I once heard a comedian describe bumper stickers as a way of saying, “Let’s never hang out.” His point was that bumper stickers are the ultimate expression of someone’s opinion without the ability to respond (or at least I think that’s his point). I mostly agree with that assessment. I’ve talked in this space before about how disagreements and opinions can only be tested and lived out in the context of a relationship with another person where they have the freedom to challenge your assertions. But that’s neither here nor there—I bring up bumper stickers because they embody some of the best and worst about life when it comes to convictions. And really, this isn’t just about bumper stickers. I personally have never wanted to put one on my car. Thankfully, we now have Facebook—here people can air their opinions (be it political, religious, or cultural) and the rest of us can either choose to engage or ignore it. Then, as we choose to engage, everyone gets to assume what our body language, tone of voice, and other things indicate we actually mean!
Snide comments aside, my point about bumper stickers, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, etc. is that they hardly mean anything when it comes to how we really live. Surprisingly, I once saw a bumper sticker that said it best. It read: “Tithe if you love Jesus, anyone can honk.” Now, this is not a discussion about what level of generosity or giving is required of the follower of Jesus Christ. But the point remains clear—lots of people are willing to take a stand if all that is required is raising your hand or proclaiming your allegiance to something when there is no one around to hold you accountable. However, where the rubber meets the road is when taking that stand will really cost you something. To use the illustration of giving once again, my former pastor used to say that lots of people talk about what they’d do for God with a million bucks, but it’s what they’re doing with the ten in their pocket that tells you what’s really important to them.
The same thing is true when it comes to how we announce and proclaim the things that are important to us. How many people went online during the election season to shout their political views from the rooftops? Roughly estimating…it was at least a gazillion people. How many actually voted? How many will actually write a letter to their political leaders? How many will get involved in a civic project that will produce good things for their community? I don’t know the number there, but it’s obviously less than “a gazillion.” This shows a disconnection between what people say they stand for, and what they actually do with their lives. The apostle Paul addressed this issue in Romans 2:15-16: They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
What this means for my life and for yours is that it is not what we said we would do (or what we re-posted that shows we obviously love God or people more than everyone else does) that matters. Yes, intentions do count for something. But, in the final reckoning, it’s a question of what did we actually live like. Did the stands we take result in any sort of action (internal or external to ourselves) that was consistent with who we proclaimed we were? To put it another way: make sure your life follows through on your bumper sticker.