He Gets Us

If I’m not mistaken, this is the second year that the “He Gets Us” ads showed during the Super Bowl. I remember seeing one of the ads – the foot washing ad. And I’ve heard plenty of debate about the ads and the groups funding the ads. 

Regardless of what you think about the ads or who sponsored them, I have to say that they got their money worth – it’s the only commercial from the Super Bowl that has generated so much attention. Sure, there were other ads that people enjoyed, found funny, talked about, etc. But the “He Gets Us” ad caused conversation. I have seen Christians debate the ads and the funders. I’ve seen conversation from non-Christians too. Here’s what I know – ads are designed to grab attention and get you to talk about a subject, product, or service. These ads have certainly succeeded in that. And that’s not even looking at the content. It’s just looking purely at these ads from a marketing perspective. 

The debate around these ads varies depending on who you are listening to. There’s some who argue that the message behind them, regardless of who the funders are, is powerful. And there are those who point out that it looks like everyone who is doing the washing of the feet is white and that everyone whose feet are washed are somehow on the margins of society in some way raising the question of why and what that represents. There are those who argue that the money could have been better spent serving the poor and outcast rather than showing pictures of caring for the poor and outcast, while others say that Jesus deserves a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to promote caring and concern for others. There are those who point out some of the funders’ beliefs might not match up with the message that is being presented in the campaign (saying that some of the folks are anti-LGBTQ+), which others focus on the message of the ads themselves as being far more important. I’m sure there are other contrasts that you have heard as well.

My goal here is not to weigh in on the ad, the funders, or the content of the ad. What could I possibly add to what has been said? And besides, it seems like many have taken sides on the ad – either for or against it. And once a side has been chosen, we seem pretty intent on sticking to it. As a society we have a tendency to be stuck in a dualistic mindset – is someone on our side, or are they on the other team, whatever team that might be – regardless of whether we are talking about religion, politics, sports, business, or just about anything else. 

The core message of the “He Gets Us” ad is that Jesus gets us. And while that’s true as a whole, this whole “debate”, if we want to call it that, showcases that more often than not, we don’t get Jesus. This past Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday and one of the key points I preached was that far too often we want to do like Peter and shape Jesus to be on our team, to make Jesus the way we want him to be, to put a label on him so that he is on our side. In that sermon I talked about Jesus’ question – “Who do you say that I am?” If we were to ask that today, there would be plenty of answers. We see these answers in the debates that happen – there’s white Jesus, woke Jesus, Republican Jesus, Democrat Jesus, capitalist Jesus, socialist Jesus, prosperity gospel Jesus, rapture Jesus, and more. Are these really any different than what Peter was doing? He answered by saying that Jesus was the Messiah, but he had something in mind about what that meant, and it was far different than what Jesus was about. Which is why Peter rebukes Jesus when Jesus explains what being the Messiah was really about. 

Maybe all of this is really just about me being tired of having to take sides. Then again, I also can’t just ignore the realities of cruelty, injustice, oppression, etc. Maybe I’m yearning for more nuance, complexity, ambiguity, perplexity. That might sound weird. When we have nuance, complexity, ambiguity, and perplexity, it is often much more difficult to simplify things down to an “us” and “them.” It shows the messiness of reality. It forces me to deal with complexities that leave me with lots more questions than answers. It forces me to approach situations and issues with humility and openness. It forces me to rely on God for guidance because I realize that I don’t have the answers and I’m not in control and the world doesn’t operate the way I think it should. And it forces me to face the reality that I can only do a limited amount. So that means I have to discern what I am called to do and who to be in the moment and going forward. 

I don’t know what to think about an ad that everyone is talking about. But I do know what Jesus is calling me to – to serve, to love, to care. And I’ll do that imperfectly. I’ll screw it up. And I’ll receive forgiveness and grace. I wonder if I can then in turn offer that to others. I can’t change a multi-million-dollar ad campaign or even do anything really to promote it. I can only do my part to live the faith that I have been given. But even with that, I know that at some point, we’ll move on from talking about an ad. We’ll get distracted by some other shiny object. And then what are we left with? The only thing that matters – faith. How are we living it out? How are we receiving it? How are we sharing it? 

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