Church signs are a great source of entertainment for many people. I am one of those. But church signs are also a huge source of frustration. There are multiple reasons for that. One of them is the relationship between symptoms and causes.
Causes And Symptoms
These two things are very often confused. The classic example is the common cold. Here is what we treat:
- Runny nose
However, these are symptoms of a cause that remains untreatable. We can relieve the symptoms and get better in about two weeks. And if we don’t relieve the symptoms we will get better in about 14 days! Why? The underlying cause remained. So, why bring this up?
In a very real way, we have the same problem with sinful actions and attitudes. We try to teach and/or enforce outward behavior. And you may recall Pharisees were also very good at doing that! But Jesus taught that outward actions (symptoms) stemmed from the desires and attitudes of one’s heart (the cause). And He did more than diagnose the problem. Jesus gave us His prescription in John 13:34-35. Jesus said:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have love you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
This so impacted the Apostle John that he spent his life’s ministry admonishing Christians to love one another.
The Platinum Rule
A few months ago I heard an outrageous statement. Some corporate, secular leader spoke of his company’s culture like this:
We have improved on the Golden Rule. We operate by the Platinum Rule.
Immediately, Psalm 14:1 went through my mind: The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ The arrogance of anyone who presumes to improve on the Word of God is stunning. The only One Who can open our minds to new levels of understanding God’s Word is God Himself. And that is what Jesus’ did in John 13. How?
In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7), Jesus gave us (Matthew 7:12) what we call the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do to you. That is a restatement of the Second Commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. The Golden Rule version underscores the fact that genuine love is a verb. Love is expressed in actions.
Chapters 13 – 17 of John’s Gospel take place in one night; the night before Jesus was crucified. That ends a progression we need to remember. Notice this progression of instruction – all prior to Jesus’ death:
- 10 Commandments in Exodus: Do not harm your fellow man – no stealing, murdering, lying, adultery, or coveting
- Greatest Commandments: Love God most (rooted in 10 Commandments) – Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:17-18)
- Sermon on the Mount: Outward actions are symptoms of the heart – and the Golden Rule
- John 13: Love as I have love you – Platinum Rule
Loving as Jesus loved is His new commandment. Calling it the Platinum Rule is the only good use I can make of the statement I heard. And it’s a great way to perceive what Jesus commanded us to do. It also leads to church signs. And you may be surprised to know that Jesus guaranteed one sign to work every time! Don’t think so?
I’ve actually heard discussions on the best kind of advertising a church can or should do. Some like the lighted message boards on the highway. Others will advocate for a great church website. And you won’t be able to ignore those that think a Facebook page is a necessity. The truth is, none of those are required and none will work as well as what Jesus guaranteed. And His guarantee is also found in the verses of John 13.
John’s Epistles were written near the end of his life. And they show us that Jesus’ new commandment had a profound impact on John. He constantly reminded his readers to love as Jesus loved. Why? If our love is true, faithful, and well expressed it is enough. Sin is a symptom of an underlying cause. We sin against God because our love for Him is not sufficient. We sin against our fellow-man for the same reason. Self-love is usually far too prominent while love for God and others lags far behind. If love be done well toward God and others, we wouldn’t have to spend too much time correcting outward actions. And we won’t have to spend time and money on advertising of questionable value. Here’s is Jesus’ guarantee, with my emphasis added:
…By this all men will know that you are My disciples you have love for one another.
Why do we need signs by the road or on the internet? Are needed signs a symptom of an underlying cause? Could it be that believers don’t love each other this way? And make no mistake. Jesus’ wasn’t talking about how we love those outside the Church. What is the best church sign? You are! Think about it!
Soli Deo Gloria!
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