On our way to a new destination a few weeks ago, we noticed a billboard across from where we had stopped at a red light. Sponsored by JewBelong, it read: “So you eat bacon? God has other things to worry about.” It made us laugh, and I appreciated the message of grace. We all do, think, or say things we shouldn’t and, while we can work toward better behavior, our behavior doesn’t bar us from the love of God.
When the light turned green, we turned the corner and saw another billboard. I didn’t take a picture of it and frankly I’ve blocked out its message. I’m sure you’ve seen them, those awful “Christian” sponsored billboards that capitalize on shame. It worked, I felt ashamed, not for my own behavior but to be associated with people who think those slap-you-in-the-face flat sermons are somehow going to attract people to God.
The contrast was startling. If we look only at the two billboards, it seems the Jews have a better handle on grace than the Christians. Jesus is God’s love enfleshed, come to earth to extend God’s grace. How have so many people who claim to wear Jesus’ name so badly missed God’s grace? Why (oh why?) do we jump so quickly to judgment rather than love? Yes, I said “we” because, though I dislike it in others, I recognize this tendency in myself as well. It’s one characteristic of the Christian system from which I’d like to disentangle myself. I’d much prefer to err on the side of love than judgment.
On Good Friday, we drove through a stretch of neighborhood near where we lived when our kids were small. Another billboard, this one all white with large black letters in an attractive font, simply read: “Grace & Peace,” with the name of a local church in small letters at the bottom.
I inhaled a refreshing breath … a billboard that got it right.
Now, we could discuss whether a billboard is the appropriate place for any of these messages. I might argue in the negative, although they did catch my attention. They caused me to consider my own message, and now I’m sharing these thoughts with you so that we can all ponder: what’s our message, and how do we present it?
Personally, I’m all for “grace & peace,” spreading love with a dose of light-hearted laughter. How about you?