I’ve lost track of how many times it’s happened. A car pulls quickly into my lane. Later, I’m being tailgated by an impatient truck. An SUV intentionally rushes into the parking spot I was waiting for. These kinds of things always bother me, of course, but it’s interesting how often I catch a fish decal or a “Jesus Saves” bumper sticker on the offending vehicle. My purpose for writing this is not to generalize Christian drivers, but I’d like us to step back together, and explore how we navigate the world as representatives of Christ.
I spend a lot of time working on an online storytelling platform called Humans of Adventism. It’s a collection of posts highlighting the different views we hold and the lives we live as Seventh-day Adventists. One aspect of managing this platform is handling our branded merch. For us, that’s mostly t-shirts sporting the simple words “Adventist. Human.” Wearing this shirt in public means advertising that you are an Adventist, and inevitably, it means you’re inviting conversations from people you don’t know. That’s what we wanted. But it also means whatever you do while wearing the shirt will reflect on both you and Adventism as a whole.
I became very aware of this recently when I went out to lunch with my family. We sat down, had a great meal, and were getting ready to leave when I started looking at the bill. It was a little more expensive than I’d expected. The blank line labeled “tip” stressed me out a little bit. But as I stared at that little piece of paper, I started thinking about how my decision, in that moment, would affect our waitress.
Adventist. Human. The words were written right there for everyone to see. What would she think of Adventism if I left a poor tip? An average tip? A generous one? In the end, I decided her impression was worth more than a couple extra bucks in our bank account. I took that experience with me, I kept thinking on the importance and impact my actions could have, and I came up with a short list of how I would like to wear my Adventism.
Always, if possible, and definitely while advertising my faith, I will:
- Tip generously
- Not ignore the needy or homeless
- Make time for service
- Listen to others attentively
- Stand up for the hurting
Notice anything about this list? I did. It looks suspiciously like what God asks us to do anyway. So why do I even need a list like this? The truth is, I shouldn’t. The truth is, I shouldn’t have to act differently if I’ve already learned to show God’s love to the people around me. The shirt, the bumper sticker, the Jesus fish — all should point to the type of person we already are. Those items should signify that we have dedicated ourselves to a God that loves us more than we can possibly understand. Do they?
John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Maybe now is a good time to re-evaluate who we are and how we treat other people. The people around us can see through the Bible verse memes on our Facebook wall when we’re leaving insults below other posts. The fish on our car becomes a symbol of harm when we road rage. And that Adventist Human shirt? Nothing but a poor fashion statement if I can’t help my waitress pay her bills.