Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. [Philippians 3:17-18 (NLT)]
As I grabbed my jacket, I noticed the familiar Under Armour logo on the front. Looking down, I saw that my t-shirt advertised a local boot camp class and my shorts displayed Fila’s logo. Eyeing my husband, I saw that his shorts displayed the same logo as mine and his shirt advertised the physical therapy clinic that has treated him over the years. While my cap sported the famed Nike swish, the name of a local pub was embroidered on his. A red swish peeked out from the top of his shoes while my socks were decorated with New Balance’s logo and pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness. The large “N” on each side of our sneakers identified them as another New Balance purchase. We were virtual walking billboards and we’d paid a hefty price for the privilege of advertising other people’s goods and services!
Although we both find our shoes comfortable and have spent plenty of hours at that PT clinic, we have no reason to advertise any of those brands. Labels used to be hidden on the inside of our clothes but now we proudly display them on the outside. Yet, many of us cringe at the label of “Christian.” I think of a husband-wife team of Christian apologist authors who have encountered such negative reactions to saying they are Christians that they now describe themselves as “Followers of Christ.”
Unfortunately, much of the world has a negative stereotype of a “Christian” and it may not be entirely undeserved. If we wear the label “Christian,” are we afraid people will think they know our politics or that we’re Bible thumpers, don’t believe in laughter or fun, are judgmental and intolerant, hate people for their lifestyles, are hypocrites, think we’re better than everyone else, or will give them a list of shouldn’ts, can’ts and don’ts? Unfortunately, some Christians are like that but, fortunately, most are not. Moreover, other than the Bible thumping, that description can be applied to plenty of non-Christians as well.
Do we wear our faith as openly as we do our sportswear logos? Do we advertise for Jesus as readily as we do our favorite businesses? With my husband’s noticeable limp, he’s probably not the best advertisement for that physical therapy clinic. Are we good advertisements for Christ or do we just further the negative stereotypes? People need to recognize us, not by Christian symbols but by Christian love. If we’re ever going to change those negative stereotypes, people will need to know our true identity—a child of God, a follower of Christ, a Christian—not just by our behavior but by knowing that Jesus is the reason we act as we do! Let us never forget that we may be the only Bible some people read and the only Jesus some people meet.
Christ has no hands but our hands To do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet To lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongue To tell men how He died;
He has no help but our help To bring them to His side.
We are the only Bible The careless world will read;
We are the sinners gospel, We are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message, Given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
[Annie Johnson Flint]