Billboards for God

Suzanne and I will never forget the UBER driver who drove us home from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. We were impressed with her knowledge of the history and demographics of our city. She even knew a lot about the history of individual neighborhoods. After only a few minutes, it was clear that this UBER driver loves Atlanta.

When I asked her how she keeps current on all of the trends in Atlanta, she made a memorable statement: “I see my vocation as being in marketing for Atlanta. In fact, every resident is in marketing for the city whether we know it or not. What people think of Atlanta will be in large measure what they think of its citizens. My vocation is to give our city a good name! The way I do it is to drive for UBER.”

[tweetable]I started taking notes in the back seat of the car…actually I was developing a sermon! This UBER driver is a “living billboard” for Atlanta! You and I are intended by God to be “living billboards for Jesus Christ!” Whether we know it or not, what people think of Jesus will be influenced, in large measure, by what they think of us. As followers of Jesus, we are not called to be perfect…we are still sinners…but we are called to be authentic and winsome representatives of Jesus on the earth. Our behavior and our attitudes reflect positively or negatively on Jesus! Regardless of our occupation, all Christians share the same vocation “to bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world.” Our occupation is simply the arena in which we do it. Just as it was obvious to us that this UBER driver loves Atlanta… is it obvious to others that …WE love God?

Years ago, the author and inspirational speaker, Dr. Tony Campolo wrote a book with an unforgettable title, Jesus save us from (SOME OF) your followers. In the book Campolo laments the fact that some Christians are so obnoxious that they turn others off. Many Christians are so focused on pointing out the flaws in others and telling others what the church is against…that they fail to reflect the love of God. Campolo points out that the word “Christian” has the suffix, “ian” at the end of it, which literally means, “to live in or be born in.” Thus, a “Bostonian,” lives in or is born in Boston and a “Canadian,” lives in or is born in Canada. In the same way, a Christ-i-a-n… lives in… or is born in Christ! Whether we know it or not, our lives reflect positively or negatively on Jesus!

Taking the Lord’s name in vain involves much more than uttering “swear words.” Actually, the etymology of profanity and “swear words” is quite revealing. Our English word “profanity” comes from the Latin words “pro” meaning before and “fain” meaning temple. Profanity is “speaking before the temple.” People in the ancient world would swear an oath before the temple and invoke God’s name. They thought it didn’t matter what they did… as long as they said the right words. Profanity is the gap between profession and performance. We “profane” the name of God when we don’t live as God wants us to live. The author of Proverbs put it this way, “A good name is to be valued more that riches or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1. We take God’s name in vain when our lives do not reflect positively on the name of God…and we “protect God’s reputation” when we live in such a way that people see God in us! To put it simply, we may be the only Bible that some people will read.

I know a Christian congregation that used to be known as a community of joy and love. It was an exciting place to worship and their good deeds were known all over the state…and beyond! When people in the area who did not believe in God saw the way that this community of faith cared for the poor and the needy in society, they thought positively of Jesus Christ. Sadly, this congregation is now known for the in- fighting and divisions in the church over doctrinal purity and Biblical authority. The fighting has hurt their witness for Christ.

In the early church, people in the secular society were so impressed with the character of the Christians that they often commented…see how these Christians love one another. Those early Christians gave God a good name… like the UBER driver does for the City of Atlanta! The question is…do we give God a good name?

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