Brand names have become so much a part of our lives we seldom think about them. We call the sheet we reach for when we sneeze a Kleenex even if it comes in a store brand box. And would anyone ask for a dark syrup soda in a restaurant? Isn’t it Coke that comes to mind? Some products are recognized not by a name but by a symbol! The swoosh stands for Nike, the alligator for Izod, and the golden arches signal a McDonald’s nearby.
Followers of Jesus are known by a name. We have a recognized symbol too. But sometimes I wonder about the associations that are attached to the name Christian. And I am curious about the thoughts triggered by the sight of a cross. And these days we could also ponder what comes along with being pegged a Presbyterian.
In the Bible we learn that the movement Jesus started with his teaching, healing, liberating, and loving (later known as The Way) grew by invitation. And while the invitation included becoming attached to Jesus personally, it included something much larger than his singular life. When he showed up somewhere, he would reportedly say things like, “The Kingdom of God has come near” or “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Yet it was only after his death and resurrection that people understood the difference Jesus made… a difference that signaled something new in midst of their same old, same old.
William Loader has said, “The invitation to join the movement of God’s Kingdom is not about selling a brand name (“Christian”), but sharing a vision of change in such a way that means real participation in making it real in the here and now. A fellowship of solidarity in commitment and work for change has been created when people who love because of the influence of Jesus join others who love.” (http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkPentecost7.htm)
But is that what most people think about the fellowship known as the church? Could we, would we, will we love under the influence of Jesus’ love in ways that bring newness into others’ same old, same old? Might others experience something they’d like to join? Personally, I find this more compelling than expecting others to buy into a brand name and sign on to a symbol!