So in Nova Scotia, the battle is won: a Christian student has received the right to wear a ‘Christian T-shirt’ by the administration of the high school he attends. I’m sure all the Christian conservatives around the planet have collectively breathed their sighs of relief re the Province of Nova Scotia’s decision to maintain ‘constitutional integrity’ with respect to Canada’s freedom of religion ‘n such.
But being a ‘Classical Christian’ (something like a ‘conservative Christian’ but less embarrassing) I have to say that I am not all that happy about the attention this is receiving from the watching world.
In the initial story that broke over the wire, a young high school student named William Swimmer at Forest Heights Community School was banned from wearing a T-shirt that brazenly stated, “Life is WASTED without Jesus”. But after the ban received significant media attention, the ban-decision was overturned and now William can proudly display his message to the souls around and about him.
But with respect to the Christian faith, is it the right message?
When I was a teen I was the high school Christian weirdo who wore a baseball shirt with a transfer on the front that said, “I’m Hooked on Jesus”, and which was often accompanied by my hand-bedazzled jean jacket festooned with Christian sew-on patches along with the glitter-goo message, “Jesus Lives” on the back of it. It was a ‘positive affirmation’ message that elevated Jesus and my love for Him.
But this T-shirt message of Mr. Swimmer? Negative … really negative. In effect, here’s what the T-shirt’s words are proclaiming: “Your life is worth crap if you don’t have Jesus…you LOSER, you!” Wow. That just ain’t playin’ nice in my books. The message is condemning in nature and I can’t but help remember the words uttered by Christ immediately following John 3:16 (the faith statement ubiquitously placarded at sports events) “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).
Can you imagine if Jesus had everyone sit down in groups on the side of a mountain hill and instead of His famous (and wonderfully tender) ‘Beatitudes’ he began instead to speak to the crowds with something like, “Okay, listen up! You are all spiritually retarded dolts who really don’t get me and are pretty much a waste of space!” Isn’t that in effect what William Swimmer’s T-Shirt’s message is to his fellow students and teachers? If I were to ask Mr. Swimmer if he feels that way about his many peers – if they’re all meaningless sans the Saviour, would he look me in the eye and say, “Well, yeah!”. I pity that young man if that were how he felt, because then he is NOT receiving Christian education from a right-minded sort or source. (I personally believe that the young fellow hasn’t really explored the semantics of the T-shirt’s message all that much and probably is in no way insensitive and intolerant of everyone’s existences being lived outside of Christ.)
Jesus came to serve and to love those who were outcasts, who were searching for truth, who wanted to believe in a God who cared and were hoping for some relief from the burdens imposed on them by pernickety religious zealots. The Lord served by teaching in a thoughtful manner with respect to the general public but was often frighteningly visceral in his admonitions to those teachers of religion who should have known God and His expectations better (and, in fact, they did know better!). And as for Jesus’ disciples he, once again, spoke to them very differently from the curious masses he attracted; often firmly and with deeper instruction or revelation those outside of the discipleship circle would not have been privy to (Matt 13:11).
If we’re going to be walking billboards for the Saviour, let’s display a message to the surrounding populace that shows the seekers and the unbelievers the qualities we Christians truly elevate and hold dear in our faith-journeys: hope, faith and that all-important love found in and at the heart of God. That is the Gospel. Whether it’s a sartorial mission statement found on a T-shirt transfer or via one’s code of conduct before the watching world, I believe it’s important how we represent the Who that is our life.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.”
1 Peter 3:16-17
© Flagrant Regard, 2012