Do you ever watch people try to pick fruit at the grocery store or the farmer’s market? They will squeeze and sniff and turn the fruit over and over looking for the slightest imperfections. Or maybe they will thump the rind in order to divine the freshest melon. People are so very picky about the fruit they eat!
Of course, there is good reason to be picky. After all, the goal is to eat the fruit. You do not want to ingest spoiled fruit, do you? No one wants to bite into an apple only to discover a wiggly worm staring at you. Cutting into a watermelon only to find it is under ripe is so disappointing, not to mention a waste of money. And so, we are picky about our fruit.
If only we were as picky and as discerning in other areas of life. Growing up, I remember adults telling my peers and I to be careful about what movies we watched, what music we listened to, and what video games we played. The fear was that any of these could warp our minds and souls and desensitize us to sex and violence. It was and remains good advice. I am trying to pass on to my son the same lessons.
What I am finding, however, is that many of us adults need that same advice. Maybe we are not as impressionable as young children and teens when it comes to violence in movies (maybe), yet if we let our guard down, we open ourselves up to unholy influence through other avenues. The biggest culprits being news and social media, both of which create echo chambers and feedback loops which tend to stir up the worst character traits in people.
The long standing idiom of news media remains true, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Commentators disguised as journalists build their careers and advance their ideology through confrontation and strong opinions. Conventional wisdom does not gain followers, retweets, interviews, and airtime. “Hot takes” and controversy do. Creating an “us vs. them” climate guarantees a loyal and passionate audience. More and more, we are seeing these cultural, social, and political divides result in confrontation and violence in the public square.
I confess that I have put myself at the feet of various talk radio ideologues. I have listened to and allowed myself to be fueled by their anger. I have found myself repeating their talking points and reciting their mantras. I have even found myself hating, viscerally hating, “our” enemies and using the childish nicknames given by these provocateurs.
In Christianity, we have a name for this kind of influence. It is called discipleship.
The hard truth is that people with agendas are trying to create disciples to that agenda, whether on the right or on the left. Progressives and conservatives want disciples who will act on their ideology and spread their message to family and friends. They also want their followers to do battle against their opponents. It is sick. It is unholy. It is demonic.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.Matthew 7:15-20 English Standard Version
So the question becomes, “Who are you listening to?” and “What kind of fruits do they produce?” Whether it be Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, or those Facebook memes you like to share, we must all learn to be as picky about spiritual fruit as we are about physical fruit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Galatians 5:16-24 English Standard Version (Emphasis added)
For our purposes today, compare the two sections in bold above. Are the talking heads you watch or the radio personalities you listen to or the memes you share on Facebook producing fruit of anger, strife, and division? If so, they are not from King Jesus. If they are not from King Jesus, they are demonic. Even if what is said is factually correct, Satan has no problem taking truth and twisting it to perverted ends. Check the fruit of the people you let influence you. Check the fruit that their influence is having in your life. Check it against the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the life of King Jesus.