During middle school and the first few years of high school I thought that following Jesus meant wearing Christian clothing. In my eyes, since I had a lot of Christian clothing, I was really good at following Jesus.
I had a military green overcoat with the words Turn or Burn written on the back. I’m pretty sure that I looked like I was trying to start my own militia.
I also had a t-shirt that looked like it said Reebok but it really said Reborn. Get it? Clever.
My favorite shirt had a guy surfing on waves of fire. It said No Surfing in Hell. Below the fire surfer it said, The Lake of Fire Has No Waves. I can’t tell you how many people repented of their sins when they saw that shirt. Okay, I can. Zero.
I know that it’s hard to believe but I got made fun of a few times because of my wardrobe. One girl always made a really mean face at me and called me Jesus.
One day my principal saw my No Surfing in Hell shirt and called me into his office. He gave me a piece of duct tape and a quick lecture about not wearing shirts with curse words written on them. When I walked out of his office my shirt said, No Surfing in (expletive deleted with duct tape).
Now, along with being a serious Christian, I was also a martyr. I kept thinking about how that principal didn’t make people cover up their Motley Crue shirts but he made me cover up my innocent little shirt about there being no surfing in hell. What were all of the people who believed that you could surf in hell going to do now? Injustice!
By the time I was in the 12th grade I decided to tone it down and finally parted ways with my No Surfing in Hell shirt. I also thought that it would be a good idea to keep my faith in Jesus to myself. This seemed to be a brilliant idea because people didn’t make fun of me as much.
Nobody called me Jesus anymore either.
My friend Turk used to always say that you’re a walking billboard for what you believe in. He wasn’t talking about Reborn or No Surfing in Hell shirts. He was talking about obedience. Everyone obeys what they worship. Anyone can put on a t-shirt but only a disciple obeys.
I’m trying to teach that same lesson to my two young sons. When I was a kid, I didn’t just wear Christian t-shirts, I hid behind them. Making a sanctified fashion statement was much easier for me than actually sitting down, getting to know someone and explaining the gospel to them over a period of time. I want to teach my boys to care enough about others to move towards them with the gospel rather than lobbing gospel missles at them.
And I want them to know that you can only be so cool when you believe in and actually live for a God that walked on water and rose from the grave. There will be some things in their lives that they need to tone down but the gospel should never be one of them. It’s worth being laughed at a few times.
If my kids listen to me, they probably will get made fun of.
I hope that one day, not because of the t-shirts that they wear but because of the Lord that they serve, someone calls them Jesus.
Sometimes, words that are intended to be insulting can be the greatest of compliments.