I get a kick out of reading church signs: “Seven days without prayer makes one weak,” or “You don’t have to go through hell to get to heaven,” or “If you pray for rain don’t complain about the mud.” These are just a couple of my favorites; I’m sure you have some of your own. I also love some of the “Christian” bumper stickers we slap on our cars. My all-time favorite is “In case of rapture this car will be unoccupied.” In other words, when the rapture takes place, my car will cause a massive accident. Nothing says Jesus loves you like a seventeen car pileup. I’ll never forget the day a friend of mine told me about the new bumper sticker she had just seen. It was in response to the one mentioned above. It said, “In case of rapture can I have your car.” You have to admit, that’s pretty funny. It gave me a good chuckle, but it also made me think, which is exactly what a good bumper sticker is supposed to do. It made me think how many Christians live their life like a bumper sticker; how many of us allow “visual aides” to do our talking instead of our life. Born from that initial thought was the idea of bumper sticker Christianity.
What is bumper sticker Christianity? It’s a method of Christianity enabling us to bypass personal, intimate relationships. Instead of influencing the lives of others by loving and serving people as Christ did, we attempt to influence others with our bumper stickers; we wear Christian t-shirts, we carry our bibles to work and school, and who can forget the most famous bumper sticker of the past few years: the WWJD bracelet. Are these things wrong? Of course not, but when you become defined by your bumper sticker, when your bumper sticker says more about God’s love than your actual life does, then it’s a problem. When we hide behind our bumper sticker, when we convince ourselves that it’s okay not to reach out because our bumper sticker tells everyone that we love God, then we have a problem. Now before we go any further let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. If you haven’t, then feel free to stop reading now. For the rest of us not lying to ourselves, let us continue.
Having established what bumper sticker Christianity is, what relevant, spiritual truth does it point to? The answer: grace! Show me a person who hides behind their bumper sticker and I’ll show you a person who does not understand grace. I’ll show you a person who has accepted grace, but does not demonstrate grace to others. The New Testament’s definition of grace, number 5485 in your concordance (I know you wanted to know that), is divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life. When you live a bumper sticker life, you are receiving His divine influence, but not reflecting it in the way you live. Grace is more than receiving or getting, it’s reflecting and giving. Once we receive the gift of grace, our life should adequately and actively begin to reflect the nature of Christ; bumper sticker Christianity does neither.
Jesus actively sought out people to pour His grace into. He understood that grace was not something to be held onto, but something to be dispensed into the lives of others. He not only understood it, he taught it and lived it. The question we must ask ourselves is: do we understand it? Are we teaching it and will we live it? I believe now more than ever, the answer is yes. We may not all understand it, but that which we do know, I believe we are trying to teach to others and live for ourselves. I believe a generation of believers is being taught what it means to be “graceful” people. I believe the trap of bumper sticker Christianity is being avoided more than ever. I see it first hand everyday in the lives of the college students I work with. They get it, and their world is going to be changed because they get it.
I want to be a person who extends grace to others the way Christ did to me. I want to avoid being a bumper sticker Christian and letting my Christian paraphernalia do my talking. I don’t want to be known as the guy who wears Christian t-shirts or even as the guy who leads a campus ministry. I want to be known as the guy who loves people, serves people and pours grace into people. I want my life to reflect the divine influence Christ has had on me. How about you?[Jason Barr is the Chi Alpha (campus ministry) director at a university in western Oklahoma. His prayer request: Dear God— Would you please let the Cubs win a world series before I die!]