By Their Fruit You will Know Them - The Warrior's Journey®

By Their Fruit You will Know Them

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.  Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11) 

Paul had once been a Christian-killing machine. At the time, he believed his murderous deeds expressed his zeal for God (Philippians 3:4-6).  In a way, Paul’s toxic “religious devotion” was much like that of Muslim extremists today or like the persecution many so-called Christians have perpetrated upon those they considered heretics.   

But does such hurtful “religious zeal” constitute true devotion to God? By no means! Paul’s persecution was fueled by anger and hatred – and Jesus said that human rage equates to murder (Matthew 5:21-22). James tells us that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20). It is love that fulfills God’s Law (Romans 13:8-10). The fruit of the Spirit is not anger and hatred. It is love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). The greatest of God’s commandments, Jesus said, are to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). And this love must extend to our enemies, not merely to our “friends and brothers” (Matthew 5:43-48).   

Jesus foretold a time when people would believe they were serving God by killing Christians (John 16:1-3). But, He explained, they would do this because did not know God, or His Son, Jesus. Paul’s so-called “zeal for God” was nothing but an expression of his sinful heart. And far from being a difficult thing to do, expressing anger and hatred is the easiest thing for sinful humans to do. Hating and hurting others displays weakness, not strength. Strength is displayed by doing the difficult. And believe me, to love, forgive, and be patient are very difficult. Try it some time.   

So don’t be confused by peoples’ so-called religious devotion. They may claim to be holy and to serve God. But if they seek to do harm to His children, they are fighting God – just as Paul once did. “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). 


  • Jesus once said, “By their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20). If someone exhibits the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), what does that indicate about them? 
  • Think of Jesus’ miracles. Which of them brought physical harm to people? 
  • Shouldn’t we seek to be like Jesus, who prayed for his murderers – as did Stephen, whose example must have gnawed away at Paul’s conscience? 

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