Friday, February 12, 2010

My Jesus T-shirt

If any of you have ever worked on a campaign, chances are that you’ve been told at least once (and more likely multiple times) that when you’re out knocking doors or waving signs, you represent the campaign and the candidate. A lot of the time you’re wearing a T-shirt with the candidate’s name on it.

I’ve spent the past two summers working for my home congressman’s campaign (back in Ohio). One of my jobs was to go out and put up yard signs all along the main roads leading to the site of an important county fair. So I would be standing by the side of one of these long highways with cornfield on either side, wearing my T-shirt with my congressman’s name on it and pounding a sign with his name on it into the ground, and every time a car went by, I would start to feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable.

There was nothing wrong about what I was doing (we had permission to put up the signs). But whether the people in the cars took any notice of me or not, I felt like as long as I was wearing that T-shirt, I was being watched. I was acutely aware that I was representing someone else. And as I walked back to my car to drive down the road to put up the next sign, I realized that I was nervous about representing a politician, another human being like myself, but I never felt that nervous about the fact that as a believer, I’m supposed to represent Christ. In fact, I rarely ever even thought about it.

Now obviously, most of us don’t walk around with Jesus’ name in big red letters on our T-shirts. Well, maybe some of us do. There are “Christian shirts” or “Witness shirts.” When I was a kid, the parody ones were popular, the ones that would imitate the style or logo of a shirt from some recognized brand so that people only realized they said something Christian if they stopped to look closely and read them: “The original Old Navy: Jesus, twelve disciples, and a fishing boat.” I had some like that. I still have some of what you could call “Christian shirts,” in the sense that they have crosses or lines from scripture in the design and are made by Christian companies. But lots of people who aren’t followers of Jesus walk around in shirts with crosses on them. Lots of people who aren’t followers of Jesus wear little crosses around their necks like good luck charms. Odds are that the average person on the street won’t see your shirt or your necklace and immediately think, “Oh, that person is a Christian.”

I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with Christian T-shirts or cross necklaces. But I think the real value in them, if there is any besides maybe looking cool, is not to send a message to other people but to remind us of who we represent. When you’re out campaigning in your T-shirt with a politician’s name on it, you may be a voter’s only point of contact with the campaign. Someone may form their entire opinion of your candidate based on their impression of you. As Christians, we may be a lost person’s only point of contact with Christ. If your shirt or your necklace reminds you of that, if it makes you a little uncomfortable and self-conscious sometimes, maybe that’s a good thing. Be honest with yourself: have you ever treated a stranger, a possibly lost person who needs Jesus, in a way that makes you glad they didn’t know you called yourself a follower of Christ when you look back at it now?

Of course, ultimately, none of us will ever “win anybody to Christ,” none of us will ever “get anybody saved. Only God can change a heart. Our role as Christians can be found in the words that John the Baptist cried out to the people as the forerunner for Christ’s ministry on earth: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” God has to enter a person’s heart in order for them to be saved; but as Christians, we can, by the way we treat people, prepare the way for the Lord or set up obstacles for people who need to know Him. We can make His paths straight, or we can make bumps in the road.

Ask yourself how much you ever really think about the fact that you are a representative of Jesus, and how you’re preparing the way for the Lord in the way you live your life. Ask God to make you more self-conscious about your role as a point of contact between lost people and Christ.

- Dan Middleton

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