Complicating Jesus

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cross and water

I’ve come to realize that the best writing is often on the back of a T-shirt. Sometimes screen printers just get it right. Straight, simple, to the point. 

T-shirt writing brilliance has never been more evident than on this rainy Sunday morning. I’m sitting at the world’s busiest Starbucks, struggling to write a spiritual column built around one of my favorite Juno quotes. Predictably, it’s not going well. Trying to use the word “repartee” without sounding condescending is a tall order.

Right around paragraph three, (Actually, I was only on sentence two. I don’t know why I just lied about that.) a lady with an endearing, Sally Fields look sat down at the table in front of me. Her hair is pulled back and her sandals are impossibly yellow, but it is her T-shirt that catches my attention. On the back of her fading white tee, these words are printed in grey, Lucida Calligraphy font:

text box

Straight, simple, to the point.

A 12-second Google search informs me this prayer will mean more to my liturgical friends than it will to me. Because I don’t speak Catholic, I come to this sentence like I do most things in life, uninformed and unencumbered.  

Forgive my naiveté, but I was simply astounded by the beautiful simplicity in that one sentence. All of a sudden, 600 words about finding Jesus in a Diablo Cody-ism didn’t seem so urgent. Instead, I had found him in a one-sentence synopsis of the gospel of grace.

I guess there is something to be said for simplicity.

Often, I try to make the message of Jesus palatable by adding to it. I did it as a failing church planter, and I still do it today. I want people to like Jesus, so I tether him to a pop culture reference. I view the Gospel as a hip-hop song that just needs a catchy hook to climb the charts.  

It’s an exercise in complicating Jesus.

What about you? Have you ever done this? Have you ever tried to help the Holy Spirit by being his cultural liaison? There’s no doubt He’s thrilled by the way you distressed the font and changed all the s’s to z’s, but I don’t think it’s really necessary.

The truth is your children don’t need you to make Jesus cool for them. Your friends don’t need you to modernize Jesus. Your church doesn’t need you to explain that Jesus would have been down with skinny jeans. None of that matters.

At the end of the day, simple is best.

Even when you hated him, Jesus loved you. You were separated from God, but He changed all of that. He died in your place. Now God forgives you and welcomes you into his family. 

text box

Straight, simple, to the point.

It might not make for a cool mail piece or a trendy Evite, but it’s the message that changed history.

And as a bonus, it makes for a killer T-shirt.

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Columnist, Strategist, Ghostwriter, Marketer, Lasagna enthusiast, Failed church planter, Creator of Facebook.