The Withertongue Emails: Part XI


My dear Filthpit,

You have made good progress with the client. However, I am worried, if you hurry the treatments, that your young pastor may become aware of his actual situation. For us, it all appears normal. But do not let that blind you to the truth, Filthpit. For him, this is an experience he has not suffered before. You have done well to this point and I do not want that work to be for nothing. You have helped him travel so far from his relation to the Enemy. But do not imagine he cannot reverse direction in a moment. Your client must not be allowed to see how far away from the sun he has gotten himself. In the cold and dark even his devotion to the congregation are a benefit to us. Better he judges his relation to the Enemy in this way, on outward habits, than recognize his new friends and experiences have led him away from repentance, faith, charity, kindness, and the other embarrassing "fruits" the Enemy prizes so much in his followers.

I understand he is uneasy, that lately he has thought much about those things the Enemy refers to as "fruits of the Spirit." This is to be expected from one who focuses so much on pious devotion to his work. If this uneasiness gets too strong it can spoil all your work. The Enemy will most likely stop you from doing anything about this. He will probably use this for some good too. But even this has a hidden value for us. The more your young pastor focuses on these "fruits" the less attention he pays to the Enemy. The half-hearted guilt, reluctance to confess his failure to produce fruits of gentleness, kindness, patience, and so on will increase his shame beyond measure. You can help this along by encouraging him to understand "fruits of the Spirit" like an accountant views his ledger. All humans all the time imagine the world runs on merit and demerit, reward and punishment, credit and debit. Best of all for us though, they project this understanding onto the Enemy himself. 

Your client is no different than the other humans. In the moment, he is excited and eager to produce fruits for the Enemy. But soon after, embarrassed by his failure to produce the expected results, he goes to work deleting, editing, touching-up, and re-writing the script about his motives, his intent, and his expectations and goals. A few weeks later and he is living in unreality. He no longer pays attention to his prayers. He doesn't move to welcome morally or spiritually bankrupted Christians into his office. His purpose is cloudy. His heart cold, dark, and numb. He dreads what the Enemy probably thinks about him. For this reason, he will adopt the pastoral attitude toward God and his church that it is probably best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Finally, Christians have a sickening habit of confessing that the Enemy's strength is made complete in their weakness. Nothing can be more destructive to your work, Filthpit, than that your client awakens to this truth. I know you are excited to report great and wicked accomplishments, to return to me full of pride and glee at your success with this, your first case. However, you must always keep in mind that the only thing that matters is how far you can divide your young pastor from the Enemy. It does not matter how small or great his sins, use them to great effect, to drive him away from the Light and into the dark nothing of unbelief. Murder, adultery, and lying are no better or worse for winning him to our side than using his corrupt understanding of the "fruits of the Spirit" to our advantage. In fact, the safest road to hell is a gradual one. Gentle it slopes, soft and spongy under his feet. There are no sudden cut-backs, no sign-posts or mile markers by which he can measure his progress. Just the constant reminder that on this road, it is progress, not results, that matter most to the Enemy. It is the heavenly goal that awaits him, with it's great rewards, that inflames his imagination and drives his devotion to our cause, all the while he believes he is serving the Enemy best. 

Your proud teacher,


Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
Twitter @DonavonRiley