Friday, November 16, 2012


When I was in high school, for some idiotic reason, I found it necessary to wear only Lucky jeans, even at $50 a pop. The reason they were $50 and not $80--because I could shop in the kids section of the store. And to a certain extent, I still can. But that’s beside the point. One of my favorite things to wear was a pair of Lucky jeans and this long-sleeved yellow shirt sporting the Lucky brand shamrock. That outfit probably cost me in the vicinity of $80. The moral of the story is this: I was paying $80 to promote their product to everyone that so much as glanced at me. If you think about it, that's not highly intelligent; after all, brand recognition, marketing and advertising are multi-million dollar business's and I wasn't reaping any of those benefits. I've heard that if you are really desperate for cash, there are some companies that are willing to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for entrepreneurs (I'm not sure that's the correct word here) to tattoo their logo on their body.

If you think about it, this makes all of us a bit too much like cattle. You and I have been branded! To find out, look no further than your closet. On most of my clothes, the company's brand is blatantly obvious. For instance, a pair of shoes I own has the Nike Swoosh 5 times...on each shoe. Isn't that a bit excessive? From where I'm standing, it seems that everything, to a degree, is less about the product and more about the brand. Why else would we pay exorbitant amounts of hard earned cash to purchase one brand over another. Are they really that different, or are we just trying to stand out? And that's another thing, are any of us really standing out when we're all sporting the same brand? Again, my apologies for getting off topic.

Most of us have been told we're not to judge a book by it's cover; but I've come to the realization many of us don't really take it to heart. You and I are constantly making assumptions based on the brands people choose to associate themselves with. The clothes they wear. The cars they drive. The neighborhood they live in. The job they have. Even, the coffee they drink. With each of these brand factors, we have a tendency to determine someones place in our society. If people don't happen to wear certain brands of clothing, we usually conclude they are poor. If they drink a specific brand of coffee, we might deem them sophisticated. If they shop at one store more than another we think they are cheap. Depending on what vehicle someone drives and which part of town their house is located in, we make assumptions about their annual salary. The fact they could be to debt up to their eye-balls doesn't really cross our mind. Even when it comes someones career choice, we tend to determine the importance of that person in society. You are intelligent people, I think you get the picture.

And this kind of branding has infiltrated the church. In all honesty, it's not too much of a shock to hear that, but it really should be. As church-goers, we seem to participate in branding more than our secular counterparts. We brand other churches, making assumptions about how holy they are based on which translation of the Bible they use. We view them as less missional because of the programs they have implemented. We determine how relevant the church is by the style of "worship" they engage in. We brand fellow believers based on what church they attend. Apparently the church they choose to align themselves with must reflect their character and quality of faith. If they go to the church across town they must be shallow. And the biggest problem of all is the judgments we make about one another's eternal salvation based on the sole fact that they don't see eye-to-eye with us on certain moral, cultural, and political issues. But, the branding doesn't stop there. We even brand those outside the church. We try to level judgments against them based solely on the fact they don't attend a church.

All of this discussion leads me to a passage I stumbled across in Scripture the other day. And I admit to you I really did just stumble across it. I glossed right over the short passage at first. To me, it just seemed like filler; which is never the case with the word of God. So I decided to take the time to read it again and soak in what God wanted me to catch. 2 Corinthians 3:18b tells us, "...we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more." So, what does this have to do with talk of branding? And more importantly, what is the principle behind this small passage of Scripture tucked away in this small book of the New Testament?

Let me answer those questions with another question. What does it mean to 'reflect the glory of the Lord?' It seems to me the significance of this passage can be found in John 14:9, when Jesus informs us "Anyone who has seen me has seen the father." Granted, none of us is Jesus, but the implications of this reality extend to you and me as well. A translation for present day believers might go like this, "Anyone who has seen me has seen Jesus." That's a pretty daunting responsibility that has been placed on you and me. Claiming to be a disciple of Jesus means that we are to carry out the work he started. In short, we now wear the brand of Jesus. Unfortunately for most of the world, the brand may of us are sporting is not really the brand of Jesus. Looking to us, many have concluded Jesus must have been a Bible-thumper. Others have come to the conclusion that Jesus was self-righteous. Still some see him as judgmental. While Jesus may have appeared judgmental to the religious, but his life couldn't be classified as such. Yet there are even more who view Jesus as hypocritical because that is how we have portrayed him. If what the world sees in you and me is what they see in Jesus, is it a wonder why they see him as pomp, delusional, ignorant, uneducated, disengaged, or greedy? Because these are the brands many of us have chosen to represent this Jewish carpenter.

What, then, is the brand of Jesus? You might be surprised to discover I'm not talking about some ridiculous fish. And when I talk about the brand of Jesus, Christian trinkets like t-shirts, window clings, Jesus action figures or Testamints aren't even on my radar. The brand we should be sporting has far less to do with outward appearance than any of those. What I'm referring to has less to do with making judgments and casting stones and more to do with loving people, giving them hope and showing them grace. I'm going out on a limb, but I think Jesus might say that 'reflecting the glory of the Lord' can be summed up by "...doing what is right, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God." (In case you are wondering, I didn't just make that part up. It actually came right out of the Bible. Micah 6:8--another small passage of Scripture tucked away and waiting to be discovered.) Or to put it more clearly, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

The brand of Jesus is an interweaving of love, mercy and humility. And now, the biggest question of all. What am I personally doing to bring about a positive re-branding of Jesus? Because as someone so poignantly pointed out in lifegroup, it's easy to be critical of the church, but the responsibility still lies with you and me.