Thursday, November 10, 2011

You'll Know Them By Their Fruit

When I was a young adult, I assumed that everyone in the Church was "godly", I suppose by virtue of church attendance and Bible knowledge. I struggled when witnessing the bad behavior of a few people, some who had been Christians for decades! If their actions and words were hurtful, I battled to forgive because that's a commandment!  The issue was confusing because: I had had no training as a child to know how Christians should behave;  I didn't know my Bible as well as I should and wasn't asking God for wisdom in understanding the situations and people; and backslidden or ungodly Christians had done a fabulous job promoting the scripture "Do not judge, and you will not be judged (Luke 6:37).  Everyone was afraid to call a spade a spade, because that meant we were "judging."

As I matured in the Lord, and my children began attending Christian school, I witnessed a lot of sinful behavior by Christians - students, parents, parishioners, leaders, and teachers. Often times it was a one-time offense, but painful to my kids or myself. We would pray to forgive them, and repent for the times we would offend others. But a handful of people exhibited consistent, ungodly behavior which became a stumbling block to my kids. We've all met adults who won't have anything to do with church because of those kinds of Christians they knew growing up, and I didn't want that happening to my kids.

I explained to my children that not all Christians are Christians, at least that's what the Bible says, it refers to them as wolves in sheep's clothing. I said, "What kind of fruit does an apple tree have?" They would say, "Apples." Then I would say, "Does a cherry tree produce apples?" They would respond, "No." I taught them that the Bible tells us that we will recognize true Christians from the ones who are pretending to be Christians by the fruit that they produce (Matthew 7:15-20). If they gossip, lie, cheat, and are mean, they are not producing Christian fruit.  The fruit of the born-again Christian is "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness" (Galatians 5:22).  Luke 6:43-45 states, "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. The good man brings good things out of the good store up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart." They may attend church, but they have planted wickedness, and have reaped the fruit of deception (Hosea 10:13).

Jesus wasn't too concerned with "judging" when he called the ungodly church leaders "brood of vipers!" (Matthew 3:7). The kids and I would pray about situations, and ask God to enable us to not judge incorrectly and show mercy (was there a reason they were nasty?), but to make right judgments (John 7:24). Further, knowing that we all make mistakes, I would say, "A friend is nice all of the time and occasionally has a bad day; a friend isn't mean all of the time and occasionally nice to you, or nice in private but mean in front of other kids." This sounds simplistic but so is the gospel.

Matthew 5:14 instructs us that we are to be a "light to the world", but cautions us to have nothing to do with the "deeds of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11). Paul makes it plain that we are not to associate with ungodly "Christians." Further, he says it is our role to judge their fruit (in this scripture it's sexually immoral, greedy, idolater, slanderer, drunkard, or swindler) and expel the wicked from the church (I Corinthians 5:9-12)!! I'm not a leader in the church and, therefore, have never had to make that decision nor have I ever known anyone who was expelled.  Most wicked Christians end up leaving on their own, usually because there's "no love" in the church - which translates to "people are calling them on their garbage and they don't want to hear it anymore."

Our life in Christ is in a constant progressive motion, its never standing still. Either you are repenting, growing, and moving into a deeper relationship with the Lord, or you are moving backward. Some baby Christians move so slowly, which is why we shouldn't judge by appearances but only after great prayer. My kids had a BIBLE TEACHER at their very religious CHRISTIAN SCHOOL. She was worldly, mean, and played favorites (she was 50, but dressed inappropriately for a teacher). I know, you're wondering how was it possible she was a Bible teacher in a Christian school. Stumbling block #1.  She had a long-term, family/clan connection with the church, so regardless of the complaints that were registered by parents, very little changed. She taught mostly the doctrine of her church rather than Bible, and taught unbiblical facts in the name of Christianity to her students. Stumbling block #2. She favored the kids that attended her church, and was very hard on those that didn't. Stumbling block #3.

I kept my separation and divorce a secret from the school because I was concerned about the additional stress it would place on my family. Finally, after two years, the school secretary (who knew), said that we parents had to list our names and addresses separately in the school directory.  Needless to say, I was shunned by many Christians when the directory came out toward the end of September. The Bible teacher began targeting my 8th grade son. For example, if he wiggled his pencil while he was holding it, he'd be punished. She taught that any parent who was divorced, for any reason, was in sin, and when I told the principal he defended her (even though the Bible is clear about adultery in Matthew 19:9). When it was Parent's Night, and I was visiting each of my son's teachers, she coldly listed to me all the things my "A" student was doing wrong, and I implored, "Can you just have mercy on him, we are going through a very hard time at home." She stood up, and said "I'll have mercy when he starts doing what I ask him to do. I have other parents waiting to speak to me." So, I was dismissed. Outraged. Stunned. Near tears. My son was doing awesome for having a drug-addicted, philandering, wicked Dad, who was making every day hell. But I didn't want the kids and I to bear the brunt of that kind of information circulating around the gossip train, so we didn't tell anyone.

One month later, my son and his friend were taking turns shooting at birds with a high-powered rifle while his dad was laying on his bed in a drug haze (Yes, the courts knew about the gun and drugs - but didn't enforce any restrictions). He shot down a power line and the grass caught fire. Trying to stomp it out with his shoe, he found that it kept re-ignighting, so he took his shoe off and tried hitting it out. No longer grounded by his rubber-sole shoe, the electricity jumped onto his back and he temporarily died. God restarted his heart, and as he was taken to medical care and then life-flighted to another hospital, most of his faculties were restored.

The next day I came home from the hospital and on the answering machine was a message from the Bible teacher, wanting to know if my boy was OK. What?! When he returned to school, he reported that she was treating him extremely nice. I knew she realized that every day she would have to live with the fact that she unjustly tormented my son, if he had died, with no chance to repent.  The rest of the year my son did not have one problem in class, but she never said anything to either of us. And I have to emphasize God's mercy towards this woman: My son did die three years later.

Two years later, my third child was in her class. She was talking about life-changing experiences and explaining what that meant. While asking the children if they had every experienced one, she said to my daughter, "____, I had a life-changing experience when your brother was electrocuted!" That's all she said about it, but I knew the truth. And, years later, I'd smile when I'd hear newbie parents talk about how nice the Bible teacher was.

The gist of this post is that as Christians, we are supposed to pray and ask for wisdom when dealing with the bad behaviors of ungodly or wicked brethren, not trust our own judgements. Enabling other Christians to continue to sin is a sin. We are to forgive them, use it as an opportunity for growth and repentance, confront them - if led by God, but not associate with them. God will take care of the rest. He is patient with us, "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). When He's convinced that the Christian is beyond repentance.....well, I don't like to think about that. As 100-Fold, you know those scriptures, too.


  1. Every time I feel I've read your most potent post, you increase the power and pull the trigger again. I don't know what amazes me more: the road you've had to travel, or the fruit it's borne in your life.

    You might be over-qualified for 100-fold... God might have to make a 200-fold category for you...

  2. Thanks for the laugh (200 Fold!:). Maybe it be of help to others.