Tuesday, December 23, 2008



“Merry Christmas” offends these days. Christmas trees offend, and The Ten Commandments too. Symbols of Christianity are increasingly getting the thumbs down…if you haven’t noticed.

What’s the Christian’s response? How do we act and speak when our Bibles are contraband on campus, when our emblems are removed, when our buildings are denuded of their crosses? What will be your response when your daughter calls saying, “Mom. Can you bring me another shirt? The school counselor says I can’t wear the one I have on from the church retreat, because it offends some students?”

When Christian symbols move from politically incorrect to politically illegal what should we do? Hide them? Fight the officers who come to seize them? Litigate over our rosaries and crosses? It is a tough issue, but there is perhaps a clear answer in the Gospels.

The disciples of Jesus gawked, “What a marvelous sight! Jesus, just take a look at the magnificence of these stoned walls!” Oh, and yes, the walls were impressive. They were holy walls; representative of the Glory (read that God) of Israel. They stood for a mighty nation with a mighty God-YHWH.

Do we recall Jesus’ response? “Ho hum. Don’t be overly impressed, boys. They aren’t THAT important. Rome will roll them down one day.”

No images. No icons. Nothing we can point to or at and say, “There it is there, or here it is over here.” Nothing that we cling to besides YHWH. God has always warned us not to attach any significance to symbols. Within His clear desire for us to live free of spiritual icons, I submit that we’re being done a favor by our societal ‘enemies’.

When the highway patrolman pulls me over one day to fine me for the IXTHUS (The fish emblem) on my car, or my “REPENT OR BURN” bumper sticker (I don’t have one, by the way.) I’m going to be sad, but I’ll not fight. I’m going to take it as a grand opportunity to demonstrate what that emblem stood for–Jesus.

“Officer,” I might begin. “Removing that bumper sticker is something I’ve needed to do for a long time, actually. You’ve helped me a lot today.”

It is likely that he’ll be startled by such a response. “You looked a little surprised at my response, Officer. I'll bet that other Christians haven’t responded to you very kindly have they? I apologize. We’ve put too much emphasis on our symbols and not enough on how we treat people. I’m sorry, Sir. Hope you can overlook our failures. They don’t really reflect Jesus very well. We’ve sort of made a mess of doing that.”

How do you think such a reply might affect an unbeliever soured on holier-than-thou Popes and Pastors, sickened by begging televangelists, and immunized against traditional church attitudes? What power might be released by a genuine admission of sloppy righteousness coupled with a humble apology?

What will the world think when we separate ourselves from our images; when we are happy to hand over our portraits of Jesus, our lent wreaths, and our purple robed crosses, and happier yet to hand out bowls of hot soup and blankets on cold nights, lift sandbags against flooding river banks, hold the hands of the bereaved, and sit with the dying? What WILL the world think? I imagine they'll be shocked. They'll be taken aback. They may even be impressed, but....actually, why should we be care very much what they think? Isn't the greater question, "What will YHWH think?"

It is, and I believe we can know what He will think. Undoubtedly, He will be impressed saying, OH! My, what a marvelous sight! That will be both a happy and a holy day.”

For more thoughts on Missional Living: www.TheMissionalLife.com/blog


KMiV said...

Thanks Stephen for your thoughts. I don't think our country will ever move to persecuting Christians. However I think we are finding out what it is like to have people stand against us--as we have done in the past.

We are also finding out what it is like to be somewhat oppressed--like the early church or the churches in China and other countries.

If our public symbols are ever banned, we will worship in private like Christians have done for centuries. I also think we will see a tremendous revival in our cities and prisons.

Foggy Blogger said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. Sometimes i need to read something that makes me reflect on my own faith and how that plays out in the public sphere.