Billboards for Jesus (Or, What Kind of Christians Are We?)

By Elrena Evans

My family recently took a road trip to Florida, because we thought logging over two thousand miles in a car with five kids would be fun. It was fun, actually—not without hiccups, as all road trips are, but even the hiccups were fodder for many family memories.

One of the hiccups I wasn't prepared for, though, was all the billboards. I texted a friend from on the road (I wasn't driving at the time) that the billboards we passed could roughly be broken down into three categories: South of the Border, "adult" novelties, and Jesus. This seemed to me an unlikely assembly.

As we drove past the first few "Heaven or Hell?"-style billboards, I found myself unconsciously praying that none of my children would comment on them. I couldn't articulate why—but something about the billboards made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to entertain them in discussion.

Like many of my low-level prayers related to my offspring (please don't let him throw up, please don't let her arm be broken, please don't let the principal call again) this one was answered in the negative: "Mommy, why does that sign say that?"

Why didn't I want to talk about them? We're Christians; the billboards were put up by Christians. So why my unease? Is it because I don't see myself as the kind of Christian who would put up a billboard? Perhaps I was afraid that, should I actually dial 855-FOR-TRUTH, I would find the Christian on the other end of the line a very different sort of Christian from me. We might have different interpretations of various scriptures, for example. Or different views on who is going to heaven or hell. We probably voted for different presidential candidates. We would almost certainly have marked differences in the churches we attend, our preferred forms of worship, the type of sermons we regularly hear.

Perhaps I was afraid that, should I actually dial 855-FOR-TRUTH, I would find the Christian on the other end of the line a very different sort of Christian from me.

But we would still both be Christians, no?

Part of my role as a parent, as I see it, is to teach my children to tolerate—even love—people we might perceive as "different" from us. We frequently talk about how God created everyone equal, but how as people we haven't treated everyone equally, and how that's a problem. We talk about ways we can show God's love to people who might look differently, act differently, or believe differently than we do. We talk about how God wants us to love our Muslim neighbors and Syrian refugees. We talk about how, no matter how much we may disagree with someone, she or he is still made in the image of God.

So why can I teach my children to love our Muslim neighbors, but I shy away from teaching the same lessons about our brothers and sisters in Christ? Can I stick to my message of "God's love is for all," extending it even to those who sometimes spew hatred? I don't honestly know.

What began with my children as an observation as fleeting as a billboard sighting blossomed, over the course of our trip, into a longer, ongoing conversation. We talked about why sometimes, Christians disagree—and not just over little things. We talked about swearing, ordaining women, the military, the roles of icons in worship. We talked about loving our sisters and brothers in Christ, even when we don't even want to be associated with them. Our conversation eventually led to me picking up the phone, and dialing 855-FOR-TRUTH, to tell the person on the other end of the line that, as a fellow Christian, I appreciate them. If we met face-to-face we might have deep divisions in our shared beliefs. But the man on the other end of the line is my brother in Christ. I don't want to lose sight of that truth.

Elrena Evans is Editor and Content Strategist for Evangelicals for Social Action. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Penn State, and has also worked for Christianity Today and American Bible Society. She is the author of a short story collection, This Crowded Night, and co-author of the essay collection Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life. She enjoys spending time with her family, dancing, and making spreadsheets.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

You May Also Want to Read

Comment policy: ESA represents a wide variety of understandings and practices surrounding our shared Christian faith. The purpose of the ESA blog is to facilitate loving conversation; please know that individual authors do not speak for ESA as a whole. Even if you don\'t see yourself or your experience reflected in something you read here, we invite you to experience it anyway, and see if God can meet you there. What can take away from considering this point of view? What might you add? The comments section below is where you can share the answers to those questions, if you feel so moved. Please express your thoughts in ways that are constructive, purposeful, and respectful. Give those you disagree with the benefit of the doubt, and assume they are neither idiots nor evil. Name-calling, sweeping condemnations, and any other comments that suggest you have forgotten that we are all children of God will be deleted. Thank you!

18 Responses

  1. Kristyn Komarnicki says:

    Love this. Last summer, on a road trip through the Carolinas, I spotted the following messages on church marquees:

    We need sin control, not gun control.
    Know the Holy Ghost, or you'll be toast.
    Thank you, God, for letting us live in America.
    Do u have fire protection? Jesus is the only extinguisher.
    Is your picture on God's milk carton or fridge?
    You have options heaven or hell? Choose wisely.

    They are colorful, often wince-worthy, sometimes funny, but always discussion-producing!

  2. I've been the "man at the other end of the line" for a while with those billboards. It is always refreshing to get a call from someone with your attitude. We get many of the other kind. We also get enough calls from people who are looking for genuine help to make it worth taking calls. One thing is for sure, you get a bird's eye view of the kind of people who are driving up and down our highways these days.

  3. Julie Hernandez says:

    Pray for me. I want God's forgiveness here. Lately I too have seen the billboards about the Truth and it scares me, because I believe Heaven is real, Hell too, and above all God and Jesus God's only Son .

  4. Elrena Evans says:

    Julie, the Bible teaches that if we believe in Jesus, we have nothing to fear (John 5:24)! I know sometimes that promise seems too big to claim, but I am praying for you today that God will comfort you and take away your fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

  5. Barry says:

    I don't mean to sound harsh, but have to, this article is very liberal in tone, …. Jesus's message was to warn and save people from Hell and teach repentance to all us guilty sinners. This "Christian" author is sure she probably voted for different candidates then the Billboard people….hmmm…..a pro-abortion, God ordained relationship mocking (pro lbgt lifestyle) Democrat apparently….how can a true Christian vote this way? Just because you haven't taken the time to address Hell to your children ( and I understand it's not something anyone takes joy in addressing) you shouldn't knock the Billboard people for doing what ALL Christians should be doing – the Great Commission – you should be rejoicing that at least some Christians are boldly carrying this duty out. And as far as "who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell" …there is no grey area here, unless one is born again they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven… as these billboard people clearly teach… not sure what you believe, but as a Christian you disown your feelings/opinions and submit to God's clear teachings on the issue.

  6. Neal Rice says:

    I agree with Barry. It makes a traveler think. The world calls a person a Christian as an insult. If you are calling yourself a Christian then you're already being persecuted… or, you may inadvertently become the persecuter. . It's great to know that there's somebody out there putting up billboards promoting the Truth, spending money that might lead someone to the Lord. I think those are very refreshing. And by the way, it's great that you're spending time with your children, but I can assure you the devil will not relax just because you don't want them to see that Billboard; he will bombard them with every type of deception to steal, kill and destroy their desire to know Jesus…

  7. Paul Smith says:

    Be careful not to judge.God's instructions on this is more than clear… Jesus said, that if I judge others, my measure would be used against me… I am a believer! Though some find me a little unorthodox! I am not squeaky clean…but then neither were the disciples, apostles. David or Moses! I am not them…but they are my brothers

  8. Briana says:

    I love god but it fell like I don't I try to be good but it just fell like I am just not doing my best so if I go to hell I would be sad for what I had did in my life I am a kid I know so I want to tell everyone the Truth OK I go to church but I never went back I don't know why I am in 6th grade god is proud of me I know he is but I have bad things following me everywhere I go I can see them in fell them in hear them god is by my side still I love him this is my store.

  9. Jerry says:

    It's difficult to reconcile but it's unfounded belief in the supernatural.

  10. Sami says:

    Or, maybe if you dial that number, you'll realize the people on the other line are paid to brainwash people, just like the predatory men and women that brainwashed you. Maybe you'd realize you've been taken in by an ancient scam that preys on the insecurities of the human race, and the weaknesses of the unintelligent poor. Hopefully your kids are smarter, or the cycle will continue.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I also agree with Barry. My daughter, being 7, isn't oblivious to hell but neither is she oblivious to showing grace and mercy to others as it's been shown to us. I'm not unloving toward my neighbors but I refuse to shy away from the WHOLE Gospel for the sake of my comfort or others. That's unsound doctrine. The whole Gospel is all that Christ taught to include our sin, his birth, life on earth, his death, resurrection, the realities of hell, and the promise of his return. I enjoy speaking to my daughter about the Bible and the Messiahs teachings knowing that even now, God can use her to share these truths with others.

  12. Adam Young says:

    Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. What God hates, the born again believer hates, and God hates sin. Being in vocal contention with Muslims and all other idolators is not hate, but is love. Love warns. Love is tough. Spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth is what we as Christian's are called to do. Where there is space for a billboard, the Word of God ought to he on it. There is quite simply no other proper use for the space. If the Word of God makes you uncomfortable and you profess to be a Christian, you'd better get into your prayer closet and ask Jesus to clean that heart up!

  13. S says:

    My hope is that you truly do love Christ and are followers of His word. I write because I am a Christian, however, I feel I need to share my feeling about your billboards in Missouri along I-70 near Odessa. They make me VERY VERY SAD!! They HURT my heart every time I pass them. The word "REAL" is so condescending that they make me want to cry.

    If you know the Word of God, you know there is NO perfect person, so NO perfect Christian, so there is NO such thing as a "REAL" Christian!! You make those who are not followers once again feel isolated because a "real Christian" is judgmental once again. I BEG OF YOU, please take the sign down or rewrite it to say Christians TRY hard to obey but we are human, and battle this sin filled world, and only through His Word can we have peace. That is what people are looking for PEACE, not judgment. The words on your sign judge people – are not loving – and will NEVER bring a broken traveler to Christ.
    Please consider my request.

  14. Mike says:

    If the person on the other end of the phone line turned out to be the sort of Christian that somehow supports a "Christian" president that separates children from their parents and locks them in cages, as a matter of official government policy (just as a quick for-instance), how would you reconcile that version of a Christian to the sermon-on-the-mount version?

    Would you tell your kids that it's all good, no matter what, as long as the person loves Jesus?

  15. Jacqi V says:

    So many interesting comments. A Christian is not called to judge (condemn) but we are called to hold each other accountable, to correct those in the faith who are practicing sin. When Jesus called off the religious leaders, they were poised to throw stones, to pass judgement and condemn a woman caught in adultery, they weren't looking to correct her sinful behavior and encourage repentance. BIG DIFFERENCE! JESUS forgave her BUT also told her to go and sin no more. This can NOT be accomplished simply by following commandments. It happens supernaturally when we have a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus, the Savior. His death on the cross is THE ONLY acceptable payment for our sins, not our works! We are saved and forgiven when we receive this and trust in Him daily; when we are "born again". John 3:1-21, John 14:6.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.