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Christian Life Isn’t Just Cussing Less and Giving More

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There’s a book in my library called unChristian that analyzes the results of an extensive, nationwide study conducted by the Barna Group about Christian life. The authors sought to compare the lives of Christians and non-Christians to see how they differed. Part of what I like about this study is how Barna narrowed the classification of “Christian.” In this study, Christians were those who claimed faith in Christ and were able to articulate the gospel. Plus, the results were anonymous. Nothing like anonymity to bring out honesty.

Christian Life Isn’t Just Cussing Less and Giving More

The Barna Group found that Christians:

  • Cuss less in public (The modifier “in public” is important. In private, apparently, Christians still cuss; but they rein it in around Nana).
  • Give more to charitable causes.
  • Buy fewer lottery tickets.
  • Are less likely to recycle (because, I guess, the world is just going to burn up anyway?).

On the whole, I suppose that’s better than nothing. I wouldn’t exactly say we’re being a radical presence by cussing less in public, but it could be worse.

In fact, it is worse.

In this same study, Barna found that Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to:

  • Visit a pornographic website.
  • Get drunk.
  • Do illegal drugs or take prescription medicines not prescribed to them.
  • Be willing to lie to get out of a difficult situation.
  • Have intentionally done something to get back at someone within the last 30 days.

Keep in mind: This isn’t a perception of Christian life by outsiders. This is self-reported. It’s no surprise, then, that 84 percent of non-Christians said they personally knew at least one Christian, but only 15 percent thought that person’s lifestyle was significantly different than their own.

Non-Christians don’t think we’re different because we’re not different. But we should be. I can’t help but wonder what Jesus would think of this situation. Certainly, he had something else in mind when he died to create a new race of people. After all, he didn’t say, “The world will know you are my disciples because you buy fewer lottery tickets.”

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

–John 13:35

We really shouldn’t be that surprised by this. In Romans 2, the Apostle Paul points out that religion is often just a thin veneer papered over a heart that is still every bit as sinful as everyone else’s. By itself, religion is powerless to change our hearts. It might change our behavior—by cussing a little less, or giving a little more—but the change doesn’t go any deeper than the surface.