As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
My husband and I have been shopping for new kitchen appliances in anticipation of a kitchen remodel later this year. As we browse through the appliance store, at first glance it’s easy to spot the winners. Brand names we’ve used in the past and always trusted. Deep discounts and rebates. The trendy “black stainless steel” that would look great with our new colors. Many newer models have Wi-Fi connectivity. Brands, bells, and whistles easily draw us in.
But before we buy, we’ve learned to check the ratings. Consumer Reports and customer reviews give us a deeper look. The brands we had been eyeing, the features we thought we wanted, are now under scrutiny. And they don’t all live up to their names or their hype.
In today’s society, Christians are also under scrutiny. Our “brand” is being reviewed daily by those who know us and those who don’t. Do our reviews live up to our name? How does the label “Christian” or “Christ-follower” match up with what’s on the inside? Let’s look at our brand and review how we measure up.
No one wants to buy a fake product. We’ve all seen them. At flea markets. Online. We’re sucked in by a price that’s too good to be true. That’s usually because it is. When we buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, we don’t want knockoffs. We want authentic Ray-Bans.
Our friends and acquaintances can also spot a fake. Slapping the name “Christian” on our foreheads when it serves our purposes or allows us to attend our Sunday morning social club does not make us Christian. A Christ-follower strives to imitate Christ throughout all of life. Our model on Sunday morning, that is our humble Savior, is the same model we are called to imitate on Monday morning and Saturday night, and every hour in between. Are we living authentic Christian lives?
I once had an oven that went into self-cleaning mode in the middle of baking my casserole for supper. The temperature cranked up to 500 degrees, and the door locked. The only way to shut it down was to cut off the power. When it finally cooled down, we opened the door to find a lovely ash casserole in the unbroken Pyrex dish.
We often see our Christian “brand” get overheated as well. Under the name “Christian,” we’ve seen social media accounts turn up the heat in anger, accusation, and name calling. Jesus had plenty to be angry about, but more often than not he showed love to those he disagreed with. He remained cool-headed even when unjustly accused. How are we doing in maintaining the humility of Christ and a consistent warmth toward those we don’t see eye to eye with? Are we like the oven that goes bonkers or like the Pyrex dish that won’t break, even under pressure?
Reviews for appliances that are unreliable will quickly change a buyer’s mind. We want refrigerators that will last. A stove that won’t require a service call. A dishwasher that goes to work for us once or twice a day for years without a breakdown. That’s reliability.
What makes a reliable Christian? Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love God above all. He didn’t add “when it’s convenient” or “when it serves our purposes.” Through troublesome times, Jesus calls us to be steadfast in our faith. Do we stand by our words and follow through with our promises to pray for others and to lend a helping hand? Do we make decisions that promote justice and peace? How reliable are Christians today?
That trendy black stainless steel I mentioned above? It’s very tempting with its shiny surface in dark tones. But on further review, I discovered that several brands achieve the look with a thin black plastic coating applied to the stainless steel. That plastic can scratch off, chip, flake, and peel over time. Unhappy customers give poor reviews due to the unsightly appearance.
What about our Christian image? To hide our flaws, we often put on a shiny outward appearance. We let others see only our plastic coating. But we are all sinners underneath. When we pretend to be perfect, we will only disappoint those who at some point see our true nature. In the long run, we will mar the name we represent. Jesus has called us to admit our failings, confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness. A true finish, like distressed wood that shows its faults, is more attractive than a thin facade that eventually wears off.
Branding is everywhere. We find labels on kitchen appliances, but also on grocery store items, online influencers, big businesses, sports teams. The list is endless. But a brand name means nothing without the reputation that follows. Once that reputation is marred with unfavorable reviews, shoddy quality, poor service, or scandal, it's difficult to reclaim that title for good.
Thankfully, our Christian brand stands on a solid foundation. Christ’s reputation for authenticity, self-control, reliability, and humility is unmatched. His kingdom will come despite our failings. Though our representation may be flawed, he can turn our weakness into his strength.
Through humility and love, others will see that the brand “Christ-follower” is more about “Christ” and what he stands for than about us as his followers and our failings. His name is above all names.