Ohhhh the featured image absolutely got my attention when I saw it in my FB newsfeed. It is a picture that indeed speaks volumes. I’m sure we all know a professional or two whose personality changes according to the place of practice. Are Christians exempt from this mannerism? Are we oozing with sweetness in our private businesses so that we can win over clients yet nasty in other peoples’ organisations as it really doesn’t matter what the client thinks there?
What about our lives as believers? Do we have a Sunday personality where we put on our best mask oops I mean Sunday best but one which we leave in the closet the rest of the week? Do we share awesome Christian quotes daily and make people think, “wow, what a pious character” but all along do the exact opposite to what we post?
A Pharisee is a man who prays publicly and preys privately – Don Marquis
Many of us fall into this category at one time or the other – share inspiring posts with a saint’s tongue, but slander a personality based on gossip without firsthand experience or hearing the person out. How often do stories travel about someone without even knowing how the person looks like let alone who they really are. Pharisees “prey privately”. Jesus never hesitated to rebuke the Pharisees for their religious appearances and hypocritical observance of the law.
All of us are human beings and we may come across as Pharisees to others as even unknowingly we do fail. Sometimes we say something with the intention of truly carrying it out yet do something else as something else popped up or plans changed. However there are situations where we are two faced pretending we care when we don’t at all.
We are split spiritual personalities. We swear allegiance to one set of principles and live by another.
We extol self-control and practice self-indulgence.
We proclaim brotherhood and harbor prejudice.
We laud character but strive to climb to the top at any cost.
We erect houses of worship, but our shrines are our places of business and recreation.
We are suffering from a distressing cleavage between the truths we affirm and the values we live by. Our souls are the battlegrounds for civil wars, but we are trying to live serene lives in houses divided against themselves – Melvin F. Wheatley
At the end of the day – each day not just on a Sunday – it’s not what we say or what we preach (or for Christian bloggers like me what we write) nor even how many miracles we do but rather how we respond to others. Are we being sincere? What are our motives behind what we do? Is it for fame or to feel good or to get something out of it or is it indeed spurred out of God’s love for us and for other? Our attitudes stem out of our motives and our motives stem out of our values.
If we are not concentrated, we affect a great many attitudes; but when we “set our faces unto the Lord God,” all affectation is gone—the religious pose, the devout pose, the pious pose, all go instantly when we determine to concentrate; our attention is so concentrated that we have no time to wonder how we look – Oswald Chambers
Fruits on the market are covered with artificial waxing material to extend shelf life and for aesthetic purposes to increase sales. In order to do this, the natural wax is removed first. We believers also seem to do the same – remove the natural outer and put on an artificial appearance instead. By implementing ‘do’s and don’ts’ we sound ultra pious and we think we can change the quality of our fruit. We fail to realise that fruits can be altered only in appearance. The flavour or the quality of the fruit depends on the tree that bears it. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit while good fruit cannot come from a bad tree.
Do’s and don’ts don’t work! It replaces God’s grace by law… and in order to justify our laws we modify God’s Word too by misrepresenting or twisting the words. Besides we don’t know what God’s purpose is in each and every situation. Our fruit isn’t something we can create. The tree bears it. As we abide in the vine of Jesus we are the branches of the vine. Fruit is brought out by the Holy Spirit… not by our own works but rather our surrendering to be the branches attached to the vine of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is
LOVE, JOY, PEACE, FORBEARANCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF CONTROL (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)
As we are rooted in Him deeper and deeper, the fruit will be increasingly evident. It is NOT something that we can produce in our own efforts. Jesus makes it clear that it is by their fruit that we will recognise true from false prophets. It’s not what they say but it’s their FRUIT that matters. At the end of the day, it’s not our works that take us to heaven but rather our relationship with God and with others. Let’s not shift the priority as Jesus Himself has made the two GREATEST commandments clear. Fruit is produced by the Holy Spirit, by our relationship with God, by abiding in the vine of Jesus.
When we do this, for example, we will have increased self control that we will know how to handle everything in moderation and thus not have less and less of addictive behaviours such as lust, drunkenness, being workaholic etc. We then recognise the fact that we can’t not work or a married couple cannot not have sex etc as we know the Holy Spirit guides them with self control. Often people want to stay away from ‘things’ that can lead to addictions such as the above and be a recluse. However they don’t stay away from a knife that could be used to cut vegetables as well as to murder someone. It’s all in balance and how we use something is what makes it good or bad… Let’s refrain from legalism and values that cannot be kept but shift our focus to relationship based on God’s love. Let us seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, not our kingdoms nor our righteousness.
Let’s also not confuse ‘anger’ with lack of fruit. Getting angry is natural – it shows that something is wrong. It is healthy and normal. The Bible records Jesus getting angry on a few occasions. What we do in our anger or what we say in anger is what makes it a sin.
We are called to be ambassadors of Christ and hence we need to live Christ and be branches that produce good fruit 24x7x365. Pretense or being two faced is not of God. A word of caution for all of us:
The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire – Matthew 3:10