April 16, 2021

What Would Jesus Think About These Shirts?

Jesus died for my space in heaven When I was on my honeymoon with my beautiful wife, we went to different shops and one of them was a T-Shirt shop.  They had a whole rack of “Christian T-Shirts”  much like the ones available at Unkle Makk’s ChristiantShirtshop.  They have expressions like the shirt you see to your right, You To be, and other take offs of popular culture.

I picked up one that played off the whole online thing (stating “Unlimited Access” and having a picture of the Bible).  My wife picked up one that said “The Original Navy”– a take off of “Old Navy” (except it would have been more clever if it had referenced Noah’s Ark rather than Jesus and the disciples in the boat.

But seriously, what do you think God thinks of our desire to co-op the popular, the temporal and somehow Christianize it?  This question usually comes in around Christmastime, when we think of the date that we celebrate, but my question is what do you think about our propensity to take what is popular and try to make it Christian?

I tend to think that this is antithetical to the ministry.  I know that Paul took the “Shrine to the Unknown God” on Mars Hill to make a point about being the Creator, but it doesn’t seem to me to be the equivalent of taking the world’s music, the world’s holidays, and the world’s popular things and trying to make them something other than what they are.

Paul didn’t say “Here’s who this Unknown God is– so, go ahead and worship him over there at the idol (even though that isn’t who He is).”  Paul started with something familiar and then went from there to introduce something unfamiliar.  He took the popular and said “there’s something more, something better.”

I’m not saying that Christian T-Shirts are bad.  What I’m trying to say is that I believe that we tend to take the high teachings of Christ and try to associate it with pop-culture in an attempt to be cool or something and we actually disgrace the name of Christ, or make Him out to be less than He is.

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14 thoughts on “What Would Jesus Think About These Shirts?

  1. I sometimes wonder myself whether that tactic is lending too much credence to the way of the world.

    Then again, how much do polished sermons (that is, the standard thereof), pastoral resumes, democratic churches, pastor-politicians, government-defined marriages (and divorces), christian lawyers, denominational heirarchies, church dress-codes, divisions regarding types of music, incorporated churches, legally binding membership contracts, legalistic requirements above the Word of God, and the like, also disgrace the Name of God, adulterating, diluting and cheapening the Gospel of Truth as a harlot?

  2. The slogan seems to say more about the person wearing it than about the teachings of Jesus imo.

    If you’re going to do something like that why not wear something that Jesus actually said such as ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. It might make people stop and think.

  3. Personally, I think these shirts are great. Jesus went where the sinners were, and in their own way, that’s what these shirts are attempting to do. Pop culture is huge. And there’s nothing wrong with using it to bring Jesus to people.

  4. I like Christian t-shirts. 🙂 I’ve bought a few for my husband, and he seems to appreciate them too. If we were trying to mock God, I would see it as a bad thing. However, I think that a lot of people just want to express their faith in a way that makes it in-your-face-obvious, which can be a conversation starter. I think that many more folks need to keep in mind that their actions need to be aligned with what they preach though. A couple months ago, I was a little freaked out when we were nearly ran off the road by a person who was driving like a jerk. Then they cut us off, because apparently the speed limit was too low, and we saw the ‘Jesus fish’ emblem on their car….

    I was so frustrated that I felt like my head was going to pop like a balloon. I can image that it’s much the same way when someone is walking through the store with their kids, wearing their Christian apparel, all the while screaming and cussing at their little ones for misbehaving.

  5. The thing that I wrestle with on this topic is the question of whether wearing these shirts actually cheapens the Gospel– hand with me here.

    We serve a God that created the entire Universe– He’s that huge. When the priests went before Him in the Old Testament, they had specific apparel (white, clean) and had things that they had to do (wash, sacrifice, etc.)

    Now, I’m not saying that the barriers between us and God still exist– praise God they do not! Nor am I saying that it’s wrong to wear the shirts. But I do wonder if we’ve made the Living Truth common when we attach Him to every modern, pop-culture thing that passes our way.

    Jesus as the American Idol, Jesus as Mountain Dew, Jesus as a man working out in a gym…

    Some time ago Andrew Lloyd Webber came out with “Jesus Christ Superstar”– and I refuse to sing that song because I consider it blaspheme. Making Jesus anything but God is to soil His name.

    And I understand that Jesus went where others would not. He ate with publicans and sinners. He went by those that were with leaporsy and healed them– but He did not go somewhere that would soil His name. He did not visit a house of ill-repute– He didn’t even to go the house of the Samaritan woman, but she came to Him.

    Do the shirts– and I’m asking, not sure here– make Jesus less God and more common? And is that something that’s acceptable or something that one should refrain from?

  6. There is one of these shirts that I actually really like. It’s kind of subtle and the person wearing it better be humble. It says, “I am the wretch the song talks about.” I find that shirt to be very powerful. Some of these other cheeky shirts with modern slogans just seem to be irreverent, or a way for people to appear cool to the culture, but without directly embracing the culture. Dunno. MIn explained it best, I think. 🙂

  7. MInTheGap writes:
    but He did not go somewhere that would soil His name

    Ohh but He did! The religious folk of the day were constantly accusing Jesus for the people he spent time with, the houses he went to, etc. They even called Him a drunkard and a glutton!

    The Bible may not record Jesus specifically visiting a brothel, but a woman named Mary, a known ‘sinner’ kissed his feet in front of a pharisee!

    Is T-Shirt theology cheap, common, elementary and silly? Absolutely! I’m not afraid to say it. If you’re best chance of witnessing to someone is though a shirt that says “Jesus is MY final answer” (who wants to be a millionaire) then you really need to step outside yourself. Goodness, go get a passport and visit the third world for crying out loud! It just might help you get more in touch with reality!

  8. PrincessJami– you’re right, there are good ones and then there are pathetic ones. Ones that are trying to draw attention to the wearer and those that are trying to draw attention to God.

    Granted, Arthur, he did get reviled for visiting Zacheus in his house (eating with a publican), but there was a line. It’s one thing to be invited into someone’s house to dine, it’s another to frequent places that have nothing but wrong connotations. Eating with someone that is a sinner is different from frequenting an establishment where sin takes place.

    Also, we have to take into account who was making the accusations. In both of these cases, it was the religious leaders that were telling him that he wasn’t holding a high enough standard– it wasn’t people that looked at him and said “why did he go there?”

    I don’t know– like I said, it’s a fascinating conversation and I really like how you ended your comment that a t-shirt shouldn’t be a crutch.

  9. I know what you’re getting at MIn, about where Jesus went and where He didn’t go. Of course, you are right, Jesus did not frequent places where open sin was flagrantly practiced (except of course the Temple). Though Paul the Apostle, it seems, did visit pagan temples, some of which may (and this is a stretch I admit) have been sexual temples.

    Also remember that to the Pharisees of old, dining with a tax collector (for occupying Rome)was like sacrelige, blasphemy and abominable sin. The Pharisees taught and practiced a total seperation from those they called sinners.

    But Jesus did visit the home of a Pharisee, and according to God, the Pharisees were unrepentant sinners who practiced heresy day in and day out, therefore He most certainly did goto places where sin was commonly practiced.

    I guess it’s not that I’m trying to split hairs here, but I’m trying to illustrate a theme in the new testament wherein sin is all around, even in the religious establishments. I think it’s very imporant as Christians to acknowledge our sin as part of our testimony to the unbeliveing. It’s central to the Gospel of Christ that we fall short of God’s standard every day, for if it were not so, we would not need a Savior.

    And I would also challenge you to look at the wording you’re using: “it’s another to frequent places that have nothing but the wrong connotations.” The connotation of eating with a publican at the time was treason against Israel and against God; it was perhaps viewed as something worse than using a prostitue. See, in the eyes of the Pharisees, there was no difference between eating with a ‘sinner’ and visiting a brothel.

    Look at the places of ill-repute today: Crackhouse, bar, stripclub, etc… how about Al-Qaeda meetings? What about Unitarian Universalists? What if I went to a Mosque to preach Christ? A Mosque is a place where a false god is worshipped… certainly that stacks up to prostitution on the ‘sin scale’.


    Check that one out!

    As far as the T-shirts, where can I get this ‘Amazing Grace’ shirt? That’s great! I think it doesn’t fall under the intentions of the argument though… Obviously it falls under the letter of the definition, and that’s probably the point: Some t-shirt slogans might be cheesy and disrespectful of God, but others might uplift His name quite effectively, and it’s often up to the wearer to determine what T-shirt, when and where is appropriate to uplift the name of God as oppose to cheapening it.

    This is the case with all things of course, it’s impossible to make a hard and fast rule about what is socially right and socially wrong because there are so many micro-chasms of society, and there are so many varying ideas and perceptions… it’s what’s known as chaos… when the variables are so vast they cannot be accounted for by mere humans.

  10. Certainly, you could make the argument persuasively that sin is everywhere, but certain places are more identified with sin than others. Religious leaders at the time believed that eating with a publican was a sin– but it wasn’t. Just like they believed that Jesus shouldn’t walk through the field eating grain on the Sabbath. Jesus was constantly challenging the religious leaders as to what was sin and what was being added to the Scriptures.

    I don’t ever remember an instance of Paul going into a heathen temple.

    Again, look at Jesus ministry– a majority of it was people coming to Him, not the other way around. It was before many witnesses. It was in places that were not known for open sin.

    I would say that walking into a place that has open sin (a brothel, a bar, a Satanic cult meeting, etc.) would be something that God would not want you to do. Wait outside and approach them as they come out? Sure. Preach the Word from across the street? Go ahead. Meet their needs at the local food pantry? Definitely.

    As for the shirts– there are some that are fine, there are some that are borderline and there are some that make the name of Jesus low. They should be dealt with appropriately.

  11. MInTheGap writes:
    “Certainly, you could make the argument persuasively that sin is everywhere”

    Do not the Holy Scriptures tell us this very Truth?

    MInTheGap writes:
    “I don’t ever remember an instance of Paul going into a heathen temple.”

    Acts 17:16-23

    MInTheGap writes:
    “Jesus was constantly challenging the religious leaders as to what was sin and what was being added to the Scriptures.”

    Which is precisely my intent. So where do the scriptures tell us it is sin to enter places ‘known for sin?’

    What defines a ‘place known for sin’?

    Afterall, Christ taught (by the understanding of men) radically new standards of righteousness and a new covenant.

    So are we basing out ideas of what is ‘sin’ or ‘open sin’ or a ‘place known for sin’ on what people say about it or on what God has said about it?

    It seems to me that Christ made it clear that open sin was being commited in the Temple. But He went there often.

    So what makes the sin practiced in the Temple any more clean than the sin practiced in a bar? The way society perceives it?

    Is it wrong for me to enter a Jewish Synagogue? Or to enter a Unitarian Universalist ‘church’? Is that sin? Or is the sin in the way it would be viewed by certain people?

    Where do the scriptures tell us it is sin to do whatever men see as shameful?

    But we are commanded to Love and to lay down our lives.

    MIn, a blog is not a fair place for these sorts of conversations really because I have too much opportunity to scrutinize your every word. But, I couldn’t help but think about the title of this entry… What Would Jesus Think… hmm… I’m not saying it’s your intent, at least not consciously, but do you realize that to ask what Jesus ‘would’ think about something kinda makes it sound like He’s not really around?

    God is not about a moral code. God is not about living life a certain way. God is not about changing the culture in which we live for the better. God’s not about what t-shirt you wear. God is not about what building you walk into. God is not about how you vote. God is about knowing you personally, and marrying himself to you. God is about the two becomming one. And that can only be done through the shed blood of Jesus. If we know God by the Law then we do not know God at all. But we must find God through the Son.

  12. Acts 17:16-23 doesn’t reference a heathen temple– at least so far as I understand it. The place referred to here was an amphitheater, a place of discussion, not a place of worship.

    I Thes 5:22 – Avoid all appearance of evil.

    When Christ went to a public place identified as a place of worship to God, He took the opportunity to confront and purge the sin. As we acknowledged at the beginning of your comment, every place will have sin (we can’t even worship God perfectly when we try…), but the place itself has a purpose.

    What makes the practiced in the Temple different than the sin practiced in the bar? Why people were gathered there. People gathered in the Temple to worship God– a majority of people there were not there to make a profit. When people gather in a bar they gather to drink and get drunk.

    It’s not wrong to enter a Synagogue or a Unitarian Universalist “church” as long as you are not going there to worship with them. And no one is going to look at a person entering those places and think “he’s going to commit fornication, he’s going to get drunk, he’s going to do X”…

    “What Would Jesus Think” could be construed as you say, it could be taken as a parody of the current popular phrase “What Would Jesus Do” since the topic at hand was the intersection of pop culture and true Christianity, or it could be simply taken as “What Would Jesus Say — if He were asked?” I think that the latter makes my point and what was intended.

    I believe that we spend a lot of time thinking about what we believe would be cool, what we want to do to be clever or stylish and not enough about how it reflects on our Creator– which, if you read through my comments and the original post (at least I hope I’ve wove it in)– is that I’m sure that we think it’s ok, I’m wondering how it impacts God, what it does to who He is. Does it exalt Him? Does it make Him high and lifted up?

    I’m increasingly agreeing with A. W. Tozer who makes the argument that we’ve lost our sense of wonder about God because we no longer thinking of Him high and lifted up– we think of Him as something common.

    I don’t disagree with you about God’s motives– to a point. There’s a reason why God is pictured as the perfect husband and we the imperfect bride. There’s a reason that the wife submits to the husband. We are to be drawing attention to God because of how great He is– how perfect, how just, etc.

    His qualities are the things that are supposed to draw people to Him– not some pop culture endorsement or tie in. God doesn’t need a cool person to say how they’ve “tried God” and you should too. We’ve lost how great He is, and we’ve replaced it with how great we are. We won’t have a revival until we return to the former.

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