Honk if You Love Jesus

John 15:9-17 (The Message)
9-10"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.

11-15"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.

16"You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17"But remember the root command: Love one another.

This week I was at the Family Christian Book store in Saginaw looking at some Bibles… and saw these t-shirts hanging on the wall.

With slogans like:

Faith Rocks!

I Love JC

Jesus Saves

Of course the ‘ole stand by: WWJD, What would Jesus Do?

They reminded me of a t-shirt a friends of mine has: “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our T-Shirts.”

It was supposed to be a joke, but he admittedly has a TON of Christian t-shirts. And for the longest time he said that they made him feel like he was wearing his faith.

Many people think they are a visual representation to the world what they are indeed a card carrying, T-shirt wearing Christian.

These kinds of faith visual- aids are all around us. We are a culture that loves visual aids.

Billboards along the highway…

What are some of those “God one’s…”

My Way is the Highway.

Let’s Meet at My House, Sunday before the Game.

Life is Short, Eternity Isn’t.

Then there are the bumper stickers on the cars of people wearing Christian T-shirts as we drive pasts the God billboards.

My favorite being of course “Honk if You Love Jesus.” By the way, you really shouldn’t do what the bumper sticker says, at least at a red light. I made that mistake one day of being behind someone with that bumper sticker. I was feeling snarky and responded with a little toot of my horn. The individual in that car rolled down his window and started yelling at me with all sorts of words that… well let’s just say weren’t exactly “Jesus loving.”

I guess that’s where the whole t-shirt, bumper sticker, bill board, yard sign… take your pick of Christian visual aids, are problematic. We get out our visual aids of faith; stick them on ourselves or on our car and think “Well there!” Now everyone will know that I am a Christian.

The problem is Jesus didn’t say that we will know you are a Christian by your bumper sticker. Even though we haven’t sung the hymn yet, you know where I am going with this… “They Will Know We are Christians By our Love.”


We sing about being Christian, but the funny thing is Jesus doesn’t even talk about being a Christian, with its set of theological ideals and moral expectations.

Jesus doesn’t talk about being a church or denomination with doctrines, polity and ecclesiological expression.

He talks about love.

Love isn’t related at all to our brand of belief, what our t-shirts say, how “right” our theology is compared to another denomination or even religion. I realize this is bordering on heresy, but if we are going to take Jesus commandments seriously loving others is way more important than what the Book of Order says.

For Jesus’ love came from experience, from being in connection with God and God’s kingdom.
It might be helpful to know that Jesus words in the Gospel of John come right before Jesus is crucified. It is a little out of order for us in the church calendar since we are on the sixth Sunday of Easter and the crucifixion and resurrection stories have come and gone. But Jesus is telling his disciples God loves you, I love you. If you want to truly experience that love, you have to love other people. Love has to be an “other- centered” action.

Not a doctrine.

Not a belief.

Not a denomination or religion.

And not a T-shirt.

The disciples weren’t always known for responding to Jesus words in the best of ways, but can you imagine if they had responded to Jesus upcoming crucifixion by putting up a yard sign or wearing a t-shirt that said: Jesus Loves.

And given the situation they were facing, the disciples could have very easily stayed isolated, remained only with themselves and stuck a sign out in the yard.

The Johanine community, the people who the Gospel of John first addressed is just a generation or two following the resurrection and they could have responded to their situation that way too. They were facing all sorts of persecution and ostracism because of their faith. They might have been tempted to turn inward, loving God (of course) and one another in the community they were directly a part of. Concentrating on their own survival, forgetting about the rest of the world. Forgetting about the pagans, the Jews, the Gentiles…

Instead, Jesus lays on them a different ethic, one that will transform the world rather than judge or run away from it.

How different are we today? Centuries later. Sure Christianity isn’t persecuted like the early Christians. I do believe churches across the global landscape face a different kind of persecution. Complacency and isolation. We have turned inward on ourselves, concerned only about our own survival, passing judgment on other religions even other Christians who don’t follow our particular doctrine or moral code. We put up our sign, we wear our t-shirt: The question still remains: Are we living it? Are we loving?

Jesus' commandment to love provides a clear, comprehensive framework for forming values in every age and every situation, no matter how different our cultures, our technologies, our "sophistication." We ask ourselves then about every decision and choice and plan and vision: Is this rooted in love? Does this bear fruit for the kingdom of God? That's the true test.

We live in a country that continues to debate its identity as a Christian nation. And I can't helpf but wonder why so many Christians use the term"Socialism" (with great fear and accusation in their voice) every time our nation moves toward greater sharing with one another, and tries to alleviate the suffering of those on the margins. Do we just not get it?

One of the most haunting experiences I’ve had recently was when I attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church last summer.

A friend of mine went to an event that was planned to raise awareness about homelessness. Sitting there listening to the well-educated, well paid, and well dressed speaker as they all ate their dinners, a man who appeared to be hungry and without a place to call home, walked in.

The speaker continued talking.

The people continue their eating.

The homeless man, looking hungry and tired looked around at all these well meaning Presbyterians absorbed in the speaker add left. My friend Susan (who ironically at the time was a Pentecostal) couldn’t believe what just happened. She actually stopped the speaker and called attention to the situation. A gathering of Christians, talking about raising awareness about homelessness, and they all sat there clueless and unobservant. It is like they all had their t-shirts on about loving others and calling that good enough!

What if we, as a community and as individuals did more than just pretend to love each other?

What if this morning as we celebrate the baptism of Callie Conwill we do more than just to pretend teach her how to follow Christ by sprinkling some water on her head?

What if we promise to teach her the radical and transformative of love of Jesus Christ by the way we live our lives in the world?

Not just when the baptismal waters run down her forehead.

Not just when we have our t-shirts on.

Not just when we are here in this building.

We promise to guide and nurture Callie and everyone whom God has chosen, by loving one another as Christ has loved us.

Callie needs these promises fulfilled. We all do. We need to know that people love us. That we takes these promises seriously and actually love one another through our actions.

We need to know we are Christians by our love. Not our billboards, our theological differences, or our Presbyterian Book of Order.

By our love.

A love that God first blessed us with in the person of Jesus Christ.

A love that Jesus lived from being in connection with God and God’s kingdom.

From authentic, intimate relationship with God, with his disciples, with his family, with strangers in the crowd, with the diseased, the dead, the outcast, the poor, religious hypocrites, the atheists…

We all need to know we are followers of Christ, by our love. Amen.


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