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

The fear of phony peace.

by K.W. Leslie, 22 December

When “blessed are the peacemakers” gets ditched in favor of popular End Times theories.

So as I said yesterday, we Christians aren’t necessarily known for being peaceful. ’Cause we lack peace. ’Cause we’ve adopted one of the typical incorrect notions as to how to attain it, and haven’t correctly chosen to follow God and pursue his kingdom. Mt 6.25-34

And sometimes it’s ’cause we don’t trust peace. Especially societal and political forms of peace. When our secretary of state brokers a treaty between warring nations, or between the United States and some other nation we’re not really getting along with. Definitely when the United Nations tries to do likewise. We don’t believe any of that stuff is real peace—we suspect there’s something underhanded and devilish behind it.

Why’s that? Well, in Revelation there’s this vision John had of a Beast who’s gonna take over the world. Rv 13 And according to one of the more popular End Times theories, the Beast is gonna gain its power by pretending to be a good guy. Pretending to care about the little guy; pretending to care about our values and safety; pretending to know how to fix the economy and fight terrorism. No I’m not talking about Donald Trump, much as his opponents will scream the shoe fits. But that’s what certain Christians fear most: Someone portraying a prince of peace, who’s absolutely not.

Basically they figure the Beast is gonna be Bizarro Jesus: Anything Jesus does, the Beast’ll do the opposite. Jesus says love your neighbor; the Beast’ll try to make you hate ’em. Jesus says heal the sick; the Beast’ll try to make you poison the sick. Jesus says preach the gospel; the Beast’ll try to shut you up. Black is white, up is down.

So since Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers, the Beast’ll say blessed are the warmongers. But, before it can weasel its way into real power, it’ll make like a peacemaker. By stealthily, evilly getting nations to stop fighting and love one another. That’s just how crafty it is, using goodness and kindness to lull us into a sense of security. Then bam: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Bizarro!

Here’s the problem: What if we’ve got an actual peacemaker on our hands? Someone who actually wants nations to stop fighting and love one another? (Or at least benignly stop bombing one another?) Someone who’s trying to be a child of God like Jesus wants? Mt 5.9

…Nah, can’t risk it.

And this is how the devil regularly tricks paranoid Christians into fighting, of all things, peace.

Peace be unto you.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 December

Too many Christians lack peace, ’cause they’re trusting anything but God to grant it.

God’s into peace. It’s an aspect of his character we really don’t spend enough time on. But it’s a fruit of the Spirit, and something he wishes upon us, his creations, his children—as articulated by his angels when Jesus was born.

Luke 2.13-14 KWL
13 Suddenly there was a large number of the heavenly army with the angel, praising God,
saying, 14 “Glory in the highest heaven to God!
Peace upon the earth to the people he’s pleased with!”

Problem is, we Christians aren’t known for being peaceful.

This may be a fair assessment, and it may be unfair. After all, when Christians aren’t peaceful, it makes the news. When we are peaceful, it might become one of those happy-news stories at the end of the video, or in the back of the newspaper; it might go viral if it’s heartwarming enough. But it doesn’t always. It may very well be we Christians are doing a good job of demonstrating peace, and since the agitated minority gets all the press, we don’t look so good.

Anecdotal experience isn’t proof, but I’ll just say the Christians I know certainly aren’t all that peaceful. They freak out over every little thing. Just last Sunday, one of ’em was telling me that even though every single politician she preferred got elected, she’s still convinced it’s only a matter of time before freedom of religion is banned in the United States, and we won’t even be able to preach Jesus in private. I think she’s been reading too much Hal Lindsey, and she’s hardly alone.

But it’s not even limited to wild End Times fears. When terrorists attack, Christians want ’em dead just as much as any pagan. Lots of us own guns, and not just hunting rifles: When thieves break into our houses, we expect to shoot ’em dead same as any other vengeful homeowner. We claim it’s for self-defense and we’re being realistic and practical, but (unless we’ve got an even more twisted longing to shoot a bad guy and enjoy the experience of justifiable homicide) it’s really because we believe peace will only come once we destroy the things we fear. Or at least build giant walls to keep ’em out.

So I have serious doubts that peaceful Christians are a vast but silent majority. More than likely, they’re a tiny minority. (And I say “they’re” because neither am I as peaceful as I oughta be.)

Gentleness: Take charge of your emotions!

by K.W. Leslie, 01 August

“Gentle” doesn’t mean “nice.” It means, like a well-trained horse, you don’t spook easily.

When Christians go through Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians—love, joy, peace, etcetera Ga 5.22-23 —we tend to skip gentleness. ’Cause we figure it’s just a synonym of kindness. Gentle people are kind, right? Gentle Jesus is meek and mild, according to Charles Wesley’s hymn; we assume gentleness is therefore meekness and mildness. Nice, friendly people.

Or gentle people are patient. They handle others softly, not roughly. Like the washing machine on the gentle cycle: Treats your clothes softly and tenderly, kinda like the way Jesus is calling, “Oh sinner, come home” in Will Thompson’s hymn.

What’re the chances I’m gonna tell you both those definitions are incorrect? Better than average.

The word Paul used for gentleness is prahýtis. It describes someone who’s prahýs/“gentle.” In classical Greek literature, it’s used to describe people or animals who were angry, sad, or fearful… but they got control of themselves.

  • In Homer’s Hymn to Hermes, Apollo was enraged, but let music make him gentle. 417
  • In Hesiod’s Works and Days, stubborn mules were made tame, or gentle. 797
  • In Aeschylus’s Persians, Xerxes tried to gentle a team of horses, 190 and Darius advised Atossa to use gentle words to soothe her grieving son. 837
  • In Pindar’s Pythian Odes, Hero was “gentle to his citizens.” 3.71
  • And in the Septuagint, Moses was more gentle than anyone, Nu 12.3 in contrast to his angry brother and sister. Nu 12.1-2

The term refers to someone who’s emotionally stable. You know, like a wild horse that’s been broken, who doesn’t buck every unfamiliar rider, or freak out at every odd thing it encounters. Like a tame animal who’s not passive and quiet one moment, then tearing through your throat the next.

Unlike some humans. And some Christians.

The ancient Greeks highly praised gentility. Gentle rulers weren’t emotion-driven despots, who’d freak out whenever you tweeted something they don’t like. They weren’t easily outraged—which, I remind you, is a work of the flesh. They weren’t thrown into panic, frenzy, depression, or euphoria, at the smallest things. They weren’t quick to sorrow, despair, rejoice, or ecstasy. Like I said, stable.

God’s that way too: Gracious, merciful, slow to anger, quick to forgive. Jl 2.13 Stands to reason it’s a fruit of the Spirit: All those fruits are God’s traits. If we follow his Spirit, we’re gonna take on his attitudes, behaviors, and emotional stability. We’re gonna be gentle like God is. We might feel excitement, rage, sadness, zeal, all sorts of emotions—but we’re never gonna let ’em take over our lives, and lead us to do something sinful. We are in control. Never our emotions.

Joy.

by K.W. Leslie, 26 May

Are you truly happy? ’Cause the Holy Spirit wants you to be.

Joy /dʒɔɪ/ n. Feeling of great happiness and pleasure.
[Joyful /'dʒɔɪ.fəl/ adj.; joyous /'dʒɔɪ.əs/ adj.]

You’d think I wouldn’t need to include a definition of joy before writing on the subject. You’d be wrong. Not everyone agrees with, or even approves of, this definition.

Joy’s a feeling. An emotion. A positive emotion, one which God wants us to feel. He wants us to experience joy on a regular basis. He wants us to be filled with pleasure and happiness. It’s how his kingdom’s meant to be. No more tears; Rv 7.17 nothing but joy.

But there are a large number of joyless Christians who claim it’s not a feeling of happiness; it’s not an emotion whatsoever. Instead it’s a “state of well-being.” Once you decide, regardless of your circumstances, you’re gonna be okay with things—despite suffering, chaos, or general suckitude, you’re gonna tamp down those feelings of despair and just tough it out—that’s joy. God gives us the power to slog out any circumstances, and psyche ourselves into feeling hope instead of despair. Jm 1.2

Yeah… that’s not joy they’re describing. It’s patience.

And patience—or if you wanna call it by its King James Version word, “longsuffering” Ga 5.22 KJV —isn’t a bad thing. It’s likewise a fruit of the Spirit. It’s an attribute of love. 1Co 13.4 But it’s not joy.

This redefintion has even slipped into dictionaries. One of my Greek dictionaries defines hará/“joy” as “gladness, cheerfulness”—which is correct; or “a state of being calmly happy or well-off”—and no it’s not.

Bust out your concordance and look up all the instances of hará/“joy,” number 5479 in Strong’s dictionary, and you’re gonna find joy hardly sounds like being content no matter the circumstances. Sounds more like being tremendously happy because of circumstances. Here’s a bunch of examples from the New Testament.

Luke 1.13-15 KWL
13B “Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son, and you’ll name him John.
14 He’ll be happiness and joy to you,
and many will rejoice at his birth, 15A for he’ll be great before the Lord.”
John 3.29 KWL
“The groom’s the one with the bride.
The groom’s friend, joyfully standing and listening, rejoices at the groom’s voice.
So this joy of mine is full.”
Luke 10.17 KWL
The 72 students returned with joy, saying, “Master, even demons submitted to us in your name!”
Luke 15.7 KWL
“I tell you, because of it there’s joy in heaven—over one repenting sinner.
More so than over 99 moral people who don’t need to repent.”

Be kind. For once.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 March

Christians know better than to pass off certain things as love… but we often overlook this thing.

We Christians don’t have a reputation for being kind. More like a reputation for being easily outraged, quick to judge, holier than thou, shunning, condemning, impatient, unforgiving buttholes. And if you were immediately offended by my using that word, you just proved my point: Our bad reputation is totally deserved.

What’s with all the Christian jerks? Largely it’s our lack of love. Love is kind, 1Co 13.4 but we Christians largely substitute the charitable, unconditional love of God, for the vastly inferior substitute: The sort of love which expects payback or reciprocity. We only love the worthy, not the undeserving; we only love good people, not sinners. Our so-called “love” has no real connection to grace.

And that’s a huge problem. Hristótis, the Greek word we translate “kindness,” Ga 5.22 actually means “graciousness.” True, kindness involves being friendly, generous, and considerate, like our culture defines kindness. But it’s much more: It’s the grace of God, in action. It’s one of God’s character traits, i.e. a fruit of the Spirit. When we’re kind, we’re practicing God’s grace.

When we’re unkind, we’re still fuming over my unexpectedly dropping the B-word, and plan to write an angry email… and then never, ever read this blog again. And feel totally justified in such behavior. Grace and kindness is for people who don’t deliberately use TV-safe profanities. Fr’instance people who accidentally use ’em… ’cause they don’t know any better, or they were stressed out or something. But they need to clean up their act, and stop doing it. Three strikes and they’re out. (Which is less than half of Simon Peter’s seven strikes, and way less than Jesus’s 490. Mt 18.21-22)

When we’re kind, we’re gonna be gracious, friendly, generous, humble, courteous—and nice. Yeah, I know plenty of Christians who are quick to point out kind and nice aren’t the same thing: Niceness is entirely about getting along with other people. And frequently people will lie, deceive, stifle their opinions, compromise their standards, or choose other evils, just to get along with others. They’ll be nice hypocrites.

I say we don’t have to deceive people to be nice to them: Why can’t we just be good for a change? Be better, more agreeable, more forgiving, more patient?

Besides, pagans are looking for niceness. They may not have any organized religious belief system, but most of ’em firmly do believe nice people are closer to God than mean people. So when they finally do start looking at religion, they try the nice ones first. The nice cults. The nice heretics. The nice con artists, who’ll lead them away, fleece the very clothes off ’em, and abandon them to hell.

Seems to me, if all it takes to win people over is to be nice to them, why are we objecting to niceness? Why is being a thorn in everyone’s side, so fundamental to our integrity?

Love and romance.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 February

Is romance appropriate for Christians? Within the appropriate context, absolutely.

I’m posting this article on Valentine’s Day, the day named for several ancient martyrs named Valentine: Bishop Valentinus of Terni, Presbyter Valentinus of Rome, Valentinus of Raetia, Valentinus of Genoa, Valentinus the hermit, and Valentinus of North Africa. All their stories and myths got frapped together… and nobody cares about ’em anyway, ’cause Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday. It’s meant to get people to buy stuff, or make various other expensive materialistic declarations of love, for the person they’re currently boning.

By “love” I mean one of the eight definitions of love. On Valentine’s Day, among Christians who know charity is the ideal sort of love the scriptures point to, there might be some expressions of that: They love their partners with godly love. They want the best for their loved ones, even if that means sacrificing themselves. They expect nothing in return; it’s not a love which expects, even demands, reciprocity. They really do love like God does. Or strive to.

But Valentine’s Day isn’t at all about that sort of love. It’s about the romantic sort. It’s what the ancient Greeks meant by éros, the desire one has for the objects of their affection or infatuation, the desire lovers have for one another. (Éros is where we get our English word erotic.)

C.S. Lewis spent a quarter of his 1960 book The Four Loves on éros, and when Christians speak on love, a lot of times we likewise spend a chunk of time discussing éros. Although what we tend to do is bash it.

  1. First we define it as romantic love, erotic love, or lust.
  2. Then we point out éros isn’t in the bible. (’Cause it’s not. Neither in the New Testament, nor the Septuagint.) It’s just a different Greek word for a concept we translate as “love”—which is all Lewis was writing about anyway. He was a classics scholar, after all; not a bible scholar.
  3. Then spend the rest of our sermon railing against éros for not being godly love, the agápi Paul defined in 1 Corinthians 13.

Expect all that to be part of nearly every Valentine’s Day sermon. Oh wait; let me throw in an extra bonus point:

  1. Some preachers will insist éros and romance aren’t any sort of “love.” Therefore we should only use the word “love” to mean agápi, to mean having patience and kindness and self-control and gentleness and all that other stuff Paul wrote. Romance isn’t love. Lust certainly isn’t love. So when people incorrectly use the word “love” to describe such things, correct ’em. “That’s romance. That’s lust. Not love. Real love is agápi.”

Sound about right?

But if you actually read The Four Loves you’ll notice Lewis didn’t define éros as romance or lust.