It may be that I’m becoming more of a curmudgeon in my old age, but I am becoming increasingly impatient with people who quote popular religious sayings. In the 70’s Campus Crusade for Christ came up with the “I Found It,” campaign, engaging in mass marketing approach to sharing the Gospel. Before that, it was “Honk If You Love Jesus,” and “Jesus Loves You.” In the 80’s I heard people saying. “Let Go and Let God.” In the 90’s. they had the “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign. All these popular slogans sort of turned my stomach. I guess the real question is, why does it bother me?
The reason these slogans bother me is not what they are trying to say, but the idea of reducing the Message of Holy Scripture to a slogan cheapens it. When I think of the Awe and Majesty of God, there is no way it can be expressed by a slogan or bumpersticker.
People don’t respect bumper sticker messages anymore. Usually, if something is humorous, we don’t mind, but people don’t put bumperstickers on their cars anymore, or wear “message buttons.” People who use them are perceived by our society as crackpots. What was at one time a great way to share a message, now lacks credibility. Times have changed, and public perception has as well. There was a time when people went door to door to share their religious messages, and it was somewhat successful. Today it conveys a lack of credibility.
Another reason the slogan approach to faith bothers me, is that people stop thinking about the truths themselves, and just quote catchphrases mindlessly. They cease to mean anything to anyone. I’m not against these slogans themselves, but in the realm of faith expression, they are inadequate, and they cease to convey meaningful faith.
The underlying question is “How should we be expressing our faith?” The bible is not a book of theology. Its a book of the life stories of God’s people as they walk with God in the world. We learn from their lives and their faith through their circumstances, and it encourages us to walk with God in our lives. I guess for me, I want to express my faith, not by quoting popular watchwords, but by living my faith in the presence of others. I want people to see my struggles, not just my blessings. I want them to understand that even through trials, we need to draw near to God who strengthens us. I want to give people the opportunity to see God in my life and be drawn to seeing Him in me. That only happens by living my life, struggles and all, in a way that people can see and hear. In a sense it’s living my faith out loud.
The practical question is, How do I express what I believe in a meaningful way? (The key word being Meaningful). First, in our use of the rituals and customs. If you do them in a meaningless, rote manner, there is no life in them. Doing them with a full heart, seeking to draw near to God through them, connects us to their meanings.
Secondly, the way I treat other people. You can’t treat people like crap and claim to love God. As one of the Hashivenu core values states, “Because man is created in the image of God, the way we treat others is a real reflection of how we feel about God. Therefore, true piety can not exist apart from human decency.” People think they will see God if they have visions and supernatural experiences, but one of the main places we encounter God is in the lives of people who walk with Him. The question is, when people encounter us, are they encountering God in us, or are they encountering just us. For sure, when people spend time with me, they do encounter the cranky person that I can be, but hopefully they see the God who is in my life.