By Scott Linscott
Method can overpower message. The cliché of “actions speak louder than words” is more than cliché. It is truth.
I noticed the message in this photo painted on a fence post as I walked along admiring the gorgeous scenic views on Portland, Maine’s Eastern Promenade Trail. “Jesus loves you” graffiti was scribbled four or five inches above a paper product sticker, both littering the landscape.
I thought, “Yes, Jesus loves me but I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t advise vandalism to spread his message.”
I wonder how many other people have walked by thinking the same thing and shaking their heads?
Method matters. It matters a lot. It matters in Jesus circles, in political circles, in marketing circles and in every area where getting a message out is an important part of the plan.
When we claim to be all “Jesus is love” one minute and then switch to spitting venom the next, the message is obliterated. When we say, “Jesus is truth” and then spread conspiracy theories and misinformation, our credibility is shot. When we rightly say that our Bible teaches that we need not fear, but then, live continually panicked and fearful, we demonstrate that we don’t believe it ourselves.
Is it any wonder the world is confused when they look at us?
I know that I am confused when I compare our book, the Bible, to what the press calls the beliefs of “evangelical Christians.”
Method often overpowers message. When people march peacefully in the streets to call for an end to violence and injustice their message is damaged when the much-smaller, angry, after-crowd shows up intent on violence and destruction. It is the after-crowd’s fires, angry shouting and destruction that gets the headlines and the video playing on loop all day, every day.
We “evangelical Christians” know what that’s like, right? How many times did we have to see that hateful church picketing soldiers’ funerals while a reporter described them as a “conservative Christian group?” The Christian reputation meter traveled steadily downward as people who looked nothing like Jesus pretended to be his spokespeople.
Faith without action is dead, according to James. Justice without Jesus, the Jesus of scripture, is just us. If your gospel is good news for you but not the people you disagree with, it is not the true gospel of Jesus.
I’d like to suggest something radical, if I may. I’d like to suggest that we who consider ourselves “Christian” submit ourselves to two processes, before we act, in an attempt to make sure that our methods do not obscure or nullify the message of new life and Hope in Christ:
- Might we first pick up the book we say that we treasure and use it to study the person of Jesus Christ? What I mean is, rather than search for trite answers and bumper sticker “moral to the story” slogans, we study the character, personality and passions of our Christ to know his heart and character. Might we read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to discover what author Gayle D. Erwin called, “The Jesus Style.”
- Might we then, confident that we have a better-educated sense of the personality and motives of the one we call “Lord,” take the WWJD bracelet cliché of the 1990’s and make it more than cliché? Might we allow it to shape our methods and flavor our interpersonal interactions?
“Our motto will be, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Our aim will be to act just as He would if He was in our places, regardless of immediate results. In other words, we propose to follow Jesus’ steps as closely and as literally as we believe He taught His disciples to do.”Charles M. Sheldon, “In His Steps,” 1897
How would that impact our methods online? How would it impact our tone? How would it affect our interactions? Our attitudes? Our opinions?
The Jesus of the Bible that we say we adhere to reacted most strongly to those who misrepresented his Father and his Kingdom. It is that same Bible that says we are to be “ambassadors” of Christ, reflecting him.
I think we must ask ourselves, “are my actions, my methods, reflecting my Christ?” If they are not, we need to make changes.
...let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 3:18