There is a bar in my town that in pre-COVID days was a celebrated biker hangout every Sunday afternoon. There was always a live band playing and rows of gleaming Harleys on either side of the street, with people inspecting them as if they were in a showroom.
The riders all would leave their helmets out with their bikes, and I’ve found the helmets to be a study all their own. The most popular look like they are from World War I — some with a spike and various kinds of rebel markings — and a few have little stickers that serve as a sort of biker bumper sticker. One I saw particularly caught my attention because it said, “JESUS LOVES YOU.”
Now I am aware that there are various biker ministries out there where committed followers ride for Christ and seek to spread the word about his grace and forgiveness. I have always loved this – the Gospel in a rebel context – being aware that the message of Christ is in some ways better suited there than it is in more respectable circles. You can’t read about Jesus without coming to the conclusion that he would be right at home with the biker crowd.
But as I got closer to the Jesus sticker, I noticed there was another message in much smaller print underneath the more visible “JESUS LOVES YOU.” It read: “I think you suck” (That isn’t exactly what it said, but you get the gist.)
At first, I was somewhat repulsed. Where I thought I had a Jesus biker, I actually had a form of sacrilege. But the more I thought about it, I realized there probably was more than a kernel of truth in this version of a familiar Christian message.
I can think of times when I might as well have been sporting a “JESUS LOVES YOU; I think you suck” sticker for all the thoughts I harbored toward the people to whom I was announcing His love. And, of a certainty, He does love them. The question is, do I?
“How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” wrote James (2:1), or in the words of John: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20).
It’s not enough just to announce the love of Jesus without loving the same people He loves (which would be everybody). We do not just deliver the message; we are the message. If there are people you simply do not love, then don’t proclaim a message about Jesus’ love because your lack of love or your judgment or condemnation will speak louder than the message.
Before “Jesus loves you” is our message, we need to make sure that we do too. And that ability to love everyone comes through facing our own sin and realizing He loves us, and has forgiven us — which is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Once we do, however, we are in a place where we are looking up to everyone else, and loving them is merely an extension of the fact that God loves and forgives us.