For a few lovely years, I drove around with a bumper sticker on my car that said, “Truth can’t fit on a sticker.” I had joked at church about wanting a sticker like that and some good people had it custom-made for me. I was really proud of it. Whenever I would come across cars covered in bumper sticker propaganda, I would work really hard to get my car right in front of theirs, bringing the idea of “passive-aggressive” to a whole other level.
I loved the sticker for really nerdy reasons. I loved how true it sounded but how its very presence contradicted its truth. Sadly, the sticker was irretrievably lost when I tried to move it from my old car to my new one, but it still lives on in my heart.
I find myself frustrated with a world that reduces ideas and people to sound bites and litmus tests. We all seem to know that we’re dividing and breaking off into factions, but we’re letting it happen. I’m guilty too. I’m guilty of writing people off when I find out they disagree with me on some key issue about God, or politics, or television shows. (“So you like Two and a Half Men? Let’s never speak to each other again.”)
A couple weeks ago, at a busy intersection, I decided to let a truck pull out in front of me. This is a rare occurrence for me, so I spent a solid few seconds congratulating myself on my growth as a gracious human being. But as the truck got in front of me, I noticed it was sporting a bumper sticker expressing support for a big Idea that I’m against. I would tell you what the sticker said but I’m afraid roughly half of America would dismiss anything else I say if I show my real hand on the mystery issue. Instead I’ll just admit that I kind of wanted a “take-back.” Now that this sticker had turned my fellow driver into an enemy, I wanted him to wait a few more seconds before he made his way down the road.
I also wanted him to know that I, his dreaded enemy on the other side of this particular spectrum, had granted him a moment of kindness. I wanted him to know that my kind of people, the kind of people his people rally against, are capable of momentary goodness. In other words, I didn’t want him to see me the way I had seen him. I wanted him to see me as a fully-formed person, even as I was dismissing him and calling on the traffic gods to frustrate him in the near future.
It was a roughly ten-second traffic encounter but it showed me a painful truth about myself and the world. Many of us are letting the power of stickers and labels ruin us. Both the labels we attach proudly to ourselves and the ones we see on others.
And because of this, we’re missing each other. We’re missing the kind of wisdom that comes with seeing the world how someone else sees the world. We’re missing the kind of character that comes from listening and respecting each other. We’re wasting the time we could be building things together by tearing it all apart.
Further down the road, I thought about Jesus gathering his twelve disciples to sit around the same table. He called Simon the Zealot, a guy who wanted to overthrow the government, to be one of his beloved friends and representatives. He also called Matthew the tax collector, a guy who collected money on behalf of the government, to tell the world about the kingdom of God.
Sometimes I think the greatest gift the church might give the world these days is a table that seats everyone. Even as I type that, I’m fighting the urge to write, or think, “Everyone except those guys.” Maybe you have your list too. Maybe the first thing we could all say when we sit around together is, “I’m not sure you should be here.” And maybe Jesus, as the truly gracious host, would kindly point out just how much we have in common when it comes to being unworthy, but somehow still invited.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious
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