Over the past couple of years, my truth filter has gotten much less porous. In this age of fake news and doctored images and infamously unreliable sources, the softened edges of my naïveté have been filed razor-sharp. Gone are the days when I was quick to take a person’s word at face value, or to trust my ears (or eyes). I miss my own innocence, but such gullibility is no longer prudent. Times have changed, and with them have has changed my willingness to follow and my quickness to trust.

While I am now accustomed to taking every news article and novel and secular podcast with a copious dose of salt, it has been harder to refrain from giving the benefit of the doubt to sources that identify as Christian. I believe in the unity of the Body of Christ (the OPPOSITE of Cancel Culture!) and have personally witnessed the transformative power of the Gospel: thus, I would like to think that every action done in the name of Christ is just as good as it appears on its surface.

Unfortunately, we are seeing that even the Church is not immune to falsehood. Individuals outwardly proclaiming the Gospel are being exposed as false teachers guided not by the Lord, but by the enemy. This isn’t new by any means, but we are certainly noticing it more and more.

With crushing revelations swirling all around us, my gut response is to completely tune out the noise. But pressing MUTE is not an option, nor is it healthy. Scripture speaks to the value of solid teaching and the importance of relying on one another for the furthering of the Gospel and our own spiritual flourishing.

Cancelation is not the solution. Discernment is. And how do we discern true prophets from false ones? By their fruit.

Galatians tells us that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These attributes are the calling card of a genuine follower of Jesus. A true prophet will speak truth to lies, but in a manner that is gentle, peaceful, and kind rather than combative. He will exude joy in the midst of hardship, patience through affliction, and compassion rather than hatred for those who have fallen prey to the dark. His actions will exemplify moderation and restraint, even as he imparts direct truths that are not well received.

OF COURSE we are all sinners worthy of grace and second chances; no leader will get it right all the time. To pursue the fruit analogy a little further, even the healthiest fruit trees yield the occasional piece of rotten produce. But too many bad apples is indicative of a tree that needs pruning; and a spiritual leader whose fruit is not beautiful and abundant is not a leader worth following.

As a spiritual leader in my family and faith community, I take these admonitions seriously as they pertain to ME. I do not want to lead my little flock astray, and my trustworthiness will be modeled by my fruit. In order to bear healthy spiritual fruit of my own, I must remain tapped into the Source of all good fruit—the Author of truth and of life itself. Of my own volition, I can produce nothing; with Him, my fruit may be bountiful, reflective of the Divine Gardener whose hands dig down deep into the muck of my garden and transform meager offerings into a plentiful harvest.

Heavenly Father, we ask that you give us wisdom and discernment as we open our minds and ears and hearts to teachers of your Word. Walk with us as we cautiously take in all that is good and right and true, leaving the rest behind. And cultivate within us, your children, the fruit that will leave no doubt about the truth: that we belong to You.

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