Ditch the Bumper Sticker Mentality
We’ve all seen that car on the highway or at a red light. It’s the one that has the rear bumper plastered in every sort of extreme viewpoint, saying, and clever cliché out there. Some are vulgar, some are heavy-handed, some are humorous, some are left-wing, some are right-wing, and some are just strange.
What person goes to such lengths to get their point across? I’d argue that these car owners are not the only ones with bumper sticker mentality. In fact, I’d say we all suffer from it now and again.
Picture that sticker-shocked car in front of you at a red light. You’re reading and getting dozens of messages sent to you in a matter of seconds. But, you can’t respond to this person’s messages. Bumper stickers inherently operate on a one-way communication channel. They can certainly inspire conversation when a car is parked, but in that moment when most people see the stickers, you’re forced to sit in your driver’s seat and take in the message (or avert your gaze).
No feedback. No clarification. Just a mouth-opened, ears-shut broadcast of views and opinions.
Do we ever do this in our day-to-day, face-to-face interactions?
It sure makes the message delivery process easier. But it’s not authentic. If we’re going to have real conversations with one another—parent and child, husband and wife, employee and employer, Christian and atheist, person 1 and person 2—we need to welcome and engage with feedback.
This two-way communication process is certainly a lot messier. And it makes us vulnerable—we even open ourselves up for conflict! But sharing the gospel requires such measures. Think of Jesus: his ministry is not based on standing on a soapbox or distributing leaflets. He builds relationships with people. How else is the Great Physician supposed to bring healing if he doesn’t connect with the patients that need him so desperately?
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:29-32)
My challenge for you and me is to ditch the bumper sticker mentality that catches us thinking up a response before the other person has finished his or her sentence, that catches us only reading and watching and listening to things we agree with 100%, that catches us using social media as a bullhorn instead of a telephone.
Christians, we are at the front of the line on this one. If we expect to be light in this world, and if we want to share Jesus genuinely, we need to stop using the gospel like a bumper sticker.
- Because we’re instructed to first understand, then be understood. (James 1:19)
- Because God uses two-way communication with us. (Isaiah 1:18)
- Because a thoughtful answer is better than shouting your viewpoint. (Proverbs 15:1)
- Because our words show others we care for their soul. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Because talking just to talk may have the opposite effect. (2 Timothy 2:16)
- Because our words have an impact. (Proverbs 12:18)
May we heed Paul’s advice to the early church: that our speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how we ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6).