There is a bar in my town that in pre-COVID days was a celebrated biker hangout every Sunday afternoon. There was always a live band playing and rows of gleaming Harleys on either side of the street, with people inspecting them as if they were in a showroom.
The riders all would leave their helmets out with their bikes, and I’ve found the helmets to be a study all their own. The most popular look like they are from World War I — some with a spike and various kinds of rebel markings — and a few have little stickers that serve as a sort of biker bumper sticker. One I saw particularly caught my attention because it said, “JESUS LOVES YOU.”
Now I am aware that there are various biker ministries out there where committed followers ride for Christ and seek to spread the word about his grace and forgiveness. I have always loved this – the Gospel in a rebel context – being aware that the message of Christ is in some ways better suited there than it is in more respectable circles. You can’t read about Jesus without coming to the conclusion that he would be right at home with the biker crowd.
But as I got closer to the Jesus sticker, I noticed there was another message in much smaller print underneath the more visible “JESUS LOVES YOU.” It read: “I think you suck” (That isn’t exactly what it said, but you get the gist.)
At first, I was somewhat repulsed. Where I thought I had a Jesus biker, I actually had a form of sacrilege. But the more I thought about it, I realized there probably was more than a kernel of truth in this version of a familiar Christian message.
I can think of times when I might as well have been sporting a “JESUS LOVES YOU; I think you suck” sticker for all the thoughts I harbored toward the people to whom I was announcing His love. And, of a certainty, He does love them. The question is, do I?
“How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” wrote James (2:1), or in the words of John: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20).
It’s not enough just to announce the love of Jesus without loving the same people He loves (which would be everybody). We do not just deliver the message; we are the message. If there are people you simply do not love, then don’t proclaim a message about Jesus’ love because your lack of love or your judgment or condemnation will speak louder than the message.
Before “Jesus loves you” is our message, we need to make sure that we do too. And that ability to love everyone comes through facing our own sin and realizing He loves us, and has forgiven us — which is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Once we do, however, we are in a place where we are looking up to everyone else, and loving them is merely an extension of the fact that God loves and forgives us.
Thank you, Mark.
When I am ever in doubt about trends in the “christian” world I turn to John Fischer. Always an apt word waiting. This says it all…”if there are people you simply do not love then don’t proclaim a message about Jesus’ love.” Fabulous. I know I think I love everyone…but I know too that there are those I really don’t. Good reminder.
Thank you for the compliment.
Kind of reminds me of a sign posted behind cash registers at many small retail businesses:
“In God We Trust. All Others Pay Cash.”
Like the sticker on the motorcycle helmet, there are elements of truth and doubt, devotion and distrust, honesty and irony, dignity and humor, sincerity and snarkiness in these mildly shocking placards and stickers.
I confess, though: those messages do strike their intended target (my funny bone) and make me both chuckle and think. I do not find them offensive and in fact, in my wierd way, I find them cleverly thought-provoking and even motivating. I figure they’re posted for a purpose but not necessarily the same purpose for which the bearer has displayed them.
I appreciate them not only for their not-so-subtle “irreverence” but also for their revelation about the people ballsy enough to display them… as well as what the “zinger” reveals about me.
Sure, I wholeheartedly concur with and loudly support the first lines ‘Jesus Loves You’ and ‘In God We Trust’, etc., etc., etc….
But here’s my 2nd confession: More times than not the second sentences of those printed sentiments say exactly what I feel but rarely vocalize.
Even though I am aware that my feelings are wrong and hypocritical, it’s a constant inner wrestling match to overcome them, especially after I perceive (whether factually or in my imagination) that others have somehow slighted or wronged me.
I may “forgive” outwardly but internally, well, you know… as I said, it’s a struggle.
So, does that disqualify me from entering the Halls of Faith or Tunnel of Love as alluded to by James and John? Does Jesus suddenly lump me in with the scribes, the Pharisees, the hypocrites, the snakes and broods of vipers? Am I never to overcome my wayward thoughts and feelings and therefore be banished from eternal life with Jesus and you?
Oh, what a wretched man I am! Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!
Yet, there is Hope.
As important as Love and Faith are, it all boils down to the simplest of Truths: Honesty.
Honesty is something we all have within ourselves to freely express or repress.
Honesty is the one free will, the one real power every human everywhere has been given by God to make things better or worse.
It doesn’t matter what ones lot in life is or was, we’re all bearers of honesty. We are free to embrace it or deny it.
Whereas we learn Truth from external sources, Honesty is internally planted inside us by God to stand rightly before Him, others, and ourselves.
Now, whether we choose to be honest or not is at the crux of how our earthly lives will thrive or deteriorate. If we’re not honest with ourselves then we’re not honest with God or with our fellow creation. If we shunt honesty in favor of good-favor from others or for perfidious pleasures, we darken our souls, our world, and our future. We contend with Jesus Himself.
Judiciously (and fortunately for us), there are only three others (besides our own self) who know whether we’re being absolutely honest and what is REALLY inside our hearts: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And, as we’re already outnumbered, we might as well let Honesty be our Lamp that lights our path toward the Way, the Truth, and eternal Life. We walk with Jesus Himself.
So back to the placards and stickers: they help open my eyes. And I find I would rather take my chances with the irreverent lot that makes up the religiously-skeptical whom are honest rather than hobnob with the piously-minded who are dishonest with others (thinking they can fool God even) as well as themselves.
To slightly alter a lyric from Billy Joel:
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than scorn with the saints…
Shalom & for Rosh Hashanah:
“Shanah Tovah U’metuka!” (Have a good and sweet year!)
I agree wholeheartedly. It’s all about honesty and you’re being honest.
You sure nailed it with this post! Thank you John for speaking truth. It is hard to love others when they are so “prickly”. And then there are those we fear because, well, because they are different from us and we get uncomfortable.
I have discovered being uncomfortable is something the Spirit wants of me. And to be humble and grateful for getting “woke”.