I got suckered in to buying a six dollar toothbrush the other day when I was grocery shopping. I knew I needed a new one, so I went to the toothbrush isle and looked at row after row of toothbrushes. Normally, I’m a 2-pack for $0.97 kind of guy, but I was feeling a little edgy that day or something, ready for a change. You’d be amazed at how many different kinds of toothbrushes there are; my usual go-to basic value ones, electronic ones, some that reach to the very back, ones with tongue scrubbers, some that play music in your mouth, some that gently massage your gums, soft bristles, hard bristles, rubber bristles. It’s insane, really. I just want to brush my teeth. And somehow, out of all these choices, I landed on the Oral-B Pulsar with “vibrating bristles for a deeper clean, breaks up plaque between teeth”. Six dollars is a lot to spend on a toothbrush, but the way I see it, six bucks is not a lot to revolutionize your life. I left the toothbrush isle with a feeling that this Pulsar was specifically designed for me, that it had everything I needed in a toothbrush, and maybe even more.
Advertisers want you to believe that you don’t choose the product, but that the product chooses you. The Pulsar chose me.
Out of probably 75 different types of toothbrushes, I felt like it chose me. Like a child coming home from a good experience at the dentist with a sample-sized tube of sparkly toothpaste, I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out.
In a few months though, the bristles will become frayed, the battery will die, and I will find myself back on the toothbrush isle, looking to satisfy my dental needs and desires yet again.
This is how I treat the gospel of Jesus too.
I stand in an isle and look around at all of the different choices and variations, denominations and churches, and I make my decision. There are evangelicals, charismatics, conservatives, reformed, Lutherans, baptists, liberals, gay-friendly, gay-hating. There’s Westboro, Lifechurch.tv, Mars Hill, and Lakewood. There are churches that meet in gymnasiums, strip malls, bars, and old arenas.
The church wants you to believe that you didn’t find them, that they…I mean Jesus…found you.
You’ll walk out of a place after hearing a sermon, and believe that this church was specifically designed for you, from the way they make your coffee just right, or by the way they all wear TOMS shoes and dress like you, you believe it was made for you.
We feel as if when we find the right church or the right preacher, that all of our problems and sins will melt away like tartar and plaque buildup.
Church is not the gospel of Jesus.
The gospel of Jesus is the gospel of Jesus.
It amazes me how many bells and whistles we can throw on to Jesus and his simple gospel. This, coming from a Christian writer where it’s sort of my job to throw the bells and whistles on Him, make Him really relevant and cool for you. I think we have a problem of searching too hard, looking too deep, and ignoring the parts we don’t like in the Bible. Now, Jesus said some weird things, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it’s that complicated, is it? I mean, it’s not a code or anything, there isn’t fine print anywhere. But we go around picking and choosing, and often times adding, what we like the best to custom build our own gospel like it’s a tooth brush or something. This one vibrates and has rubber bristles, and this one allows me to be a hippy and just love everyone. This one fights cavities, and this one helps me sleep at night knowing that God is in charge of making me rich. This one has hard bristles, and this one allows me to keep my image, to let me party on the weekends, and keeps me from telling my friends about Jesus.
And we will stand in the isle until we find the gospel that fits us just right, and we take it and put it in our basket.
If the gospel of Jesus were really like a toothbrush, I think it would be a costly but basic toothbrush. It wouldn’t have bright colors or be battery operated. It would be costly, but once you got it, you’d understand why it was worth it.
The gospel of Jesus cannot be tailor made into a gospel where we feel comfortable and at ease. It has to be uncomfortable and unstable, because Jesus loves being weird like that. It is not “a little of this and a little of that” it’s the whole thing. You can’t pick and choose the kind of Jesus you want to worship. You can’t worship the hippy Jesus of the New Testament without worshiping the wrathful God of the Old Testament. And you can’t worship the hippy Jesus without worshipping the Jesus in Revelation that comes back with a sword and kicks some ass.
Show me that toothbrush.
I, like 99% of the things I write about, write this to you because I struggle with it as well. I love the part where Jesus talks about his love and grace and how is yoke is easy and his burden is light, but tend to skip over that part where he talks about separating the sheep from the goats and how the goats go to hell. I love where he talks about how I’m forgiven, but not so much when he tells me to forgive others and to confess my sins.
But, I have to take the whole gospel in.
Advertisers and churches want you to believe that they have what you need, the thing that will make your life easy and perfect. They want you to think that they have what will fix your marriage, your bad breath, and your gas mileage all with one product. But if you can somehow manage to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of advertisements, to walk away from the isle of pitches and promises, you’ll find a God ready to show you his product, his gospel, his way, his Kingdom. It might not be what you are searching for, it may not fix your gingivitis, it might not fit you like a glove, it won’t be easy, but it will be good, and it will be the gospel of Jesus.