Fruit or Nut?

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I haven’t really posted in a while as I have been quite busy with a lot of things. I do miss blogging, and often sometimes post in my head, if you know what I mean. I will follow a logic trail about some subject as I am driving, write out in my head what I want to say…and then get to work and…well, need to work. Sad face. No real post.

But I have been thinking about this article that was forwarded to me last week. I have been doing a lot of reading and studying on Christian worldview, and there was something about this article that just rang hollow to me. I is entitled “You Cannot Be Spiritual Without Being Religious” and is by Kevin DeYoung, a senior pastor from Michigan.

When I saw the bumper sticker at the top of the article, I immediately assumed that the post would address this statement and break it down. But, in my opinion, DeYoung stays within his Christian bubble and misses an opportunity to engage our culture. He chooses to focus on spiritual and religious, but fails to talk about fruit and nut. More importantly, I thought he was going to answer the question, “What is our culture saying to religious people through this sticker?”

DeYoung starts his discussion by pooling our impressions on what is considered spiritual.

 “When you hear the word “spiritual” certain images come to mind. You think of someone very quiet and contemplative. Or maybe you picture someone with hands raised in a demonstrative expression of worship. You may think of your spontaneous, free-wheeling, “Spirit-led” friend. The spiritual person in your mind may be the young woman deeply interested in miracles and mystery, or maybe the old man earnestly pursuing a relationship with a higher power. To be “spiritual” in our day is to be vaguely interested in the supernatural and loosely committed to practices like prayer and meditation.”

I agree with DeYoung here. These are common images and ideas about what is considered “spiritual”. I agree with him that these qualities are not spiritual, in and of themselves. They mostly have to do with an emotional state of being. DeYoung then presents an argument that left me sort of dumbfounded. He talks of a spiritual person accepting spiritual things. He then defines spiritual things as the message of the cross. If the person rejects the cross, they “forfeit the right to be considered spiritual.”

I get the doctrine behind this, but I think he should have return to the bumper sticker, because our culture is saying something about the Christian church that needs to be heard. Instead of engaging the culture, he claims that they just can’t understand spirituality at all. It’s just folly to them. But is that what this sticker demonstrates?

Consider spiritual fruit. This is a very Christian term, almost exclusively Christian. I don’t really hear or read it coming from other religious movements. This term is meant to actually call us back to the Bible, to Galatians 5:22-23, to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.” This is what biblical spiritual fruit is. These are the virtues that should be obvious in those who belong to Christ.

What is spiritual fruit contrasted to? Religious nuts. We could pool our collective knowledge here and list a lot of ideas and images of what religious nuts are. Are all Christians crazy? I don’t think this sticker is saying that. What I think our culture is telling us is, “we see you talking about Jesus, talking about the Cross, talking about a whole lot of things, but we want to see something real in your life. Real love, real joy, real peace, real patience, real kindness, real goodness, real faith, real gentleness, real self-control. Real spiritual fruit.”

Isn’t this fair to ask? When our culture sees a Christians that are just as materialistic, self-focused, pleasure-seeking, career-centered as anyone else. Where the church’s divorce rate is the same as our cultures. John Stonestreet of Summit Ministries quote a survey that found atheists scored better than Christians on biblical knowledge (a D- vs. an F). What are Christians without spiritual fruit? Religious nuts. All rules and no actions.

This reminds me of what Jesus said about the Pharisees. He admonished them because they washed the outside of their cup, but not the inside. That is what made them merely religious. The Pharisees were religious nuts, and what separates us from them? Spiritual fruit. Our culture has had their fill of Bible lessons and Sunday morning Christians. What they are challenging us to see is Christians with spiritual fruit in their lives.

It is really quite simple. Our culture, through this bumper sticker, is asking Christians to act like Christians. Instead of calling them fools, we should look inside our cups and check for fruit on our branches.

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