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Cardboard Butterflies and Cultural Christians

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."1

I read the following illustration about "an intriguing entomological experiment Annie Dillard tells about in The Writing Life. This experiment shows that a male butterfly will ignore a living female butterfly of his own species in favor of a painted cardboard one if the cardboard one is bigger than he is—bigger than any female butterfly ever could be. He … [romances] the pieces of cardboard. Nearby, the real, living female butterfly opens and closes her wings in vain."2

Amazing, isn't it?

However, it's not too unlike some of us who could be identified as "cultural Christians." We're attracted to and want to be a part of the Christian movement that is a large part of our culture (at least in North America) because it's a big, impressive movement. It can make us look good, feel good, important or whatever. But it's not the real thing we're attracted to, but rather the outward trappings of Christianity—or rather, churchianity!

We flirt with a "cardboard-Christ" as it were but never make a genuine commitment to the real Christ who is waiting in the wings—in vain.

If I am merely a cultural-Christian, I may look like I have the real thing, but it doesn't make any difference in my manner of living. The sad fact is that there may be multitudes of church-goers who are in this category. I say this because research has repeatedly shown that there is no measurable difference in the manner of life between those who claim to be born-again or genuine Christians and those who don't.

As Jesus said, "By their fruit you will know or recognize them." We are not saved by or get into heaven through our good works (fruit) but only by the grace of God through faith. But our fruit shows whether our faith is genuine or “just cardboard.”

Jesus' words in today's Scripture lesson are very sobering. Let's all be certain we have the real thing and are not flirting with "cardboard Christianity."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to know without a shadow of a doubt that I have genuinely accepted You as my Savior and Lord and am not a cultural Christian flirting with a cardboard church or Christ. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."

NOTE: To be sure you are a real Christian click on

1. Matthew 7:19-21 (NIV).
2. The Writing Life, New York: Harper & Row, 1989, 17-18.


All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.