Does Sign Guy Have The Answer?

For your consideration today, in light of the Gospel reading from John for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, I'm happy to offer this guest post from my husband, Tom Cox, who is a sports fan in the truest sense of the word and also one of the most faithful people I know.

John 3:16: "For God so loved the world..."

JOHN 3:16! I can never hear this verse of scripture, or even see a citation to John 3:16, without thinking of the guy with the crazy multi-colored wig who for years has surfaced at most major American sporting events, occupying a prominent location and holding aloft for the television cameras his sign proclaiming to the world his simple message: "JOHN 3:16." There he is, amidst a sea of "We're Number 1!" foam fingers held by thousands of people with their eyes uplifted-not in reverence to the Lord, but instead straining to see if the just-kicked football had split the uprights.

The message in the John 3:16 sign seems so simple, so confident, so certain. Why does the apparent confident certainty of Sign Guy disturb me? Am I envious of him because his faith must be is so solid and unquestioning that he feels compelled to proclaim his message in every available public venue? Perhaps. Does he offend my overly developed Anglican/Episcopalian sensibilities about what constitutes proper conduct? Most assuredly. Why can I not be as certain that I have "The Answer," but instead spend the better part of my spiritual journey struggling even to formulate the questions?

The world prizes certainty. Political pundits, newspaper columnists, corporate leaders, government officials, and advertisers bombard us with assurances that they have the answers. In our often uncivil public discourse, many stand ready to shout down in anger, or to dismiss as idiots or liars, anyone who would disagree with them. We people of faith are not at all immune to the allure of certainty. After all, by finding God, and thus having come to possess the Truth, are we not now compelled to share it with and impose it on those unfortunates among God's creatures who have not yet seen the light?

Without denigrating either the faith or message of Sign Guy, I believe that God does not demand that we accept or deliver to the world a message of simplistic and unquestioning certainty. We may in fact be called to something much more challenging-to pursue a path of true humility.

Unlike certainty and swagger, humility is neither prized nor encouraged in our narcissistic culture. It is more likely to be treated as a variation of mental illness than as a virtue, evidencing low self-esteem and the absence of a healthy ego. Some of us high-functioning Episcopalians may as well have eliminated the word "humility" from our functional vocabulary-trying as we do to reach or maintain our own worldly "success" while raising our children to develop their sense of self-worth as they rack up impressive lists of personal achievements. Perhaps it is time we gave humility another look.

Walking humbly with God (in the words of Micah 6:8) could lead us to acknowledge that we are flawed and finite creatures; that there is much about God and the universe that we cannot understand; and that to think otherwise is to engage in a vain attempt to restrict and confine God within the limits of our own minds. True humility may also open the path to more meaningful connections with our neighbors, as we recognize that those neighbors, even those who appear to be unaccomplished or disadvantaged by our cultural standards, may have things to offer us that are every bit as valuable as whatever it is we can provide them.

It is also possible that we can share the message of God's love most effectively when we deliver it from a place of humility rather than certainty. After all, who makes the more effective "evangelist": the humble, open and sometimes doubting seeker of truth through the message of the Gospels and in relationship with others, or Sign Guy, who has The Answer wrapped up in a single Bible verse? Should that contest ever become a televised sporting event, I know which team I will choose.

Tom Cox


Perpetua said…
"It is also possible that we can share the message of God's love most effectively when we deliver it from a place of humility rather than certainty."

This is absolutely central to my experience as Christian believer and as priest and I thank you for it, Tom. the whole of your post resonated with me and I hope it is widely read.
Great post! And I'm with you, Tom, that it is much more authentic to approach life and faith with humility and uncertainty. It is frustrating, though, that those with the certainty and swagger get the limelight; the guy with the sign gets the TV camera. I know Jesus wasn't referring to televised sporting events when he said it, but I can't resist:"A wicked and perverse generation seeks for a sign."
Anonymous said…
Perpetua and Charles,
Thanks for your comments. I am gratified you found something worthwhile In my reflection. And special thanks to Penny for publishing it. I hope I have met the high standards established on her blog.
Tom Cox
Debbyedoo said…
I loved T0m's Comments. Many of the haughty among us turn more away from Christ, than toward him, due to their self righteous attitude and ways. Any way we can get this to some of our politicians?