It seems to me that there are at least 3 ways to separate yourself from your neighbors. Put up a fence. Plant tall bushes or trees. Or you can put up yard signs. Because, really – when is the last time you walked by a neighbor’s house, noticed their yard sign, and stopped to say: I see you will be voting for _____________ for president/senate/congress/judge/sewer commissioner. Tell me more about his/her electoral qualities.
Nobody does that. Except the guy who wants to argue why your candidate of choice is the worst choice in the history of American elections. It seems to me that yard signs are less about starting a conversation, and more about sending a signal. I am FOR this candidate. I stand on the right side of THIS issue.
Of course, it’s not just yard signs. Bumper stickers & t-shirts can have the same effect. I even heard recently from a friend that someone had pressure-washed the word “Trump” into the sidewalk in his neighborhood. Several days later, someone came along and pressure-washed the cross-out symbol over his name.
If flying the flag for our presidential or political preference tends to erect a barrier between us and others, I wonder if the same can be true of faith expressions, too. Recently, on a walk, I noticed a sign I’d not seen before. It simply said: Jesus 2020. Now, that’s a sign I can certainly appreciate. I mean, if anyone needs to be in charge in 2020, it certainly would be Jesus. But, of course, Jesus isn’t on the ballot. If I’m not mistaken, he’s not even an American.
Even so, I can’t help but wonder: have those “Jesus 2020” signs led to any meaningful conversations? Have neighbors stopped by to ask: So tell me, how DO I go about voting for Jesus? (The answer, of course, would have to be: With your life.) Wouldn’t it be more likely for these neighborly Christian folk to have a real exchange about real things that matter – and the One who is behind it all – if they struck up a natural conversation through the course of naturally getting to know their neighbors? Wouldn’t their witness be more effective if, instead of putting a sign in their yard, they let their lives be the sign?
Of course, I don’t know them. Maybe that’s exactly what they do. Either way, I’m confident that we as believers are better at living out our calling when we seek to demonstrate to our neighbors the power of a life being transformed – while also being honest that we face real issues & struggles that continually remind us how much we have a real dependence on a real God. In other words, there’s no slogan or saying that can communicate to our neighbors the depth of what we believe, or the nuances of the ways it affects how we live. True faith isn’t ultimately a slogan, but a life – lived out, with others, through the day-to-day challenges and opportunities that come our way.
But of course, it’s so much easier to put up a sign in my yard or slap a sticker on my car. It’s more satisfying to vent on facebook or keep a Bible on my desk at work. But for so many in our world today, those efforts merely confirm what they already believe they know about Christians. Instead of having the intended effect – of drawing them to Jesus, or even simply inviting them into a conversation – they instead can set up an unnecessary barrier. So, as we wrap up an intense political season – and potentially move into a more difficult transition – how are you showing your faith? How are you representing Jesus? Through what you wear, or what you post, or what people see from your sidewalk? Or are you showing them what matters most by the one thing that fulfills God’s desires for his people?
That, of course, would be love. For the greatest commandment, Jesus tells us in Matthew 22, is to love God. And the second, he says, is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. And in a difficult season, in what has been a difficult year – which will certainly lead into more challenges in the year to come – what do we as believers want to be known for? Our politician of choice? Our preferred political party? Where we stand on the hot-button issues of the day? Instead, let’s be known for the one thing that has marked the Church in all seasons, in all cultures, in all political climates – the sign that has marked faithful believers no matter the political climate, or how acceptable it is to believe. The one thing – the one thing – that has been true of faithful followers of Jesus for 2000 years, has been love. So, no matter how 2020 ends, or where 2021 takes us, let’s make sure that doesn’t change. Let’s make sure we show Jesus most clearly, by clearly showing his love.