I heard about a secular artist who played at a Christian college once. After he had left, someone discovered that he had scrawled "Where's the graffiti?" on the clean white wall of the backstage bathroom.
It was a poignant question. Are the walls around us really that clean? Wouldn't it be just like a prophet to mess them up like this?
The prophets of the Old Testament seemed to have this irritating quality about them: they scribbled on everybody's walls. I'm sure Ezekiel's quaint little street theater, with his shorn hair arranged in piles while he removed some of his clothes and cooked over cow dung, was a shocking bit of graffiti on the immaculate walls of social and religious propriety. The Holy Spirit himself ruined Belshazzar's feast by writing on the wall a message of doom with an invisible hand. John the Baptist carried on the tradition by living like a madman in the desert and casting a verbal ax at the foot of the sacred trees of the Pharisees. Jesus, in His first speech in the Nazareth synagogue, so infuriated people that they drove Him out of town and would have thrown
Him off a cliff if He hadn't slipped away. Something He said must have disturbed them!
The most disturbing thing about all that we say to each other in the Christian world today is that no one is disturbing anyone. There's no graffiti on the pure white walls of our Christianity. There are a few disturbing voices, but they are not necessarily the right kind of disruption. There will always be self-righteous preachers railing us and demanding that we scrub our walls even whiter. We've gotten used to the din of their voices and the resulting emotional swell of guilt that drives for relief once again upon the gentle shore of grace.
But by and large, we busy ourselves making each other feel good. We're rich, we're full, and we're saved while two-thirds of the world is poor, hungry, and hell-bound. I often look at the neat, clean walls that surround our protected world and wonder, "Where's the graffiti?"
Some might contend that the recent downfall of a major televangelist could be considered writing on the wall for modern Christendom, but I don't think that will prove to be the case. This does not qualify as real graffiti because there has been no real confession, just admission of a faux pax, a major slip-up, but something that can be put behind us. We allow events like this one to quickly wash away from our attention because we do not want to face the graffiti on the walls of the offenders; but neither do we want to face our own. Thus the modern Christian world continues its road to success, influence, fun, and profit.
But where's the graffiti? Where's the human side of our spiritual message? Where's the reality? Is the pain and hunger of the world really touching us? Do we force ourselves to see? or does being a Christian mean I don't have to encounter this anymore?
I'm afraid we have led ourselves to believe just that, for we are continually whitewashing the writing on the walls of our environment. But living in a whitewashed world is not what Jesus intended for us. In the garden of Gethsemane He prayed, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15).
His prayer contrasts with the direction of Christianity in the modern world. For the sake of their own protection, many Christians are evacuating the world. Our personal safety has taken
precedence over our mission. The emergence of a separate-from-the-world Christian mentality is nullifying the need of Jesus' prayer. Why do we need to be protected from something we no longer encounter?
In contrast, it is clearly implied by His prayer that Jesus wants us to be in the middle of things, just as He was. He wants us to be vulnerable to the attacks of the world, out where His prayer is not just a nice idea from a morning devotional hour but a matter of survival. If we aren't out where it's dangerous, we mock Jesus' concern for our protection and undermine His reason for sending us as His ambassadors to the world.
Jesus never promised that our lives would be lived in peace; He promised that in the midst of this tumultuous, evil world, He would be our peace. There's a world of difference between those two perspectives.
Where's the graffiti? I'm sure that Jesus is quite familiar with the words written on the subway walls and tenement halls of our cities. And I wouldn't be surprised if He has even written something there for us all to read.
Chapter 33 || Table of Contents