This past weekend, six days early, we went to the Independence Day celebration at the American school here. Along with streamers of red, white, and blue, and hamburgers with real sweet relish, there were American products for sale. I’m always like a kid in a candy store when I see familiar packages that have been long imprinted in my memory. They don’t call them brands for nothing.
Blueberries are my favorite fruit and I’ve only seen them for sale here once in 13 years. The picture of fresh plump blueberries looked so good, as did the dark dried blue berries inside the package.
But once I got home with the bag, I realized I had been snookered. When I looked at the label more carefully, I discovered they weren’t blueberries at all. I had bought dried cranberries infused with grape and blueberry juice concentrate.
Pretty sneaky, if you ask me.
I also bought what I assumed were cheddar potato chips.
Again I overlooked the fine print. It turned out I had not purchased potato chips but a “popped chip snack.” When is a chip not a chip? When it’s not made with potatoes but with potato parts: potato flakes and potato starch to be specific.
Thus, ‘popchips’ [the company doesn't seem to believe in capital letters] are the hot dogs of snacks.
I thought I was buying blueberry granola bars except Jordans uses the same bait and switch as Ocean Spray. Instead of juicy blueberries in these cereal bars, there are blueberry-infused diced cranberries, raisins, fruit puree, and then last–and certainly least–dried blueberries.
God’s WYSIWYG [what you see is what you get]
So what does this have to do with following Jesus??? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Because like these food companies, we can take the ingredients of the gospel, make a new product, and then try to sell it in a flashy package.
Take hell, for example, which I suspect is no one’s favorite subject. I recently heard a sermon about it. The preacher talked about how Jesus is going to return not only as Savior and Lord, but also as Judge.
I have to admit that it made me feel uncomfortable. Who wants to be reminded that ‘niceness does not save’? Or that Jesus talked about hell constantly, like this verse which never seems to make it onto Christian coffee mugs or t-shirts:
And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:30
Frankly, I cringe at God’s straight talk. But I can’t fault Him for beating around the bush. Unlike packaging that tries to entice me with false promises and incomplete claims, Jesus makes it uncomfortably clear what heaven and hell are all about:
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
God doesn’t use a bait and switch. What you see is what you get. Most people in our current culture find this unadulterated honesty distasteful, Christians included. When I read the gospels, I’m always taken back by how direct and blunt Jesus is. “You hypocrites,” is one of His favorite phrases.
Instead, when we talk about who Jesus is, we sometimes sound like advertisers. We want to make the gospel sound more appealing because surrender, death, and obedience are not topics that bring out the crowds.
So rather than offering God’s carrot, we give a juice-infused vegetable product. Instead of talking about God’s stick, we have a composite-wood particle board which disintegrates at the first sign of resistance. Our gospel truths become watered-down, white-washed, or health-washed. Whatever metaphor you choose, what you see isn’t what you get.
God has made it very clear what His laws are, the consequences of disobeying them, and what we need to do after we have broken them. Yet we hold back. We think that if we spoke honestly about God’s way, people might reject us. And we’re probably right. This is another truth Jesus didn’t shy away from. He warned His followers that they would be hated because of Him.
Many of His disciples also struggled with what He taught about heaven and hell.
“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?”…
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. John 6:60-67
What will my answer be? Once again, I’m faced with a choice.
May I answer like Peter:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. John 6:35
What about you? Which of God’s truths make you cringe? How do you keep yourself from presenting a watered-down gospel?