For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. (2 Cor. 4:5)
Distractions are everywhere. It is not only at Christmas; but somehow this season seems to bring out the worst (or most effective) in manipulative advertisements. These are seductive ways of viewing the world, of thinking of life, and of focusing on me. They jam the airwaves, fill cyberspace and overflow social media. The messages consistently remind me that what I want materially somehow corresponds with what I need emotionally and spiritually. It’s all about me and being somebody, being known, impressing others, elevating my status.
This tension between the marketing messages of Madison Avenue and the messages of the Bible reminds me a little of some architectural masterpieces in Italy.
As you walk through St. Peter’s Basilica and the nearby Sistine Chapel in Rome, one thing certainly stands out — the incredible artwork. Michelangelo’s Pieta and the amazing dome in St. Peter’s, as well as the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, present astounding examples of a world-famous Renaissance man at his best. Many rightly wonder how one individual could possess such renowned talent, while most of us exist in relative obscurity.
But let us view this from a different angle. The vastness of St. Peter’s is humbling. The artwork is magnificent. The scope and shape and detailed perfection are breathtaking. And yet, the very size of St. Peter’s lends itself to another truth: working under and alongside the famous masters were literally thousands of valuable workers contributing their own hard work, creativity, ingenuity, sweat equity, and considerable talent in faithful devotion to a cause larger than themselves. Though many never even saw the finished product, St. Peter’s today remains a thankful reminder of those and their skillful work. But the vast majority of them didn’t proclaim themselves. Their efforts joined together in a glad proclamation of God’s glory.
Each day, workers carried bricks, shaped marble, created vast mosaics from tiny tiles, raised columns to the sky and, in many cases, risked their lives. We do not know their names, but we do experience the magnificence of their combined efforts and their anonymous contributions to the larger grandeur of St. Peter’s. In each detail, in every corner high and low, their devoted labors live on. This is another kind of testimony: a spiritual worship, a quiet, humble witness to the glory of God. These are ongoing offerings with no fanfare and little recognition. This was not so much about them or what they wanted. But their gifts to the larger beauty of St. Peter’s have brought wonder to visitors throughout the centuries.
In the same way, “we do not proclaim ourselves.” Instead, like those talented but unknown workers long ago, let us faithfully “proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord” simply through how we live. Like the masterpieces quietly left for coming generations, we can present our lives “as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1).
Regardless of what marketers say, this is what we need.
So may those with us now, along with those of the future, be blessed for the contributions we make, however humble or unrecognized. And may our lives then “let light shine out of darkness” as we all seek to give “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).