>I’ve always been facinated by church signs. In a blog long ago and far, far away, I used to make fun of some of the church signs that I came across in my travels (and by travels, I mean from Wilmore to Lexington on my way to work). The primary target of said blogs was the Unitarian Universalists. Mostly because of their “anything goes” attitude towards theology, but also because their signs were just easy pickens’. Today, I embark on a daring adventure to discuss the theological ramifications of another church sign. However, this blog will be a little different. Instead of being laced (or dripping, as the case may be) with sarcasm regarding the content of this particular church sign, I want to seriously reflect on what this sign says and the implications of this sign.

“To be loved, be lovable.” Simple sign. Short, to the point, and theologically skewed. What is so wrong with this sign? First some quick background. I’m the associate pastor of a United Methodist Church. The UMC comes from the Anglican Church (aka the Church of England). It was founded by John and Charles Wesley who noticed that religion was having no real impact in 18th century England. They began open-air preaching and organizing new converts into groups that met regularly to hold one another accountable for spiritual growth and living the Christian life. One of the key emphases of Wesleyan theology is grace.

Grace is appropriated in the lives of people in a variety of ways. All grace is the same in the sense that it is from God, but how that grace is applied in people’s lives is what differs. Prevenient grace, the grace that comes before salvation, is what prepares a non-Christian to receive the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When prevenient grace is appropriated in the life of a non-Christian, through the work of the Holy Spirit, he/she comes to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The key component of prevenient grace is the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is universal in the sense that it is available to all people. What is the key point in this part of the discussion? Prevenient grace is grace that comes before salvation. It is grace at work in the life of somebody that is loved by God in spite of the fact that this person failed to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ.

John 3:16, the often cited and rarely read sign that is found at sporting events, says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Notice it says that God loved the world. It does not say that God loved the lovable. Do you see the difference here? If we are supposed to be loved by being lovable, then what does this say about God? We are supposed to love the unlovable, regardless of the fact that they are unlovable. If we are to live out God’s prevenient grace in the lives of other people, then we need to love them inspite of themselves, not because they are lovable.

Just some thoughts from a traveling pilgrim.