If you peeled the grocery store barcode sticker off a banana, stuck it on an orange, and ran that orange through the checkout scanner…it would read “banana” on the cashier’s register even though it would be plain to anyone observing that it was an orange and not a banana. The only thing that changed for the orange was the barcode.
The orange is not a banana just because it has the banana bar code!
In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard calls out much of contemporary Christianity for being “barcode religion.” This is a popular brand of Christianity where a “decision for Christ” is believed to be all that is needed. This “decision” instantly grants full status of faith to the “decider.” He or she is assured that they are a Christian in good standing, and guaranteed heaven, without any expectation of any personal transformation.
You got the barcode. You’re in!
As long as you got the “bar code” you are good. Your eternity is assured, and you need not have any concerns over whether or not your behavior even remotely resembles the Christian life described in Scripture.
I don’t think so!
What brought all this to a head for me was an extremely provocative and frankly indecent photograph, posted on Facebook, by a famous, allegedly Christian, professional athlete, of his girlfriend. Unfortunately, this is an athlete who is very outspoken about his faith and was recently invited to speak at a mega church in town.
Criticism of this FB posting brought on a flood of accusations about being judgmental.
In fact, if anyone even suggests that the behavior of a barcode Christian falls below the standard of Scripture, the arguments start to fly…
…that is just legalism
…we all make mistakes
…Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven
…you are just being judgmental
First of all, legalism is actually a term reserved for the belief that we are saved by good behavior, so it doesn’t even apply to this discussion.
Second, no one is saying that Christians don’t make mistakes, or that they are expected to be perfect… that is until we see Jesus face-to-face.
Those are all smoke screen diversions from the real issue.
The point I am making in this article is that the essence of being a Christian is transformation. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). At new birth, there is certainly the inner witness of the Spirit that we have become sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:16). But, based on 2 Corinthians 5:17, and many other Scriptures about the proof of our love for God being our obedience to Him, without the corresponding witness of a transformed life, there is serious question as to whether you are a Christian at all.
All you may have is the barcode.
So, what about the accusation that anyone who questions the conduct of another Christian, based on Scriptural standards, is being judgmental?
“Judge not, that you be not judged” is heard frequently today (Matthew 7:1). The command in this verse is not that we suspend any and all evaluation of another Christian’s life based on their fruit (Matthew 7:16 ). Jesus actually encourages us to test the fruit of other’s professions of faith. What Jesus forbids, in Matthew 7:1, is that we evaluate each other with a condemning or avenging attitude.
There is a difference!