Monday, February 1, 2010

Billboard God

Growing up in New Orleans I was somewhat unexposed to many things that Christian culture has seemed to make common place these days. For example, you know if you see someone walking in the French Quarter wearing a T shirt that says something along the lines of "A blood donor saved my life" with a cross, they're a tourist. I saw the occasional magnetic fish for the car bumper, but my experience of this kind of Christian propaganda was pretty limited.

Then I moved to Texas.

Abilene, Texas.

While I'm sure I had seen them at some point in my life before this transition, one of the things that I still can't get used to is the Christian billboard. We've all seen them. “JESUS SAVES” painted in large red letters. The infamous "Keep Christ in Christmas." My personal (least) favorites: The large black billboards with sarcastic/witty comments to the sinners of the world signed -God. The "God" billboards say things like "We need to talk," "Don't make me come down there," and "If you're going to curse, use your own name."

I wonder if anyone ever decided to follow Jesus after seeing one of these giant, roadside testimonies. I mean, there’s not much there. I wondered about what might go through a person’s mind after glimpsing one of these monuments. "JESUS SAVES" True, but how? And from what? And what difference should it make to me? It just didn’t seem like drive-by evangelism was the way to go.

I mean how many people are out there saying things like this:

“If only I’d seen a bumper sticker with some Christian catch phrase like ‘Real Men Love Jesus’, ‘My Boss Is a Jewish Carpenter’ or 'WARNING: In case of rapture this car will be unmanned' years earlier, I might not have made so many mistakes with my life.”

These God billboards grate on my spirit for two reasons: (1) I'm pretty sure that God isn't sarcastic, at least not about the fact that His greatest desire is for us to love him and love others. (2)When I look at the life of Jesus I am struck by the fact that he didn’t oversimplify things when it came to the truth. He talked with people, He wanted to find out who they were. With the Samaritan woman, He discussed living water; with the Ethiopian Eunich, the need to be born again. He asked the rich young ruler to give up everything had. Jesus didn’t proclaim a pre-packaged good news that could be reproduced in every culture and speak to every person’s heart.

Guess what? 2,000 years later this hasn't changed a bit. God still wants to talk with those who desire to know Him. He knows our greatest strengths and our greatest struggles. He knows the right and the wrong we commit. He sees the best and the worst parts of us -- and yet He still loves us.

If that's not good news, I don't what is.

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