Unless you're just returning to Earth, you've heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge. The concept is simple: either donate $100 to charity, or douse yourself with ice, film it, and pass the challenge to others via social media. Bill Gates, Taylor Swift, politicians and athletes have all taken the challenge. The ALS Association, which raises funds to support research for Lou Gehrig's Disease, has used it to raise more than $1.35 million in the last two weeks.
Unfortunately, not everyone taking the challenge makes its charitable purpose clear. Some seem to be doing it just to be doing it.
Appearance is not always reality. For instance, two Israelis were recently indicted in the most successful counterfeit money operation on record. Authorities had been looking since 1999 for creators of fake $100 bills, the most authentic ever made. Their investigation led them to 13 suspects, $2.5 million in bills, and a printing press in New Jersey. They were just one part of the growing counterfeiting industry; last year the Secret Service arrested 2,668 counterfeiters and recovered $156 million in fake currency. Just because the money in your wallet looks real doesn't mean it is.
Appearances can be deceptive. When I was last in Times Square, I was amazed by the proliferation of costumed characters posing for pictures with tourists. The problem is, some were forcing the tourists to pay them after their picture was taken. Now police have cracked down on the characters, distributing warnings that the pictures are free and tipping is optional. City officials say they had to take action after attacks on some visitors, including children. Spider-Man was even accused of punching a police officer.
Brand identification is no guarantee of brand performance. Consider a Starbucks in Los Angeles now being called a "horror show" and the "most depressing Starbucks in America" by local residents. It is little more than a drive-thru window and bathroom. It offers a few concrete tables on a small patio, but no indoor seating. Some Yelp reviews liken the building to a prison.
Our world is starved for authenticity. What we really seek, whether we know it or not, is the transforming grace of Jesus. Imagine him in the flesh, living and ministering in our culture today. Think of the people who would experience God's unconditional love and acceptance through him.
Then remember that "Christian" literally means "little Christ." The word was coined in Antioch to describe a group of people who so imitated Jesus that the world took note (Acts 11:26). Every heart voices the same longing: "Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:21). Will you ask him to display his grace and mercy through you today?
Publication date: August 20, 2014
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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