- - Wednesday, February 14, 2024

After Sunday night’s Super Bowl showdown, Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers fans weren’t the only ones duking it out. Many Christians turned to social media to sound off about a Jesus-themed game-day commercial that sparked everything from frustration to accolades.

Among the many ads to get airtime during the biggest game of the year was a one-minute spot from He Gets Us, an organization aimed at moving “beyond the mess of our current cultural moment to a place where all of us are invited to rediscover the love story of Jesus.”

Titled “Foot Washing,” the spot featured a slew of people washing the feet of men and women from various life backgrounds and perspectives different from their own. In one image, an individual assumed to be a protester outside of an abortion clinic washes the feet of a woman presumed to have had or to be considering an abortion.

In another, a preacher washes the foot of a man who seems to be a member of the LGBTQ community. These were just two of the more noticeable elements, though others, including a police officer washing the feet of a man and a woman doing the same for a Muslim wearing a headscarf, also stood out.

The concluding message on the screen, though, is what immediately sparked reactions across social media. “Jesus didn’t teach hate,” the ad proclaimed. “He washed feet. He Gets Us. All of Us.”

Many well-known conservative and Christian commentators quickly expressed disdain for the commercial, worrying it reinforced negative stereotypes about Christians being hateful and bigoted — or reimagined Jesus as a woke culture warrior bent on unadulterated love with no semblance of truth.

The biggest worry amid the barrage of angst — a legitimate concern — was that the ad glossed over the central message of the Christian Gospel: That human beings are sinful and in need of a savior, and that accepting Jesus means embarking on a lifelong journey to die to self, live for the Lord, and cast aside sinful behaviors.

But while many conveyed unadulterated hatred for the commercial, some, such as conservative commentator Michael Knowles, struck a bit of a different tone.

“Am I the only conservative Christian who didn’t totally hate the ‘He Gets U’ ad? Yes, it speaks ‘woke-ese,’” he wrote on X. “It’s not for us; it’s for secular libs. There’s a risk it leads to heretical complacency. But if it gets some lost lib even to consider Our Lord, I’m not totally opposed.”

Mr. Knowles continued: “Your green-haired lesbian cousin who hates her dad is not going to read the Summa Theologiae set you didn’t buy her. But if she begins to feel even a slight affection for Our Lord, she *might* turn on a podcast. Maybe that podcast could be Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year.”

While Mr. Knowles conceded the ad wouldn’t be his first choice for evangelism, he raised an interesting point about the potential for the spot to spark interest in the hearts of those who know little about — or who might even harbor overt disdain for — faith.

Some have viewed the He Gets Us ad as a treatise of sorts compelling Christians to bow to certain ideologies or lifestyles, endorse anti-biblical sentiments, or water down the Gospel. 

But my initial reading of the ad was quite different. What I saw amid a mixture of photos were numerous images representing people living unbiblical and sinful lives or making unfortunate choices in violation of biblical truth.

Rather than co-signing these actions, the ad seems to be subtly clumping these people together. The message to me wasn’t “endorse these decisions.” Instead, it was an indication these individuals and actions were outside of truth and righteousness and that those making such choices in profound lostness need — as we all do — God’s love.

From the woman seeking an abortion to an LGBTQ person, the Christian is depicted as stepping out in faith to show Christ’s care. The social issues represented in the ad almost universally show the secular, progressive perspective in the sin seat, with the believer being challenged to live out Jesus’ call in the Sermon on the Mount.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’” Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 5:43, with verse 44-45 continuing: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Christ then delivered a truly convicting message in verse 47: “If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

The reality is, two massive elements of Scripture must be weighed in life and when assessing the ad: Jesus’ call to balance truth and love — his call for people to go and sin no more and for Christians to be known by their love.

Like Mr. Knowles, I recognize not everyone is ready for a theologically rich discussion about Jesus. Some might have seen this ad and felt compelled to learn more about Jesus, which is wonderful. At some point, though, the message of love must be met with truth.

After all, the Christian message isn’t to love people into sin, but to encourage them to be captured by God’s love and then transformed into a new being who eschews immorality. We see Jesus do this in John 5 when he encounters a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Christ doesn’t start by recounting Scripture or lecturing the man. Instead, he heals and restores him.

It’s not until later that Jesus finds the man and tells him, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

And in John 8, we see Jesus stopping the stoning of the woman caught in adultery. Once the religious leaders scatter, he proclaims, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” You cannot have the full Christian message without this call away from sin.

Where the He Gets Us campaign seems to potentially falter — and where the critiques should be focused — is on the website at the end of the commercial. While the organization spends a great deal of time explaining foot-washing and other sentiments surrounding Jesus, there’s no call to salvation and no “go and sin no more” moment.

Still, I imagine the prayer is that this ad drops breadcrumbs that, over time, lead people to Jesus. Perhaps rather than wasting time debating it, we should be on our knees asking God to use it for such purposes.

• Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” He is the author of four books.

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