“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-5  

Do you get really excited over any specific brand names? My Dad, who loves hamburgers, will flip if he sees a sign for a chain called “Fudruckers.” He will immediately start salivating, just thinking about the freshly baked buns, big beef patties, and huge selection of condiments. He’s had consistently good experiences with it across the country. Brand loyalty takes consistency – if the very first Fudruckers my Dad went to had been lackluster, I doubt he would have gone back.  

Today, I’d like to point out a label that we might often forget we are wearing. We have branded ourselves as “Christians.” Acts 11:26 tells us that “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch,” about 2,000 years ago. At that time this was a bold label indeed – amid persecution, they were declaring themselves believers in Jesus, the Christ – the Messiah. They believed as we do, that God himself took on human flesh, lived a perfect life, died, and rose to save humanity; healing the rift between sinful man and Holy God.  They knew their claim was audacious. Do we remember daily that we claim the same holy brand name, the “Name above all names,” the label that says we believe in an Almighty, Loving God?  

I know I have fallen short.

The admission into God’s family is a gift of grace, and with it comes the responsibility and the joy of telling others about God. Paul urges us to humility, gentleness, patience, love, and unity of the Spirit. We are on the front lines representing what it means to be a “Christian.” We often fall short of our “Brand.”

If a Fudruckers had consistently terrible staff, my Dad wouldn’t go there, even if the restaurant still had its signature burgers. In the same way, we cannot serve God’s Word to others without preparing ourselves to serve it, without treating it with the reverence and importance that it deserves. We cannot feed those in need canned lines about God’s love and move on with our day, patting ourselves on the back.  The struggle against sin and the devil is too serious for that. We cannot neglect our own faith, concentrating on the petty concerns of this world, and then switch on the spiritual on Sundays, or “quick, when there’s an emergency!” Our churches may be beautiful, our hymns lovely, our Pastor engaging, but without members of the Church giving their lives in service, the name “Christian” begins to mean very little to those looking in. We are the Body of Christ, a city on a hill, an establishment with a two thousand year old reputation with “Billions Served.”
Praise be to God that he knows that we have fallen short of representing him, fallen short of holiness innumerable times, and yet he still sent his Son to die for us. We have been forgiven much!  He graciously even uses our weaknesses for his glory! Let us then not forget the bold name we bear.  

Anna Sherod, Zion Lutheran in Torrance, CA – Golden West Circuit