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It all started some time ago when I got the following letter after printing 2 cartoons, which unbeknownst to me were considered blasphemous by at least one person. Here is part of the letter:
“These 2 pictures are so disrespectful to Jesus Christ – the Son of God who suffered a horrible death on a cross for the sin of the world. It was not funny and neither are these pictures.” Name Withheld
I replied immediately and will share that letter with you momentarily. I certainly did not want to offend anyone; however, as I reread my Easter response I started hunting for more (hopefully less blasphemous) Easter cartoons to use for this newsletter, since Easter is fast approaching. I found a plethora by Johnny Hart, who did B.C. and some other comics earning him The Guinness Book of World Records recognition as the most widely syndicated American comic-strip artist. Hart was also controversial because of his Christian faith and was banned by some newspapers.
So, without further ado, here is my response to the letter I received.
Dear _______, I just received your note today and the first thing I must do is apologize profusely to you! I do love Jesus with all my heart and the last thing I would ever want to do is minimize what He did on the cross in suffering a much more painful death for us than we could ever realize while on this earth. It never once crossed my mind that anyone would be offended or misunderstand what I was getting from the comic. The way I read the comic (as well as the other people I have shown it to) was actually to emphasize the power of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in a language that speaks to someone who talks a surfer type language. Maybe it will help if I explain to you what I understood the words to be saying.
When I teach one of my college classes on communicating the gospel in the 21st century, one of the key and important elements we discuss is how to communicate the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection in a language that today’s generation will understand. If I go to China to share the gospel I cannot expect to be very successful if I am only speaking English and not Mandarin (Chinese). I grew up in a Bible belt area of KY and we were very good at speaking “Christianese” that we inside the church totally understood . . . but sadly, those without a church background may not understand at all. For instance, if I talk about being “saved” . . . some will think of a life guard saving them from drowning in the water. If I talk about being “born again” some will immediately think of reincarnation and not even realize we are using a Biblical phrase. I don’t even want to think of what image some may conjure in their minds if we talk about being washed in the blood!
By God’s grace I was able to lead one of the biggest drug dealers on my KY High School campus to know the Lord. He had never been to church so when he explained to others what had happened he said he was being “hound dogged” by God. In the church we knew the official way was to say “God was convicting me” but he did not know that language. So we want to be like Paul when he said, “I have become all things to all that I might by all means save some.” I Cor. 9:19-23.
So, back to the cartoon. If I was to say “mē genoito” (from the Bible) many people would not know what those words mean because they are Greek. Some may translate it as “God forbid” but some will not even know what that means. In the language of the 80s and 90s it would be very accurate to translate the phrase: “No Way!” Today the surfer dude would say “Nah Bro!” These are all communicating a similar thought as this original Greek word but are understood in different ways to different people. They are all just different sounds coming out of our mouths with the goal of emphasizing the idea, for instance, that there was NO WAY Jesus was going to stay buried and be defeated by Pilate or any of Satan’s cohorts! But, in fact, Jesus was emphatically saying in the cartoon that He was and is victorious and crucifixion was NOT going to defeat Him or God’s plan!!! When Peter objected to this plan, Jesus emphatically said “Get behind me Satan!” and I believe these cartoons were saying the same thing . . . only in a language that surfers would understand and talk today.
That is why I was excited to see a cartoon that could communicate that to young people of this generation who don’t understand “church” language and certainly do not understand the Greek language in which the words were originally written. I’ve had 4 years of Greek studying the language of the New Testament. Jesus and the disciples did not actually write or speak King James English . . . it was merely the language spoken around the 16th century when that version happened to be translated from the Greek. We continually need to communicate the SAME message of Jesus’ love and death for us in a way that people will understand. That was my hope and goal as I certainly did not have any intent to disrespect Jesus nor cause anyone else to stumble because of it!
I often act out a powerful drama of Jesus’ crucifixion at churches and camps portraying what He went through in His incredible death for us. I usually have tears in my eyes realizing what He experienced. I would never want to disrespect or minimize what He did for you and for me.
In His Service, Larry Bubb
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