The fruit of the human spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.Adapted from Galatians 5:22-23
In my observations over the years, and I’ve so far experienced 43 of them, the gospel/christian message in and of itself does not really bring any particular change. Yes, some people have been changed by it and continue to be but I would argue that it’s not the gospel itself that leads to change. Rather, it’s an individual’s disposition to want and to seek change, to live well, to get out of bad habits and to create new and better ones, to restore broken relationships, etc. Add to that a context where people support one another and offer resources and you’ll find positive change.
Many will experience the same kind of changes or “aha” moments via other means. The result is the same as what Christianity calls a conversion experience. It might be meditation, yoga, a healthier eating habit, breaking an addiction pattern, seeking therapy to work toward a restored relationship or many other things. People from all walks of life experience change moments similar to what Christianity claims are only fully possible if they are centred and experienced through a Jesus experience.
In the context of church I’ve not seen any real difference in the way people live in comparison to what I’ve observed in those who are not part of the church or don’t subscribe to a particular religion. There are good apples and rotten apples in every basket.
No difference. Perhaps it could even be argued that religion makes the rotten apples even worst.
There are christians who are great and sensible people while there are others who are just plain awful or messed up or constantly angry, and so on. The same is true among those of other religions and among those who don’t claim or have interest in any religious belief. Throughout history, while there have always been pockets of believers dedicated to living out the “fruit of the spirit” in meaningful ways, this is not what the church has been known for and not usually what it is remembered for. This cannot be ignored. The good it has done does not really set it apart in any particular way. The good is overshadowed by its abuse, its judgement of others, its manipulation and its thirst for power. The church is not the only system guilty of this. The difference is its many claims to being unique and different in representing and knowing what “God” wants.
Christian doctrine teaches that without Christ one cannot truly live those things and when they do it is out of selfishness or tainted by the sin nature. When christians live out those things, it is because the spirit is acting through them making their joy a tad bit more meaningful than yours or mine.
What the bible describes as the fruit of the flesh is just as prevalent among christians. Again, there is no real difference.
The world is full of “Christlike Heathens” and it’s full of “Devilish Christians”. Non believers loving mercy, doing justice and walking humbly while some claiming to be in Christ and having the power of the spirit are doing quite the opposite.
It will always be so. It cannot be otherwise. It is the way of life.
What if love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are more likely to be the fruit of the human spirit and not of a divine one? If there is a divine spirit activating those traits in people, this spirit does not seem to be concerned with an individual’s personal beliefs, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity.
The “Spirit” is the human desire to flourish and thrive.
Central to the gospel is the notion that humankind is depraved and sinful. Even the good that we do is like filthy rags because it stems from our depraved heart and mind. The only way for true goodness to be lived and experienced is to repent and submit to the god who can do what you can’t. If it’s not from the Spirit, it’s from the flesh. And the flesh is bad, very bad.
No need to look very far to see how well that is working.
What am I getting at? Simple. The world becomes a better place when we learn to love ourselves and love one another. It’s a tough calling and yes, life gets messed up and complicated. Those of us striving to live meaningful lives must do so alongside those who are not quite there yet, we must contend with reality, accept what is and move forward.
Let’s not kid ourselves. While our contexts can be very different, some favorable and others less favorable (and sometimes not favorable at all), we all have in ourselves the natural ability to thrive.
Christianity sells what is already rightfully yours and demands your life in return. The fruit of the human spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Just because we sometimes lose our way doesn’t mean that fruit doesn’t belong to us already.
Seek it and taste it. Lots of good stuff will come out of it.
3 thoughts on “Christlike Heathens and Devilish Christians”
Never was able to swallow the “filled with the spirit” doctrine myself for the reasons you have just explained. I found myself being a believer in God but not so much in the religions that claim to define Him.
My conclusion was more like, what can faith bring to my life and what no faith can bring. I believe hope, peace of mind, the ability to live in the present and be content which were ideals i strived for were easier to attain with faith.
I’m kind looking forward to which doctrine you tackle next. (If you do)…
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Thanks Jonathan. I certainly understand what you mean.
As far as what I’ll tackle next … well, I never really know what’s coming next 😉
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Great post, thanks for putting your thoughts out there!
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