Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Today's Daily Heartlight

Because I am out and about in traffic much of my time, I notice many bumper stickers. I enjoy reading some of them, others I am offended by.

This persons view on them, particularly their last line, really hit my heart. Hope it hits yours too.

If You Love Jesus, Don't Honk!, by Rubel Shelly

You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked
about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you
must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience
clear.(1 Peter 3:15-16)

I'm not particularly fond of bumper stickers in general. And I tend to dislike religious bumper stickers in particular. So I've tried to figure out why.

Maybe it's because of their naivete. They reduce the irreducibly complex to a slogan. If issues of war and peace or personal rights and social limits can be spelled out in a dozen words or less, we are dumber than rocks to have debated them for thousands of years. For publishing books as thick as the Bible. Or for writing and annotating the various law codes of history's major civilizations.

On the other hand, maybe it is their arrogance that is offensive. I'm going to convince a stranger who is three car lengths behind me in heavy traffic to vote for my candidate, adopt a healthy lifestyle, or end domestic violence by slapping a mini-billboard on the bumper of my compact car? Right!

At the bottom line, though, I suspect my problem with bumper stickers – especially the churchy ones – is their intrusiveness. Occasionally the language chosen for shock value is simply inappropriate: "Read the Bible. It'll scare hell out of you!" Can't you see the apostles passing out those to chariot drivers around Jerusalem? Or selling them in bulk for churches to distribute?

My least favorite of all is this classic: "Honk if you love Jesus!" Get real. Does anybody really believe for one sane moment that a loud, blaring presence represents the Son of Man? Impresses anyone positively? Makes "outsiders" more receptive to our "insider" message of the redemptive love of God?

If you really want to lead someone to a positive impression of Jesus, try quiet methods over loud ones. Secret over public. Gentle over forceful. Even listening over witnessing. Certainly close and personal over distant and cold.

Jesus related to people with warmth. He treated them with dignity. He ate with them and responded to questions. He was not too busy for men and women whose lives were messy and whose reputations were scandalous. The more formulaic our message and the more frequently it is delivered by the marketing tools of big business or political campaigns, the less appropriate to the gospel.

If you love Jesus, don't honk at anyone. Don't get loud and brassy. Be as quiet as leaven in dough or a flame on a candle. Don't intrude or bully. Let them see Christ in the normal and ordinary things of your life in him. Let them learn over time that what they have come to respect in you is his gentle presence.

We're not selling ideas or memberships, after all, but making introductions.


Anonymous said...

I think that too...add to bumper stickers lame church marquises...some of those are just plain embarrassing...

Erin said...

Bravo, my dear friend.

Valerie Dykstra said...

Awesome! Nothing short of profound.

mindi11 said...

how could i possibly agree more? this was so perfectly said.