Religiosity is like this strange disease—when you have it, it makes everyone around you want to vomit. Even the Apostle Paul, in some ways, thought religious people were capable of some pretty terrible things. The Gentiles and unchurched people could see that under a thin veneer of religion, Jews had the same corrupt heart as everyone else. And, if anything, their religion had just made them worse. There are five qualities religion produces in people then and still today.
We aren’t quite so wise when it comes to our hearts. The law, you see, sweetens up our behavior without changing our hearts. But God wants us to be so naturally righteous in our hearts that we wouldn’t need a law to do what is right. We’d instinctively do it.
Near the end of WWII, the first town with a concentration camp that the Allied forces liberated was Ohrdruf, Germany. Upon seeing the horror, General Patton brought the mayor of Ohrdruf and his wife to see the camp and held a funeral for the deceased. After the funeral, Patton found out that the mayor and his wife had hung themselves. Before their death, they left a note that read, “We didn’t know … but we knew.”
People use the word “redeem” when they buy something back from a pawnshop. If you were to fall on hard times, you might hock your engagement ring for a wad of cash. But if got enough money in time, you could buy it back. We’d call that buy-back process “redeeming” the ring. (You might call it a lot of other things, too.)
A few years ago, I was trying to get back home to speak to about 2,000 college students. I was sitting in a plane on the runway when the captain announced that there was something wrong with our plane. When I realized I wasn’t going to make it in time, I called up a friend to cover for me. In retrospect, it’s clear that God wanted my friend to preach instead of me. But does God’s sovereign decision to delay my plane relieve the airline’s responsibility in the debacle?
There’s a book in my library called unChristian that analyzes the results of an extensive, nationwide study conducted by the Barna Group. The study showed 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.