The One Where He Gets Us

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One of my great frustrations with watching things on television, whether it’s a sporting event, game show, or other program, is the commercials. I understand that companies have to make people aware of their product and convince them to buy it but, selfishly, I’d rather they didn’t interrupt the nightly news to do it. The reality is that advertisements of one form or another exist everywhere we go. I guess we can chalk that up to living in a culture that’s driven by consumerism. Sporting events in particular, whether you’re watching on TV or attending a game at the local stadium in person, seem to be a hotbed for a variety of marketing campaigns. In the last couple of years one campaign has caught the attention of both Christians and non-Christians alike and has drawn a lot of criticism from both sides, He Gets Us, and while I appreciate the effort the message that it’s sending comes up well short of what our culture needs to hear.

One of the biggest arguments that I’ve heard in favor of these ads is that they are a conversation starter, meant to get people in the door and thinking about religion and faith. While that is an admirable goal I’m not sure this campaign starts that conversation off in the right way and, as a result, doesn’t take it in the right direction which will inevitably lead to the wrong conclusion. Other religions throughout the world see Jesus as a good teacher and highly moral person but not the son of God. In short, they deny his divinity and see Christianity as just another path to get to the same destination. The problem is that’s not who Jesus is and, coincidentally, not what Christianity is. The Christian faith is an offering of life to people who deserve death and this campaign does nothing to address that.

It came out soon after the release of these commercials that the organization that put them together spent $10 million for just over a minute of airtime. Some have argued that this money could have been better spent doing more tangible things like getting needed supplies for a food pantry, contributing to the building of a hospital or some other important community activity. I actually agree with this assessment however we can’t stop there. Meeting physical needs is only one aspect of the Gospel. It’s a start, a foot in the door to meet the real need, spiritual redemption and restoration. That’s the whole Gospel and He Gets Us waters that down in the same way that the prosperity gospel and social gospel do. If you look closely at the images it becomes clear that the campaign’s backers are more interested in pushing a narrative than presenting the Gospel. They are appealing to who the culture wants to believe Jesus is as opposed to showing who he actually is. Its goal is inspiration not salvation as it lifts up Jesus as an example of how we should live (much like other religions do) and not the savior of the world that Scripture proclaims him to be.

At the end of the day it boils down to a fundamental difference in worldviews. There is a sense in which he does get us. Scripture tells us that Jesus “is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws. He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.” (Hebrews 4:15, The Voice) The last part of that verse is crucial, he emerged victorious whereas everything that we try to do will ultimately come up short. Conservative commentator Matt Walsh summed it up the best when he said that this commercial, and I would argue the He Gets Us campaign in general, “offers the invitation then forgets what it is”. It comes from an incomplete understanding of who we are and a weak understanding of who Jesus is. Paul wrote that “all have sinned, and all their futile attempts to reach God in His glory fail.” (Romans 3:23, The Voice) It’s why Jesus challenged the woman caught in adultery to “go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11, ESV) and the apostles called people to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38, ESV) That’s the Gospel and that’s what we need to preach.

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