When I was little, it seemed that many of the ladies in my church wore a small gold cross on a chain around their necks. My mum had a ‘God keeps his promises’ window sticker on the car, and my youth leader had a Christian fish symbol embossed on his wallet.
To a timid teenager, it seemed a bold move to promote your Christian faith before even opening your mouth, but it also seemed an easy way to proclaim it without having to. Maybe for you, it was WWJD bracelets, Jesus Freak T-Shirts or Sunday School stationary prizes. How did you feel about these symbols? Have you become more, or less bold as you’ve got older? Do you love buying Christian jewellery and gifts or would you rather make your own impression before someone judges you according to what they think a Christian is like?
I never really felt particularly comfortable with these public displays of faith. When I was eight, I’d choose all these cute bible verse stickers from the Christian bookshop (normal ‘buy-it-with-your-own-money’ rules seemed not to apply in a Christian bookshop). Do you remember them? They either showed random animal illustrations and rainbows, lovely pencil crayon drawings of wildlife and children, or smiley emojis before emojis had been invented. Into the 90s, they were neon with zig-zags and capital letters. Well anyway, these were transferred straight from the sheet into the back of my Bible, where I had an enviable collection. Ironic, really, especially as they were intended to be seen by others. One even depicted a huge peanut butter jar, labelled ‘Don’t keep the faith, spread it!’ I found it inspiring but very scary, so in that went, into the spare pages at the back of my Good News Bible.
So, God must have been chuckling last month, when my much-more-self-confident-than-me, evangelise-to-the-whole-class daughter produced an armful of sharpie-decorated rocks depicting several crosses and proclamations of praise. Since lockdown has relaxed the rules on the appropriate place to display artwork and crafts, I agreed to these 3D versions of my hidden sticker collection being put on ‘Prime’-time display. Spread out all over the little table by our front door, no Amazon delivery driver, postman, or visitor to our house (sadly there won’t be any more of those for a while) could miss the words of truth that ‘God made the Mountains’ and Jesus died for them.
It’s been fascinating living with this new ‘badge of faith’ display. I’ve seen a marked difference in how my interactions have panned out ever since the pebbles arrived! And as with all good experiments, I’ve recorded the results:
1) One of our lovely delivery drivers offered to take away some discarded cardboard that I’d left outside the front door. That might have been a coincidence. But he has been especially kind and chatty. Maybe he’ll draw the Ichthys symbol with his foot in the poorly swept kiln-dried sand I’ve just spread on the driveway. I’ll look out for that.
2) Opening the door to the plasterer last week, with me initiating a bit of chat about the ‘Rule of 6’ and how we might miss Christmas with our extended families, he jumped straight in with, “I don’t celebrate Christmas. Never have. The wife does, and the kids”. I was a little taken aback at his need to define his stance, but fair enough since ours has been written in stone outside the house. It didn’t end there – the references to his ex-wife not being a ‘God-fearing woman’ came at coffee break. It is as if he was looking for a discussion about faith, and this is something I wasn’t expecting!
So, in this awful time of very limited interaction, I’m concluding that these Jesus pebbles are a definite way to provoke a reaction. We don’t have the pleasure of making any new friends or investing in long face-to-face chats with our current friends, so maybe this is a temporary fix in terms of evangelism. I much prefer friendship evangelism, where I’m not pre-judged by assumptions or stereotypes about Christians, but I guess there is a time and a place for emblems of faith, and maybe now is the time. As Christians, we can experience joy in all circumstances, because we know the giver of that gift. Maybe we need to be ready to provide a reason to hope.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
What do you think? Where do you stand on this? I’d love to hear your stories – good and bad – of reactions to your chosen symbols of faith. Are they great conversation starters or have they made people act warily around you, feeling that you are judging them? Contact me or comment on our social media platforms.
We are the Bibles the world is reading: we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding.
Whether it’s by being kind and patient, or by giving your testimony on the doorstep, we need to show others what it’s like going through a pandemic with Jesus walking with us.
By Rachel Allcock