My dear friend, Archie Smith, from the first church I ever served back in the early ‘60’s, in the mountains of Virginia, told me a whimsical story that he purported to be true. He was on his way to Florida with his family and stopped at a roadside café for breakfast. A sign on the wall read, “All the orange juice you can drink for ten cents.”
“What a deal!” he thought, so he ordered some orange juice. The waitress brought it to him, set it down, held out her hand and said, “That will be ten cents, please.” He obligingly gave her a dime and enjoyed his first glass of orange juice. When she came back to the table, he ordered another glass of orange juice. When she brought it back, she held out her hand and said, “That will be ten cents, please.”
Archie protested, “The sign says, ‘All the orange juice you can drink for ten cents.’”
“That is correct,” she countered, “and that is all the orange juice you can drink for ten cents.”
That would be an example of false, or at least misleading, advertising. I heard recently about a different kind of false advertising. A man was driving a car that had a fish logo on the trunk lid and had bumper stickers that announced, “Jesus is coming soon” and that invited “honk if you love Jesus.”
The sanctimonious driver pulled to a stop at the next traffic light behind a driver who, when the light changed, didn’t seem to notice, being somehow distracted. In fact, she sat there until the light turned to red again, as “holy Joe” grew red in the face with impatience and anger. He was so irate, in fact, that he got out of his car, ran forward, pounded on her window, and, using rather vile and vulgar language, let the poor lady have it with all venom and vehemence.
When the light turned to green, the lady pulled off, and the man got back into his car, still screaming irreverently and gesticulating wildly. Just as he was getting back into the flow of traffic, he heard a siren. Beside him in the left lane was a policeman who waved him over to the curb. As the policeman approached the man’s car window, he demanded that the driver step out of the car slowly and surrender his car keys.
Then, without explanation, the officer handcuffed the man and led him to the patrol car, putting him in the back seat and strapping him in. While the driver protested loudly, the policeman drove him to the local jail and put him into a cell, where he sat for two hours, fuming all the while. At long last, the arresting officer returned, had the man released, placed him back in the squad car, drove him back to his own automobile, and handed him back his car keys. As he opened the car door for the driver, he said to the man, “You are free to go; I am sorry I detained you.”
Angrily the driver exploded, “You pull me over to the side of the road, you take my car keys, take me to headquarters, and lock me in a holding cell Now you bring me back to my car and set me free. Not once have you told me what this is all about.”
Sheepishly the officer looked at him. “Well, sir” he said, “When I pulled up behind you some time ago, I saw the fish logo on your trunk lid and saw the religious bumper stickers. But then I saw you pounding on your steering wheel and getting red in the face. I heard the terrible things you said to that lady. Quite frankly, Sir, I had to detain you until I did some checking. I was sure that your car belonged to a Christian and that you had stolen it. We had to verify who actually owned the car.” OUCH!
Some time ago, the Truth in Advertising Law was passed, seeking to ensure that no manufacturer or provider of services could make false or exalted claims about his product or service. Such harmony of claims, products, and services should be no different for professing Christians. As the old Black preacher once said, “Be who you is, ‘cause if you ain’t who you is, then you is who you ain’t.”