A few weeks ago my family and I went to the Florida Keys for a few days of snorkeling, boating, and fun while reconnecting with old friends. On Saturday evening we drove an hour south to watch the Key West sunset, experience the spectacle that is Mallory Square, and wander Duval Street.
After seeing beautiful sail boats silhouetted against the sunset, human statues entertaining children, listening to banjos, guitars, and mandolins, watching cats and old men jump through hoops, and being mesmerized by didgeridoos (google it), we found ourselves in Amigo’s tortilla bar. That's when I heard Jesus.
It wasn’t a trance-inducing vision from heaven or a prophet decrying the decadence of an immoral society. It was a simple statement printed on the side of every plastic cup at Amigo’s: “Once you’ve ruined your reputation, you can live quite freely”.
It reconfirmed for me two things that I’ve come to believe. The first is that God can and will use any and all means to reach us; be it movies, music, or plastic cups. I’ve begun to rethink the entire notion of “secular” as it relates to me as a Christian. I believe that, no matter where I go, what I do or see, who I talk or listen to, God is already there. So if I hear truth in a Jimmy Buffett song, see beauty in a painting, or read prophetic words on a plastic cup in Key West, how can those things for me be secular? Christ is in me and will always be wherever I go; secular (separate from God) is not an option.
But that only deals with the way the message was delivered. The second thing that really awed me was the basic gospel message encapsulated in a restaurant slogan. I don’t know, but I doubt it was the intention of the owners to preach the gospel, just as I doubt it was Pilate’s plan to reveal truth when he nailed a sign over Christ’s head reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. But the intended purpose does not negate the truth or Gods ability to use it. And were I trying to convey the gospel message, I may have phrased it a little differently, but as I think about it, no better.
Were I writing a biblical paraphrase, I might use such a saying to communicate the message of Ephesians 2: 4-10: “4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions … 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
or Isaiah 64:6:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Or maybe I’d use it to express the sentiment of Romans 3:23-24:
“23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Everybody, but especially we Christians, need to understand that our efforts, or works, our good deeds and intentions are not very good, and if we strive to advance, preserve, or protect our “goodness,” our reputations will become a trap that will enslave and separate us from Christ, the Author of freedom.
So I wonder, did God inspire the words on that cup, or did he just orchestrate my travels so that I would see them? I don’t know, but I do believe that, realizing the ruined condition of my reputation, I can live quite freely in the grace of Christ.