Are Christians More Like Jesus or More Like the Pharisees?
April 30, 2013 – One of the common critiques leveled at present-day Christianity is that it’s a religion full of hypocritical people. A new Barna Group study examines the degree to which this perception may be accurate. The study explores how well Christians seem to emulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus in their interactions with others.
The research project was directed by David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, in conjunction with John Burke, author of Mud and the Masterpiece, a book exploring the attitudes and actions of Jesus in all of his encounters.
In this nationwide study of self-identified Christians, the goal was to determine whether Christians have the actions and attitude of Jesus as they interact with others or if they are more akin to the beliefs and behaviors of Pharisees, the self-righteous sect of religious leaders described in the New Testament.
In order to assess this, Barna researchers presented a series of 20 agree-or-disagree statements. Five actions and five attitudes that seem to best encapsulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus Christ during his ministry on earth. The researchers did the same for the Pharisees (10 total statements, five reflecting behaviors and five examining attitudes).
Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, directed the study. He commented on the creation of a “Christ-like” scale: “Our intent is to create some new discussion about the intangible aspects of following and representing Jesus. Obviously, survey research, by itself, cannot fully measure someone’s ‘Christ-likeness’ or ‘Pharisee-likeness.’ But the study is meant to identify baseline qualities of Jesus, like empathy, love, and a desire to share faith with others—or the resistance to such ideals in the form of self-focused hypocrisy. The statements are based on the biblical record given in the Gospels and in the Epistles and our team worked closely with a leading pastor, John Burke, to develop the survey questions.”
Fleshing Out Christ-likeness
To flesh out the objectives of the study, a nationwide, representative sample of Christians was asked to respond to 20 statements. They could rate their agreement on a four-point scale. The 10 research statements used to examine Christ-likeness include the following:
Actions like Jesus:
- I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith.
- In recent years, I have influenced multiple people to consider following Christ.
- I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.
- I try to discover the needs of non-Christians rather than waiting for them to come to me.
- I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.
Attitudes like Jesus:
- I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.
- I believe God is for everyone.
- I see God working in people’s lives, even when they are not following him.
- It is more important to help people know God is for them than to make sure they know they are sinners.
- I feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things.
The 10 statements used to assess self-righteousness (like the Pharisees), included the following research items:
- I tell others the most important thing in my life is following God’s rules.
- I don’t talk about my sins or struggles. That’s between me and God.
- I try to avoid spending time with people who are openly gay or lesbian.
- I like to point out those who do not have the right theology or doctrine.
- I prefer to serve people who attend my church rather than those outside the church.
- I find it hard to be friends with people who seem to constantly do the wrong things.
- It’s not my responsibility to help people who won’t help themselves.
- I feel grateful to be a Christian when I see other people’s failures and flaws.
- I believe we should stand against those who are opposed to Christian values.
- People who follow God’s rules are better than those who do not.
How Christ-like are Christians?
Using these 20 questions as the basis of analysis, the researchers created an aggregate score for each individual and placed those results into one of four categories, or quadrants. (Further definition of the way these findings were analyzed is found later in this article.) The four categories include:
• Christ-like in action and attitude
• Christ-like in action, but not in attitude
• Christ-like in attitude, but not action
• Christ-like in neither
Full article HERE