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God's Lesson From a Bumper Sticker

God's Lesson From a Bumper Sticker

by Rev. Alexandra Robinson on December 06, 2023

Read:  John 8:12-20

On my way to work today, I was at a stoplight behind a car with a bumper sticker that said “You better be following Jesus this closely.”  It made me giggle in my commute and then wonder about this phrase’s truth. 

We know that following a car too closely can actually be dangerous.  Each of my children have been taught in driver’s education to leave 3 car lengths between yourself and the car in front of you.  This offers space for a quick stop without causing an accident.  But I wonder if this is a part of following Jesus we often miss – we need to have the right amount of space between us and Jesus, so others don’t get hurt.  We often focus on not having too much space so that we don’t get distracted and veer off the path, but we forget that not enough space means you can cause harm.

When Jesus said “I am the light of the world” to the Pharisees it was a dangerous act.  He was entering into a conversation knowing it would evoke conflict, for his statement of self- testimony as “I AM” was not admissible by Jewish law without witnesses.  Jesus provides evidence of witness by revealing his nature as God’s Son.  Ironically, the witness the Jewish officials need to prove Jesus’ identity is God.  Jesus says God is the only one that can judge.  But because Jesus is the only one who has seen God and can make God known, the Pharisees can not recognize the validity of Jesus witness.  Who the Pharisees know God to be from Torah and who they see Jesus to be as human has so much space between them that they can’t follow his logic or his divinity.

I share this passage explanation with you because in the ongoing anti-semetic activity across the nation, what it means to follow Jesus right now can be confusing.  When we read passages like this, we recognize how quickly they can be misinterpreted.   People often misread this Scripture to be about the judgement of Jews instead of a proclamation of the nature of Jesus. So let’s be clear: this Scripture is a dangerous conversation because  Jesus’ self-testimony as being equal with God is controversial, not because Jesus is judging the Jews. 

For me, the danger of following Jesus is not because I pursue a person with a different faith journey than me in a way that threatens their physical, emotional or spiritual safety.  Following Jesus is not about trailing so closely no room if available for understanding beyond my own intellect or experience.  Following Jesus is not about tracking the faulty logic of another person’s witness so narrowly that I’m playing the role of God and judging the validity of their Divine experience.

Following Jesus for me is about ensuring that the danger in my witness comes from my self- sacrifice as Jesus self-sacrificed in becoming human, (Read Philippians 2 for more on this), and tending ending to the poor, the hopeless and the hurting because of my self-sacrifice. (Read all of the gospels for more on this).   Following Jesus for me is about staying on the journey of faith, even when it is hard to follow, or winding in its path, or I want to pass Jesus up in the fast lane (because let’s face it, sometimes God’s timing feels too slow for my schedule.)  Following Jesus for me is about listening to Jesus words about who he is, and being so close to that word that I can clearly read the ways it offers hope and healing, not manipulate those words for my advantage.

This month, my youngest daughter is registering for driver’s education, and this reminds me to keep teaching this way of following Jesus to my children. I hope they are learning a faith that never puts another person in danger, provides enough space that they can always see the light of the world guiding the road ahead, and lets them clearly read the word of God in front of them.  Even if it’s in God’s hidden message on a bumper sticker.

Tags: faith, christmas, jesus, advent, witness, self-sacrifice

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