I don't remember how long ago I first saw this t-shirt, but I do remember that when I saw it, it hit me... how engrained Jesus is in our culture. And I started thinking about it some more, just because Jesus is engrained in a culture, doesn't mean that's it's a good thing.
As I prepared to write this blog, I quickly searched for a "Jesus is my homeboy" graphic and found an actual "official site" explaining the back story which I didn't know! You can read more here (not sure how true it all is), but it apparently started out by a man who was simply trying to spread Jesus' gospel to gangs in Los Angeles. Years later, a celebrity is photographed wearing the t-shirt and the rest is history.
This is a good example of how something with good intentions can easily lose its meaning when it becomes a fashion statement or "culturally acceptable" within a subculture without really discussing the true meaning or bringing attention to the gospel of Jesus. That somehow, by wearing a t-shirt or bracelet, we're living out the gospel.
And this is what fascinates me about cultures and subcultures we create, both Christians and non. How one person can wear this t-shirt and know, carry, struggle and deal with the gospel of Jesus and in another subculture, it's the "cool" thing to wear. I love a few things Leslie Newbigin calls out about culture overall, particularly the following:
"And one must also include in culture, and as fundamental to any culture, a set of beliefs, experiences, and practices that seek to grasp and express the ultimate nature of things, that which gives shape and meaning to life, that which claims final loyalty. I am speaking, obviously, about religion. Religion—including the Christian religion--is thus part of culture."
At Mercy Hill, when we say we're reaching out with a "culturally relevant message" of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it's not because we're attempting to be hip or cute. It's because the church is a place where the gospel and our culture collide. In Genesis we see that God created us to create and cultivate culture, however our sin has distorted this creation process and we're brought to passages like Romans that clearly reflect this.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - ROMANS 4:8
In the coming months, I'm excited to share more about culture overall, specifically the collision with the gospel in the church and outside of the church. We'll explore more on passages like the above in Romans, including passages like the following in 1st Corinthians:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 CORINTHIANS 6:12
We'll explore how this applies to different parts of our culture, from Christian music to Hollywood movies. All through the lens of our one and only pure filter, Jesus, our homeboy.