Brand X

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, Esther 7:1-10, Acts 19:11-20, Luke 4:14-30

Has American Christianity turned Jesus-the-Savior into Jesus-the-Brand? In a time and place where Christian is the default spiritual setting, and mentioning Jesus invites applause instead of danger, it’s easy to wear his name like a logo. Think that’s harsh? Consider the phenomenon of the “Christian” business. Not faith-based bookstores or religious goods shops, but carpet cleaners, dog groomers, and truckers. How exactly does a travel agency have a relationship with Christ? There’s no evidence they perform better, behave more ethically, or give more charitably. That’s troubling, since once we slap Brand Jesus onto our product, we ought to consider living up to it. More and more, the public perception of Christian businesses is that they are less interested in how to serve than whom not to serve.

While Paul was in Ephesus, some wandering exorcists tried casting out evil spirits in the name of “the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” They weren’t really followers, but attached themselves to his reputation because it was good for business (yes, many exorcists charged for the service). A spirit replied: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” The exorcists fled the encounter naked and wounded.

When we push Brand Jesus onto the world, do people believe they’re encountering the genuine article … or a intelligent-designer impostor? Are we rightfully called out by people saying: “Jesus I’ve heard of; who are you supposed to be?” Even if we don’t feel personally stripped and bruised by that reaction (and why not?), the reputation of our faith community certainly takes a hit.

Jesus is someone with whom we are meant to have a personal relationship, but too often we settle for being fans and all the tribalism and trash talk that accompany fandom. Putting on the jersey doesn’t convince anyone you are a member of the team. Isn’t it better to live and conduct business and humbly share our faith in a manner that lets people see Christ reflected in us? When a product is good quality, people will seek it out. Try pushing a cheap knock-off, and they may never come back.

Comfort: You don’t have to market yourself as a Christian; you just have to follow Christ.

Challenge: This week note discrepancies between people and entities (including yourself) who call themselves Christian and any un-Christ-like behavior they exhibit. Don’t judge them (including yourself), but pray for them.

Prayer: Holy and Loving God, may my words and actions point to you. Amen.

Discussion: Many Christians object when Christmas is shortened to Xmas, yet the X comes from the Greek letter chi, the first letter of Christ’s name, and has been used for centuries. Some use this and other manufactured offenses to shine a spotlight on the Christian “brand.” Can you think of other examples?

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