 December

The first principle of theology is humility—knowing who and what you are, and not claiming you’re anything more. Or, as we so often see in false humility, less.

That means we’re fully aware we’re wrong, and Jesus is right. The purpose of theology isn’t to believe we’ve “arrived,” and defend our newly-acquired high ground. It’s to correct our beliefs, poor character, and bad attitudes. Because they’re misbegotten and wayward. We may be redeemed, but they’re not. Bearing this in mind, with the Holy Spirit’s help and power, the goal is to get those traits to match Jesus’s.

The problem? A lot of Christians have utterly skipped that first theology lesson. Or weren’t paying attention, ’cause they were too busy staring at the syllabus. Or promptly forgot all about it, ’cause all their new knowledge puffed ’em up. However it happened.

Hence they imagine theology’s first principle is, “I was wrong—but now I’m not. Jesus fixed me.” When he gave us new life, supposedly he gave us a new nature—his nature—so now we have the mind of Christ. 1Co 2.16 We think like Jesus does… or he thinks like we do; it’s all the same. We have arrived.


As Calvinist cartoonist Adam Ford depicts it. They don’t always foam at the mouth though. Adam 4d

I run into Christians with this mindset all the time. They’d be the folks who email me to explain, patiently or not, why I’m completely wrong. Or who show up on discussion boards to loudly, angrily correct everybody who varies ever so slightly with their infallible doctrines. Back when they were pagan, they’d get this way about plenty of other subjects, like politics and Star Wars. Now they do it with doctrine. Or apologetics.

There’s a term the Calvinists use when their young, overzealous theologians get like this—when they’re so enthusiastic about “the doctrines of grace,” they forget to be gracious altogether. Calvinists call it “the cage stage.”

The cage-stager is as eager to defend their theological territory as a junkyard dog. They’ll fight anyone. Even friends: You might believe precisely the same as they, but if (God forbid) you misstate the slightest idea, the cage-stager will tear your throat out. Best to lock ’em in a cage till they calm the heck down. Hence “cage stage”: Lots of knowledge, very little love.

Calvinists may have coined the term, and may be notorious for the behavior. But lemme tell ya, by no means do they have a monopoly on it. I’ve met cage-stage Fundamentalists, Catholics, people in my own denomination, people in heretic denominations. I’ve encountered cage-stage Jews and Muslims too. The phenomenon’s all over Christendom.

It’s a pitfall many Christians (myself included) fall right into during our early days of following Jesus. The devil’d love every Christian to fall into it, ’cause it nullifies much of the work we do for God’s kingdom. We’re too busy denouncing ideas, sins, and people we hate, to ever get round to loving people, and winning them to Jesus through our kindness and love. ’Cause screw kindness and love; there are doctrines to defend!

Patience. Or longsuffering. Either.

by K.W. Leslie, 20 November

How angry Christians lack it, and how to work on it.

Years ago I casually mentioned to someone I was praying for greater patience.

He. “Aw, why would you do that to yourself?”
Me. “Why, what’s the problem?”
He. “You realize how God teaches you patience, right?”
Me. “Of course. He’s gonna make me practice.”
He. “And life’s gonna suck. You’re gonna wind up in more situations where you gotta be patient. You’ll have to wait for everything.”
Me. “So everybody’s been telling me. They’ve been about as encouraging as Satan itself. You sure it didn’t send you? Get thee behind me.”

Yeah, don’t tell the dude who’s struggling with patience that his life’s about to suck. He’ll turn on you.

But it’s something we Christians need to strive for. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, one of the ways love behaves, and impatient Christians wind up exhibiting works of the flesh like anger, unforgiveness, argumentativeness, and unkindness. Much of the reason Christians get a bad reputation with pagans is because of how we get when we’re impatient—and how we justify the impatient behavior with cheap grace. Not cool, folks.

However. Strive to actually attain patience, and we’re gonna come across Christians who thick-headedly joke, “Oh, you’re praying for patience? Good luck with all that. Man are you gonna get reamed with it.” Again: Not cool.

True, there’s a faction of Christians who imagine once we become Christian, the Holy Spirit downloads fruit into our character like a scene from The Matrix. Doesn’t work that way. Wish it did. But these Christians, imagining they somehow have patience even though their behavior proves they don’t, try to interpret all sorts of other things as patience. Most commonly despair: Just give up. Quit striving. Stop hoping. (And quit feeling.)

The rest of us recognize God wants his kids to be patient like he is. So we gotta bite the bullet and pray for patience. And yes we’re gonna slam into a lot of situations where we simply gotta wait things out.

But don’t forget: God is kind. When we get into those situations, we who seek God’s patience are gonna find we’re somehow, somehow, actually able to bear them. Before, we’d lose our cool in minutes. Now we don’t. (True, some of us now take a few more minutes. It’s still more.) We acted in faith, and the Spirit’s reply was to grant us his patience.

See, all those nimrods who tell us, “Ooh, you prayed for patience; now life’s gonna suck” have forgot God is kind. He’s not interested in developing our characters through suffering. That’s how humans behave. That’s how parents and drill sergeants work. God’s not a jerk. He develops our character through our obedience. Not through our disobedience, so now we gotta pay some sort of karmic debt. That’s not grace, and God does grace.

So when we seek God and strive to obey him, when we put our faith in his ability to equip us for every good work, he gives us opportunities to practice that obedience, and he empowers us with those very traits we’re looking for.

God’s a relational being. So—no surprise—he wants us to develop fruit through the relationships which we have with other people. Think of it as hands-on experience. ’Cause once we have the hang of it, we’ll have to apply that patience towards every future relationship we develop with new people. Including some people whom we’ll need to be very patient with. But in the meanwhile, we gotta work on being patient with friends, family… and enemies.

Yeah, that’s no fun sometimes. Do it anyway.

Submission. It’s not domination.

by K.W. Leslie, 19 September

It has two definitions, and evil people are promoting the wrong one.

Submit /səb'mɪt/ v. Yield to or accept a superior force, authority, or will. Consent to their conditions.
2. Present one’s will to another for their consideration or judgment.
[Submission /səb'mɪs.ʃən/ n.]

Notice there are two popular definitions of submit in use. The more popular of the two has to do with acceptance, obedience, and blind capitulation. To turn off our brains, do as we’re told. And most sermons instruct Christians to do precisely that. Submit to one another, as Paul ordered.

Ephesians 5.21 NIV
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

’Cause we kinda have to. If we can’t submit to God—if we insist on our own way, our own standards, our own values, our own lifestyles—it’s a pretty good bet we’re outside his kingdom.

Romans 8.5-8 KWL
5 Carnal people think carnal things. Spirit-led people, Spirit-led things.
6 A flesh-led mind produces death. A Spirit-led mind, life and peace.
7 For a flesh-led mind is God’s enemy. It doesn’t submit to God’s law. It can’t.
8 Those who live by flesh can’t please God.

So we especially submit to God. Jm 4.7 And to Christian leaders; 1Pe 5.5 we follow the doctrines they proclaim from the pulpit. And wives, submit to your husbands. Ep 5.22 When he says “Jump,” you ask “How high?”

Then there’s the other definition of submit: The one where it’s not typical of a relationship between a benevolent (or not-so-benevolent) despot and their subjects, but between partners, friends, or coworkers. One where we instead bounce ideas off one another. Find out whether they help or inconvenience one another—and of course try to help as best we can.

One which sounds appropriate for a paráklitos/“helper” Jn 14.16, 14.26, 15.26, 16.7 and the people he’s trying to help. For a teacher and his pupils. For a loving God and his kids.

So… which definition d’you think fits what the authors of the scriptures were talking about?

Oh, the benevolent despot thingy? Well it does work for cult leaders and wannabe patriarchs. But in God’s kingdom, where the king calls us his friends, Jn 15.15 where love doesn’t demand its own way, 1Co 13.5 it’s pretty obvious that definition is entirely incorrect. In many ways it’s kinda the opposite of God’s intent. Almost as if the devil got Christians to flip it 180 degrees, n’est-ce pas?

“Tough love”: Anger disguised as love.

by K.W. Leslie, 01 September

Contrary to popular belief, it’s as unlike love as we can get.

Tough love /təf ləv/ n. Promotion of a person’s welfare by enforcing certain constraints on them, or demanding they take responsibility for their actions.
2. Restrictions on government benefits, designed to encourage self-help.

When I wrote about love, I mentioned there are plenty more things our culture calls “love.” C.S. Lewis listed four, though he was looking at classical antiquity. Your dictionary’s gonna have way more than four; I bunched ’em into eight categories.

I also pointed out it’s important for us Christians, whenever we’re talking about love, to stick with Paul and Sosthenes’s definition as closely as possible:

1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL
4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t act with uncontrolled emotion.
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. 8 Love never falls down.

Because from time to time people, including Christians, are gonna try to slip another thing our culture calls “love” past us, and claim we’ve gotta practice that. Usually it’ll be hospitality, which looks like love but is totally conditional. Whereas charitable love, the stuff the apostles described in 1 Corinthians, doesn’t keep track.

Another way we know we’re talking authentic charitable love, and not one of the other varieties of love, is by the way charitable love never contradicts the other fruit of the Spirit. Love isn’t joyless, impatient, unkind, evil, unfaithful, emotionally wild, or out-of-control.

Hence “tough love,” a popular form of “love” our culture tries to pass off as the real thing, would be a really good example of fruitless, inauthentic love. Because tough love is unkind.

The justification for tough love is that there’s love behind it: We want what’s best for ’em, and that’s love, isn’t it? And in the long run, that’s what they’ll have. But in the short term, in order to get us to the goal, we’ve gotta be unloving to these people. Contrary to the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, we gotta be impatient and unkind. Gotta get angry. Gotta emphasize, “This is because I love you, and it’s for your own good.” Gotta ignore their pleas for help, compassion, generosity, or grace—those things aren’t doing ’em any good! Gotta worry about yourself, and notice how their awful behavior is affecting you. Gotta stop putting up with them, stop trusting them, stop hoping they’ll get better, stop. Quit enabling. Just quit.

The justification is that the ends justify the means. It’s okay to be awful if it’ll all work out in the end. As William Shakespeare put it in Hamlet’s mouth, “I must be cruel only to be kind.” 3.4.178

But despite our good intentions, we’re justifying cruelty. We’re plotting evil. Which ain’t love, 1Co 13.7 no matter how thin you slice the bologna.

It’s 4 January. It’s still Christmas. And this fact annoys you.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 January

All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you.

“Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees.

SHE. “Feast day? This is a feast day?”
ME. “It’s still Christmas.”
SHE. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.”
ME. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember?
SHE.What lasts 12 days?”
ME. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.”
SHE. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?”
ME.I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.”
SHE. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.”
ME. “You mean the second day of Christmas.”
SHE. [irritated scoff]

Tell many a Christian that today’s the 11th day of Christmas, and that’s the response you’ll get from them. The irritated scoff. Christmas ended last month. And good riddance. They were so done with the holiday once Christmas dinner was over. And if they weren’t, the hassle of returning Christmas gifts did it for ’em.

Like I said back in my advent article, a lot of people have adopted the mindset our popular culture foists upon ’em. To them, the Christmas season begins on Black Friday, ends 25 December, and the rest is just aftermath and cleanup. Put the decorations away as soon as possible, ’cause it’s time to concentrate on the new year. And the stores are already selling Valentine’s Day items. (“Already? Are you kidding me?”)

But if you’ve burnt out on Christmas, it’s because you’ve not really been celebrating Christmas. You’ve been celebrating the awful Mammonist substitute the stories peddle. Our churches unwittingly help ’em do it too. We perpetuate the idea of a one-day holiday, a frenzy of gifts and toys and events, and a slapped-on veneer of “Remember the reason for the season!”

In fact Christmas is primarily about how Christ the savior is born. If you’re doing Christmas correctly, and someone brings up the word “Christmas” after the 25th, that’s the mental image which should’ve immediately popped into your mind. Not decorations, toys, and obligations. Jesus has come. ’Cause if your first response is to scoff… you did it wrong.