Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Fine Line Between Fruit and Rules

I've made no secret of how often I receive emails calling me "bitter" or "angry" or something along those lines. Aside from it being sometimes annoying, I really don't pay much attention to the labels anyone wants to place on me. I've been very open that I AM bitter and angry about my experience, but make no mistake, for that I'm thankful. For those who don't understand what I'm getting at, let me explain...

If not for my bitter experience, and if not for the anger over it, there wouldn't be the passion to pursue the fight against patriarchy and hyper-fundamentalism that has arisen in me in the last couple of years. Now, whether I'm making any kind of dent in the battle is surely debatable and isn't for me to decide, but,  I alone am responsible to do what I feel compelled by God to do, no matter how pretty, ugly, effective, or ineffective others perceive it.

When we become unwilling to risk everything for the sake of the right thing, our salt has lost its savor, and we no longer season our world. If this blog (and whatever other pursuits in this battle that I may partake in) costs me the approval of people - even those who also profess Christ, so be it. 

Recently, I've been hit by some who email and discuss this blog with the idea that I "fail to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit". The fruit of the Spirit is something I've wanted to address in some way for some time, and these concerns of readers seem to have opened the door a bit, so I want to look at it from a couple of different angles. This is neither a defense or a disclaimer. This is simply my interpretation and application of the passages of scripture in question.

First of all, let's look at the passage of scripture we're dealing with...

Galatians 5:22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I don't argue with the scripture at all. However, I DO argue vehemently with a rigid, one-size-fits-all interpretation and application of it that renders it a list of rules, a buzzverse, and, by default, legalistic. For instance, if we apply that passage literally and rigidly, without any context, to Jesus here...

John 2:14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” 17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

It doesn't look very good on Jesus, does it? Or how about Matthew 23? Ouch.

Was Jesus producing the "fruit of the Spirit"? We know He was, because He had an unlimited quantity of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34). So if the standard in Galatians doesn't apply to Christ at ALL times, why do we use it so rigidly at ALL times?

It was never meant to be a standard. It was meant to be a comparison. It has fallen headfirst into the 1st Corinthians 13 list of rules trap which I wrote about here. Regarding the comparison, let's look at what Paul was comparing the fruit of the Spirit to...

Galatians 5:19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Frankly, I fail to see where what I write on this blog falls into that list - although I'm sure some will say anger, division, or hostility. Then again, if you believe that, hold Christ to that same standard in the scriptures I quoted above and see how He fares.

If Paul had known that passages such as those in Galatians 5 or 1st Corinthians 13 were gonna be used as a list of rules, and if he knew how misappropriated those passages would be in their use to judge the actions of brothers and sisters, I'd dare say he'd have never written them. It's amazing how legalistic we can easily become - despite having no intention of legalism.

If we're using Galatians 5 as a list of rules, to be frank once again, it isn't the Spirit producing the fruit - it's US attempting to do the work of the Spirit through our flesh. Again, it's the same dynamic as a rule-driven application of 1st Corinthians 13.

The fruit absolutely can't produce the tree.

While I hope that the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5 (patience, gentleness, love, joy, peace, et cetera) are evident in my life - those things positively will not factor in to my approach to the teachings of patriarchy and hyper-fundamentalism, or to the people using them to abuse and oppress God's creation.

We should, without question, bear fruit. What we shouldn't do is be styrofoam when steel is called for - all in an attempt to produce for ourselves what only the Holy Spirit is capable of.


  1. Lewis - I don't know how many times I have been called bitter, etc either. It seems to me that people get uncomfortable when you point out the ugly parts of how things are handled, and instead of listening with any type of grace? They get defensive, angry, and start with the name calling.

    Honestly? I think they are afraid of me on some realms. Its strange how they feel they can point out the debits in others, but when you point out parts they lack in? They want you to be like their other followers, and spread the magical spiritual pixie dust around instead. They will tell you what you need to be angry about, and not the other way around.

    Sounds like they are afraid of you as well, because you uncover some ugly parts they don't wish to discuss. Well? TO BAD for them! Things need to be talked about, and if they aren't strong enough to do it? WELL that leaves it up to people like you! I mean not everyone has to be cowards.

    I feel sorry for them personally. They live on this ivory tower looking down at everyone below them. They don't even realize their life is fantasy, and if you deal with things they fester and get worse. They rely on God to handle the ugly parts they don't care to touch.

    They are playing a game of 'religion'. You are breaking the rules. They can't look 'just so' with others pointing things out that are to dirty. They can't be 'leader' if others are questioning their 'authority'. You are voice for others that feel they can't speak. That's a good thing.

    They will tell you what 'truth' is.

    What is that saying in the movie? THEY can't handle the truth? Hmm. Yep. That's about it. They can't.

    Pray for those that can't see the different between truth and bitterness.

  2. "What we shouldn't do is be styrofoam when steel is called for"

    uh-huh. exactly.

  3. You nailed it-I experience this, too, and all the same tired accusations are used against me. Yet, the same claims somehow are not acceptable to the side that dishes them out. Blind....

  4. Lewis,
    You aren't bitter.
    You are real.
    You refuse to be plastic and turn a blind eye to sin in the camp.

    You can't be plastic and bring real freedom to the hurting and oppressed.
    You have to be real to tear down destructive doctrine and every lofty thing that raises itself up against the knowledge of God.

  5. I think too many people often mistake being realistic (e.g., stating truthfully how you feel about an issue without wavering) as being angry, "ungodly," or worse, "unbiblical."

    Continue doing what God has callled you to do.

  6. "The fruit absolutely can't produce the tree."

    Yes, Yes, YES!!!

    I'm just starting to understand this.

  7. I've had a chance to sleep on this and have more to say.

    People getting out of co-dependency situations like alcohol abuse or some other thing sometimes talk about the elephant in the room that no one talks about while emeshed in the codependent system. If someone points out the problem, the elephant in the room, then the person who points it out BECOMES the problem. Even though the person who points it out is being real and honest, that person becomes the enemy.

    The truth of the matter concerning patriarchy is that it is a bitter doctrine creating bitter roots. It is co-dependency and the elephant in the room that is destroying the home and stinking up the place.

    Bitter doctrine produces bitter people. But those people trapped in this doctrine are trained to hide and ignore the fact that they are living in bitterness and are developing bitter roots beneath the plastic smiles and plastic fruit of the spirit.

    When a person begins to realize the bitterness beneath the plastic, they have two choices. Either continue to hide it beneath the plastic (smile more, deny more) so that it continues to fester, or let it out so it can be released from inside and the person can begin an actual healing process as opposed to the fake wholeness they have been forced to display.

    Bitter doctrine creates bitter people. Whether one grows up in it or has the misfortune of getting entangled in it later or loving someone who is entangled in it.

    So what does the bitter person do about it? They should be honest and point out the elephant in the room and declare to those still trapped that they don't have to stay trapped.

    What does the bitter system do to defend itself?
    It points at the honest person and calls them angry and bitter and declares that the honest person is the problem and lacks the fruit of the spirit.

    The fruit of the Spirit, if it actually comes from the Spirit, has to come from deep inside.

    The plastic fruit of patriarchy doesn't count because it is for display purposes only, like a bowl of fake fruit on display in a furniture store. That fruit is set there to give the furniture a homey look so that people will want to buy it.

    And that is what the plastic fruit of patriarchy is there for. To get people to want to buy into it. It is not the fruit of the Spirit. It is fake, a deception so clever it deceives people into laboring to keep sweet and to keep up appearances for the sake of a bitter and bankrupt doctrine.

  8. Well said, Lewis....I have a bumper sticker that says "God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts". Not very eloquent, but it pretty much sums it up :)

  9. Excellent post. Thankyou, Lewis, for being straightforward and honest. God is using you and your voice. You have not wasted your pain. God bless you.

    Mara, that is a brilliant comment and so true!

  10. Thanks, Lewis, again for shedding the light on this often skewered and misconstrued subject. And the verse on my droid x for the day is this, my friend...

    "Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment." Proverbs 12:19

    Keep telling the truth.

  11. I love the image of the plastic fruit! Yes, coming out of a codependent home, I agree wholeheartedly. "Don't talk about it; no one must know" is the mantra of codependency. Any method possible to silence the one who might talk, who might stop enabling and get the truth into the open-- any method that might work, will be attempted. That's what makes it so hard to grit your teeth and square your shoulders, and not let them drag you back into silence. But that's what we have to do-- no matter what they call us.

  12. I have to agree with the plastic fruit thing. Very good way of explaining it. :D

  13. Perhaps also worth mentioning is that the "fruit" verse comes from Galatians, for gosh sakes-- Paul's diatribe against legalistic teachers and their false doctrines. He doesn't mince words in the rest of the letter, "you foolish Galatians!". (Imagine the avalanche if you wrote, like Paul did, that maybe patrio proponents should emasculate themselves!)

    Mara, fantastic analogy with the "plastic fruit"! I love it.

  14. Check out No Longer Quivering's latest post, "It's not about the clothes".

    It tells well the experience of one girl developing plastic fruit and turning into a plastic sheep.

    It's Linked in Lewis's side bar.

    or copy and paste this.