Monday, May 7, 2012

Bumper-sticker Christians

A long time ago, someone gave me a bumper sticker that said, "My boss is a Jewish carpenter" ... at the time I thought that was a pretty clever conversation-starter. 

Then I started noticing bumper-stickers and optional license plates.  I started seeing - really seeing - the Jesus fishes, the "God is my co-pilot" stickers and my personal (non)favorite, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."  Aside from being amazingly one-sided and elitist from a doctrinal perspective (um, forgiveness is available to ALL, not just Christians) talk about a cop-out excuse for cutting someone off in traffic or behaving in other rude and crude ways!! 

Those bumper stickers, license plates and yes, even a lot of the Christian T-shirts out there all run the risk of turning off and driving away the very people they were originally designed to reach: you know, the unsaved. This is because there's an undercurrent of judgmentalism to them.  

I applauded a certain young man's right to wear his "Life is wasted without Jesus" T-shirt to class ... and I decried the school board's decision to suspend him for wearing it. To me, it seemed a blatant infringement on his human rights, his freedom of religion, freedom of speech. 

As I got more information, however, there were some elements to this story that I found very disturbing and frankly, pretty embarrassing to me as a Christian.  I have no doubt that this young man is very passionate about his Saviour.  I have no doubt that he wants to reach people with the gospel.  It wasn't until I saw his father, brandishing his Bible and ranting on about reading, writing and arithmetic (the 3 R's) that I started to see this in a slightly different light. Yes, the man had a right to be angry for the way his son was treated.  Yes, he had a perfect right to pull his child out of school. But the impression he was giving of the faith he espouses is one of a confrontational, condescending, condemning set of rules and regulations rather than the kind of acceptance Jesus offered and still offers to people.  Somehow we have gotten the idea as Christians that we have to be the Holy Spirit.  Nuh-uh. No way.  We walk in the Spirit - and WHEN He directs us to say a word on His behalf, we say what He directs us to say in that situation. Period.  And most of the time He will tell us to shut up.  Yeah.  Shut up and love people just the way they are. The same way Jesus did. 

Having talked to people who have experienced so much judgment, condemnation and yes, even hatred, coming from the Christian community that they have refused to have anything to do with the church or its people, I seriously wonder if these single-facet messages plastered over our cars - or chests - really do the cause of Christ any service.  And I also wonder if we rely too much on them and not enough on the Spirit to guide us in living lives that overflow the love of God in practical ways to all people - not just Christians, not just the unsaved, and not just people with whom we agree. 

Majoring on minors seems to be something we Christians are all too good at.  How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? should we hold one day above another or all days the same? should we be involved in lobbying, politics or education? should we play the lottery? should we abstain from eating certain foods? drinking certain beverages? ... the list of pointless issues is absolutely endless.  Might I suggest that we all concentrate on developing intimacy with God for ourselves and learn to recognize His voice, then ask Him to show us how we can best show (not necessarily tell) the love of Jesus in a practical way, and to show us who that person is ... today.

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