Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jesus on a Billboard

As the kids and I were driving north on I-294 in the Chicago suburbs, we were near O’Hare Airport when my eldest child noticed a billboard advertising a religion.  (I believe it was Islam.)   My son’s question to me was, “Why are they advertising?  Is it to spread around their religion or to make money?”  While I don’t know the true answer to his question, I do think the billboard’s purpose is to spread that particular religion and its way of thinking.  One of the kids then joked about putting Jesus on a billboard, which led to an interesting conversation about each of our lives being like billboards.

In some ways, aren’t we all advertising something?  We are sending out messages about who we are and what we believe.  Consistently practicing foolish actions and foolish words advertises that you are a fool.  Ongoing road rage and rude gestures advertises that you are an impatient, angry person.  Selflessly giving advertises that you are a compassionate person.  Being intentional in showing kindness and going the extra mile for others advertises that you are a thoughtful person.  Good or bad, we all advertise for who we are and what we believe at our core.

The saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” isn’t necessarily true all the time.  In many cases, the cover is giving us a preview of what’s inside the pages.  It is the job of the cover to give a hint of the contents!  I am drawn to many books at the library based on the cover alone…on what it’s advertising.  Is my “cover”…my advertisement…pulling others towards or away from my message and who I really am?

St. Francis of Assisi is credited as saying, “Preach the Gospel always.  If necessary, use words.”  I have always loved this quote and have pondered it often.  Obviously, I can’t “act out” salvation and redemption and other basic beliefs of my faith.  But, I can definitely give a good (or bad) advertisement for what I believe.  I can say whatever I want, but people will look at how I live my life since (unfortunately) words have become many and cheap.  We can draw people to or away from the message of hope that we have to share.

If we were all doing our job effectively, would Jesus need a billboard?


  1. Great post! It sounds like a very edifying conversation to have with your children. I would have to disagree with St. Francis of Assisi however, because faith comes by hearing the word of God preached. Your life can certainly affect the credibility of your witness and may lead people to inquire or to take note, but unless people hear and know the reason for the hope that you have and the life that you lead, the world will have little to distinguish your virtuous life and good deeds from the good deeds done by those doing them for goodness sake or in the name of Allah, the Angel Moroni, or Mother Earth. -Noel Sterett

  2. Totally agree with you on needing to teach and preach the hope we have. I was just more likening it to our actions being like the book cover...drawing and "advertising" to what is within...the deeper stuff to share! But you're totally right in that the pillars of our faith only come from knowing/hearing God's Word. I just want to make sure my life, my living ad, is encouraging others to want to learn more about the hope I have. (Thus, the quote.....but it can't stop with actions!)

  3. I am a Christian cleverly disguised as an advertising executive and I would suggest we all advertise for God as Kingdom citizens. Perhaps not as crassly as on a billboard, but we are called by the Apostle Paul "living epistles," and we transmit the Gospel whenever we interact with others in the world. We embody the Word of God when we do our Father's will. Whenever we touch another life, it is at those touchpoints that faith is demonstrated. While I know the importance of preaching, I acknowledge that people will be more open to hear that preaching when they have been touched by Christ's love through us.