I believe

I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God. I believe that he came to earth and lived a perfect life… He died after being nailed to a brutal cross, was buried in a tomb for 3 days, and then was raised from the dead to live forever in heaven.

That may be a weird way to start a new post but please, stay with me. While the previous statement is indeed a brief view of my faith, it is statement that I would much rather work my way up to as I get to know people, not something that I feel the need to broadcast on the back of my car.

i_believe_scRecently, The State of South Carolina started taking orders for a new license plate that includes the statement, “I Believe”. I don’t know which part I have a bigger issue with… the “I Believe” part, or the cheesy golden cross in front of the cheesy stained glass window. (side note: The court system has just determined that the plates are unconstitutional, or something… so they aren’t going to make them available now) Is this really an effective way of evangelizing the world? I simply don’t think so. To me, this just becomes another way that well-meaning Christians isolate themselves from those who don’t believe. I feel the same way about many of the t-shirts that attempt to mimic popular logos or sayings, but churches them up… again, it seems a way for the bearer to say, “You and I are different”.

When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:21-23 (NLT)

I’ve come to understand that my faith is something that I must live much louder than I must say. When I invest myself in a relationship with some one, I earn the right to share my faith with them. In all of my years around churches, I have never met a single person who claimed to profess a belief in Jesus because of something they saw on a t-shirt or bumper sticker. However, I have met countless people who came to a place of personal faith in Christ after some one they know and respected showed them that Jesus is real.

I want to be all things to all people, like the apostle Paul said he was. I don’t ever want to be perceived as some one who is out of touch or irrelevant because of the tenants of my beliefs. My faith in Christ doesn’t mean that I have mastered anything in this crazy life… it just means that I know who will walk me through the craziness… and I want others to know that they have the same access that I do to the God who walks with me. Who is better at telling them that: me or my license plate?


15 comments on “I believe

  1. I totally agree. It’s like putting political yard signs up. Do we want to break down walls & barriers regarding people opinions of Christians, or do we want to build them higher & thicker?

  2. “I would much rather work my way up to as I get to know people, not something that I feel the need to broadcast on the back of my car.”

    That’s great, but what about those who would rather broadcast it on the back of their car? Do you not have a problem with the government once again denying its Judeo-Christian roots?

  3. I think the plates are fantastic for protecting the faith for those of us who are IN. We should build walls against outsiders who don’t think like we do, ensuring that they never will. We are a select crowd and we want to keep it that way. My local Country Club(Church does everything we can to keep outsiders away. I think maybe some vinyl wrap graphics on our cars to match our bumper stickers and custom plates further the cause of Christ protectionism.

    Anyway Thanks for the post. I love it.
    PS My church doesn’t practice Christ protectionism

  4. I think those of us in SC who want the license plates think that it’s the quickest way to Heaven. But in reality, I think it’s “taking the sign” that will bite them in their non-raptured butts in the fullness of time.

  5. Steve, with all due respect, I think you might be missing the point behind why some folks would want a license plate like this. Or a “churched up” tshirt. I don’t think it’s an either/or kind of thing. That is, people that wear the shirts or get the license plates or bumper stickers don’t automatically give up their right or ability to share their faith in other ways. I know people that are great examples of discipleship and relationship who also have the tshirts you mention and like the idea of the plates.

    I wear a cross around my neck. I don’t think it drives an us/them wedge. It might cause some to pre-judge me and maybe not associate with me. I wonder if that makes it a problem? I don’t know for sure but I do know that several conversations have started because of it.

    Do I want one of the plates? No. Do I think it creates us/them walls? Maybe. And I think more people create the walls from a fear of expressing/discussing their faith.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. Keep the good thoughts coming our way, my friend.


  6. ugh! that cheezy clipart is both blasphemous & unconstitutional… yikes!!!

  7. First off: Thanks to those who responded with comments here. I’ve always wanted this blog to be a place of open dialog about many topics.

    @Wesley: Everyone has the right to broadcast whatever they want from the back of their car; I would never attempt to remove that… as stated, my bigger problem is what I see as a cheesy way of doing it. Strictly my opinion, that’s all. I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is the answer”… I fully believe that statement to be true, I just think that it has more “teeth” when it is spoken by some one who is convinced of it’s truth.

    @Bubba: I too wear a religious necklace (a pewter fish) that has started some good conversations, but I have also met people who wear crosses (and even a guy who used to wear a Catholic rosary) who had no interest in faith based things…again, I want to be known as some one who walks what I talk (or wear, or sport on the back of my car).

    Something else occurred to me after I posted this: I have seen billboards that say, “Jesus is Lord, repent and be saved”. Do these billboards really convince people to pull over and say the sinner’s prayer right there on the highway? I think the odds are rather slim. For me, I feel quite convinced that people are looking for something real… something that they can see, believe, and ultimately follow for themselves… thus, so much of our Christian paraphernalia starts to look and sound like a secret language spoken by a secret society. One of the things that I truly love about Jesus is that he didn’t just set up shop in the local church and wait for people to come find out who he was… He walked the real streets, dealing with the problems of real people… and best of all, giving them real hope. With that in mind, I want my faith to stay organic… about connecting with people, not just doing drive-by witnessing.

  8. I hear you on the drive-by stuff. I also fully agree with you on backing up the image you put forth. It’s gotta be that way or there is nothing to your witness.

    I guess I’m sensitive to painting people with the big brush of “they don’t get it” when they do something different from us or do something that we don’t think is effective. Sometimes, an action isn’t aimed at what we want it to be. It might serve a different purpose. Take for example the concept of reaching a non-Christian who is in his 60’s or 70’s. Something like this might be the thing that does spark the conversation. It wouldn’t reach a 20-something tough, I guess.

    Again, that being said, I whole heartedly agree that all by itself the license plate/bumper sticker/drive-by approach is not going to work anymore than a slick ad for a crappy product typically does. In this case, I guess it’s a not-so-slick ad for the best “product”…

  9. I can see your point about not liking the design of the plate and that this doesn’t line up with your personal concept of modern Christianity or the public display of the cross. I agree with your point that a bumper sticker, license plate, or t-shirt is, by itself, not an effective way to reach non-believers.

    However, I have some reasons why that such a plate would be beneficial. We live in a world today where messages are being sent to us constantly through all types of media. Why should the message of Christ NOT be advertised? You have now the state of SC advertising their website for traveling to SC being mandated which will replace my current “In God We Trust” plate. The “I believe” plate would have given some of us the opportunity to continue to encourage others to walk along with us this narrow path we have chosen.

    I don’t always see these plates as being divisive. Some with see them and perhaps think about their drifting faith, maybe they should call that old friend and go to worship this Sunday. Maybe someone would be having a really rough day and instead of seeing “Gamecocks” or “Tigers” on the car in front of them, they would see a Christian message.

    I think we are called to be public and not be ashamed of Christ, so while I agree that you aren’t going to see many interstate conversions, the replacement of secular and other “prideful” messages about schools, companies, or how great someone’s state is would be a move in the right direction.

    Perhaps we should come up with our own design and print them up and sell them to cover the “ad” that we will now be forced to put on our cars “www.traveltosc.com” or whatever it is.

  10. Chris: Thanks for clearing up my curiosity about the “In God We Trust” plates going away… being a new resident in SC, I haven’t kept up with all the details of the newer plates taking over.

    I absolutely agree that we should live unashamed of Christ… but I guess I wonder what that really means to me. I don’t want to “put that light under a basket”, but I’m not convinced that I should ever put a flashing Jesus sign on top of my car. In truth, it’s easy to slap a bumper sticker on my car and think that I’m witnessing… however, it’s challenging to have a good conversation with my next door neighbor where I can share my deepest beliefs, in fact, the thought of that scares me! But I’m learning that’s where I need to be unashamed… not abrasive, or judgmental, just real. I think that people know when you’re a phony… and they know when you’re really walking out what you believe.

    GREAT conversation, friends…. thanks again for the lively verbal ping-pong!

  11. Whilst I agree that personal witness is more important (and effective) than depersonalising faith to a bumper sticker or a t-shirt. I also know that for some people to initiate conversation about what they believe to others is a very challenging thing. If the bumper sticker or t-shirt provides the opener why knock it? Surely anything that allows people to ask questions, or gives them confidence to speak about a living faith is good, even if it isn’t our own way of doing things.

  12. i really have no problem with stickers, shirts or jewelry like this. except when it becomes a substitute for evangelism. this is how some people let others know they are “Christians”. “i’ll just put a fishy sticker on the car and im covered.” and isnt everyone a “christian” these days anyway? (i ask sarcastically) i think if we’re gonna adorn these types of advertisements then we need to be “prepared to give an answer”.

  13. i read your blog daddy! lol. i agree with you about the plate. it’s cheesy and it will not reach non-believers because it gives them just another reason to roll their eyes thinking “there goes another fake christian”. just because you put jesus on something doesn’t mean it’s going to help you reach people. if anything it’ll do the opposite. in order to reach a non-believer you have to break the stereotype of all the christians they’ve encountered and dismissed, or else you’re just wasting your time and theirs.

  14. I have always thought that if I had to tell everybody that I was a christian then I wasnt really being a good christian. After telling someone the other day that I was a Worship Leaser at my church they responded with “really?”. That struck a chord in me. I’m not saying that people should alway recognize that we are christians, but I do believe that people should look at us and on some level think “what does that guy have that I don’t?”.

    Putting that license plate on my truck would NOT get that response. I’m in your corner on this one Steve.

  15. Great to see so much commentary on your blog. My facebook page went nuts too. Posted all of it to the blog. Blessings.

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