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Jesus, Virtuous Vanilla Lip Balm, and a Prostitute

I wrote an article recently for a magazine about “The Jesus Brand”. It basically revolved around our relationship as Christians with Christian retailing, but if I had seen this doozy of a product line before writing it, I may well have gone in a different direction with it:

The tagline on the webpage says “Look your Sunday best! Guaranteed to help you be worthy and get noticed by the King of Kings”. You can also get a “Looking good for Jesus” shopping bag, bubble bath, hand cream, coin purse compact mirror and mini kit. Um, yeah. OK.

They also have a line called “Wash your sins away” which includes towelettes, breath spray, lip balm and, of course, bars of soap.

So what do y’all think about this sort of thing? Obviously, the people making this are going for cheeky, perhaps trying to be provocative, definitely working on irreverent. I actually heard about this product line because of a news item reporting that it had been pulled from stores in Taiwan after complaints from Christian customers. I wonder if it’s being sold anywhere here in the USA and if so, if anyone’s complained.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing can be hard for Christians to deal with reasonably. Obviously, it’s meant to belittle something very close to our hearts. Yet if we speak up, we appear humorless, strident and petty. I think that the best way to deal with this is like the prostitute who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair at the Pharisee Simon’s house. (Mark 7:36-50)

In his book The Poet and the Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes by Kenneth Bailey there is a lovely explanation of this woman’s actions that I think can speak to us today about how to deal with insults and slights against our Lord.

Here’s how Bailey explains this woman’s reaction to seeing her Lord insulted and demeaned:

She witnesses the harsh insult that Jesus receives when he enters the house of Simon, as Simon deliberately omits the kiss of greeting and the footwashing. The insult to Jesus has to be intentional and electrifies the assembled guests. War has been declared and everyone waits to see Jesus’ response. . . he absorbs the insult and the hostility behind it and does not withdraw. . . The woman is totally overcome. They have not even extended to him the kiss of greeting! Her devotion, gratitude, and anger mix. . . Rushing boldly forward she then breaks down and literally washes his feet with her tears. Now what? She has no towel! Simon would not give her one if she asked for it. So she lets down her hair and with it wipes his feet. After smothering them with kisses, she pours out her precious perfume on the feet of the one who announced God’s love for her, who is being abused by this calloused company. She is offering her love and trying to compensate for the insult that Jesus has just received.”

I just love this. The impulses behind “Looking Good for Jesus” lip balm is nothing new. 2000 years ago men like Simon were already seeking shocking ways to demonstrate that Jesus is inferior, not to be taken seriously or even afforded basic respect.

It’s so easy to become indignant and outraged. Yet, how often is that all we do? If this woman had called out her outrage or stormed off in protest, no one would remember her. Instead, she rushes forward to honor, love and serve Jesus. And now she is remembered through the ages. And in doing so, she provides Jesus with a chance to demonstrate who he is (by telling her that her sins are forgiven at the end of the story, Jesus identifies himself with God since only God has the power to forgive sins).

So, let’s see “Looking Good for Jesus” lip balm not as another opportunity to display righteous anger. Or even as a chance to prove that we’re open minded and hip enough to laugh at or ignore such things. Let’s take it as a challenge to serve our Lord wildly and boldly as this prostitute did so many years ago. When we do, we can trust that like her, we will be opening a door for God’s kingdom to be revealed more and more.

Or as my business minded husband would say – it’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity 🙂

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#lookinggoodforjesus #christianity #kennethbailey #insultingChristianity #religion

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