As much as I love reading bumper stickers, I rarely display them myself. To me they are kind of like tattoos – there’s no one, brief message, by which I would want to be defined as a human being – or even just as a motorist. Not even those cute stick families, or an ichthus (the fish shape Christians use to identify themselves to one another). Both are still loaded symbols that might convey to someone a disdain for them I do not have, or a vanity to which I do not subscribe.
Sometimes I am tempted, in my love of back bumper bling, to try to create a collage of stickers that somehow defies the stereotypes I fear reinforcing. What if a put my pro-life “Motherhood is a proud profession” sticker next to my “Obama Biden 2012” sticker, add a hopeful, “Jesus loves you,” throw in a cheesy, “smile, it makes people wonder what you’re up to,” and then top it off with a snarky, “Don’t worry what people think, they don’t do it very often.” It would be kind of fun to add the stick family of Star Wars characters, too. Would the people behind me at a stop light, from whichever camp of abortion, politics, religion, contemplation, or Sci-Fi, be confused and angry, or marvel at my breadth of commitments and sense of humor?
Last week, someone proved to me why no message can ever stand alone, as a testimony to the world about who you are and what you are about. My husband had a campaign sticker on the back of his truck, and we came out of a store to find a note tucked under our windshield wiper.
Perhaps this person thought they were going to have a laugh at our expense, and I’m sure they proudly boasted about the pile of these photocopied greetings that they had distributed during election season. But what does anyone gain from calling someone else an idiot, based on one, small modicum of information about that person? If you are going to call yourself a “good Samaritan,” I suggest you pull open your scriptures and actually read the story. Jesus’ story redefined community, illustrating that those who agree with you, who publicly claim to operate out of the same perspective, are often of no value to you in your time of deepest need – real community has to do with reaching out to one another, past divisions and divides, and offering our best to one another in every circumstance. Labeling someone “idiot” is in direct conflict with the story of the good Samaritan.
This note tells me, from this one, small modicum of information I now have, that the writer is not a faithful, generous servant of Christ, using the blessing of freedom to build up our country and make the world a better place, but instead a judgmental, divisive person, who has done their candidate and their Creator a great disservice, by spreading ill-will in their name.
But I would like to push myself, unlike this “good Samaritan,” to look the past one, hopefully small, shortcoming I see in this person, and remember there is an entire person on the other side. I’d like to believe that they are actually a good person, with a misguided sense of humor. I’d like to hope they will offer me the same grace when I cut them off on the freeway, forget to use my blinker, or accidentally swerve into their lane while avoiding a fallen branch. I hope they can join me in attempting to offer less judgment, and more acknowledgement of our commonalities.
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29