Driving in NC you see some pretty amusing billboards. Some of my favorites are the ones for JR, some discount store that claims they have the best and cheapest selection of every item in the world. Then there are the signs for the pride of SC, South of the Boarder, which begin on I-95 just south of VA and culminate just across the NC/SC line. If you’ve never done it, take an afternoon and drive that wonderful route of tackiness.
East of Raleigh, somewhere on I-40 you’ll see this billboard, and it bugs me every time I see it. It’s hard to miss, I mean the ominous hand pointing at me in the shape of a gun, as if getting ready to zap my tires and cause a catastrophic blow-out at 70 mph’s makes me want to repent of everything I’ve ever done. But before I go into what I dislike about this sign, let me make a few things clear.
Do I believe that all people are sinners by nature and by choice and need to repent of that, turn to Jesus in faith and accept His work on the cross for their salvation? Yes. Do I believe that anyone who doesn’t repent and trust in Jesus in this life will suffer eternity in the torments of hell? Yes. Do I think there are times we need to be direct with people in confronting them with their sinfulness, the need to repent now and embrace God’s grace? Yes. Do I believe one day Jesus will triumphantly return in victory for the church and judgment and wrath for the rest of the world? Yes. Do I think God can use even this sign to draw people to Jesus? Yes. But, my problem with this sign is it doesn’t tell the whole story, and so ends up misrepresenting Jesus, and ultimately, may make people cold to Christ.
The big issue for me is that this sign presents Jesus as a wrathful, vindictive guy off in the colds somewhere, waiting for you and me to mess up, so he can get his ultimate joy in frying us with lightning from his finger. In other words, this billboard assumes that people can be scared into repenting from something. The problem is, this sign doesn’t tell viewers what to repent of and who to turn to after repenting.
In contrast to this, Scripture tells us that it isn’t being freaked out that God will zap us that leads to salvation, but that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4-5). Now, these verses speak of God’s wrath, but it notes that it is stored up because people don’t respond to God’s kindness (displayed on the cross of Christ) in repentance. A little later, Paul says that it is the love of Christ that compels him to plead with people to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
So, it comes down to this: fellow disciples of Jesus, are we proclaiming the Gospel of Christ’s love? Are we calling people to turn from sin (repent) and turn to live for their created purpose: to worship and obey God? Are we living, speaking, and serving in ways that say to people “Christ loves you” or instead “watch out before you get what you deserve, sinner”?
If you are reading this and aren’t a follower of Jesus, please hear my heart. The Bible is clear that everyone, me included, are sinners and so deserve only God’s judgment and wrath (Rom. 3:23). But, because God loves us, He sent Jesus to die for our sins, so we can turn from them and live for Jesus, not having to fear punishment and wrath (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9-10). I pray that you will read these passages, and that Jesus will reveal Himself and His love to you, and you can turn to Him in faith and repentance and escape the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).
This sign, though I dislike it, is a reminder to tell the whole message of the Gospel. God is in His great love and grace is calling out for us to escape wrath and condemnation by trusting in Jesus for our salvation (Jn. 3:17). Is the wrath of God coming? Yes. But thanks be to God that we don’t have to fear it, if we place our faith in completed work of Jesus on the cross!