This morning while taking Jim to school, I was sitting at a stoplight on a two-lane road. Things were pretty backed up. I was probably going to sit at this light two or three more times before I got through. When about six cars behind me, a minivan suddenly pulled out into the left lane, passed maybe a dozen cars, and pulled back in line where there was a gap because of an intersection.
I can tell you three things about this van:
- It was white.
- It did not have its emergency blinkers on.
- It had a "Keep Christ in Christmas" magnet on the back of it.
After this happened, I exclaimed, "Aw, come on!" Then Jim asked me what was wrong and I told him someone cut in line. Then after a pause, Jim asked, "Is someone going to put them in timeout?" I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it didn't seem like they were in an emergency situation. There are about four or five things you could do on that street if you absolutely had to get somewhere immediately. This minivan basically bought itself one less light to wait through.
The thing that really irked me was that magnet. Besides the fact that we're a good two months past Christmas (I mean at least have a "Keep St. Valentine in Valentine's Day" magnet), that magnet was identifying that driver with Jesus even as they gave the automotive equivalent of the middle finger to a dozen other people waiting at that light.
It ticked me off. And it made me wonder what if someone waiting in line had been burned by the church. I'm not going to want to give Christians the time of day. Shoot, I might start wishing people "Happy Holidays" next December out of spite.
And I was reminded by that old quote from St. Francis: "Preach the gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words." The trouble is we try to let our words do almost all the preaching (and I recognize the irony of that statement in what is a strictly word-based medium). Or we use Jesus magnets, church stickers, t-shirts, inspirational spiritual quotes on Facebook, and other things to preach the gospel for us .
There's technically not anything wrong with those things (well, an utter lack of creativity in some instances but that is another topic for another time), but they can become live grenades that blow up in our face if we don't actually preach the gospel in how we live. If we act selfishly in traffic or if we dehumanize someone online, those badges of our Christian faith can actually do great damage. We certainly do not have to be perfect. That's impossible. But at the very least, we should try hard not to be complete jerks.
So if you want to deck out your car with Jesus magnets, wear a church t-shirt everywhere you go, and turn your Facebook wall into a sunset and scripture picture montage, go for it. But please realize the message that you send when you compromise those Christian displays. Please preach the gospel in whatever you do. Let's keep Christ in your driving, keep Christ in how you treat people who are different from you, keep Christ in what happens when no one else is looking. I'll try my best to do the same.