Years ago some friends of ours had a Christian bookstore. It was a ministry for them and they tried very hard to cull through the books available to offer only books that were good and helpful. They just wanted to make good books available to those who were searching.
It was a great ministry for them and they met a lot of people with a lot of questions. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make money. It was partly from their reluctance to sell what we called “Jesus Junk.” You know what I mean. Pencils with John 3:16. A hundred different sized pictures with footprints on them. Smiley face plastic cups that say, “Rejoice!” Precious Moments Bible covers. Pieces of gum with Scripture quotes. On and on.
I have a special sympathy for Christian booksellers these days. Those few believers who actually buy books do so online. The only things left for the local bookseller are the accessories and the “Jesus Junk.” Some stores have only a small section of books. The rest of the space is given to the things that make money.
And, if you look at the books, notice how many have the word “grace” in the title. I just checked Amazon and it looks like over 20,000 Christian books are available that have “grace” in the title. Why? Because grace is popular right now. A quick check on the name “Jesus” in the title will reveal only about a fourth that many.
Now, you can challenge these numbers and they aren’t really the point. The point is that there are all kinds of books, accessories, and Jesus Junk items out there so that the marketers can cash in on the popularity of the idea of grace.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against the word or the popularity of the idea of grace. You may find a book by me someday that has that word in the title. My concern is simple. If grace is so popular, why is so much of the church still stuck in legalism? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that wearing shoelaces with the word “Grace” on them is not the same as understanding and enjoying the truth about grace.
I want the idea of grace to be popular; in fact, I want everyone to know the truth about God’s love in Jesus. But the marketers are not about getting the message of love and grace out. They are about getting the feelings of love and grace out. If they can give you something so that you feel better, they don’t care what it says or does to you after you buy it. There’s a reason many of us don’t trust marketing.
Listen: grace feels good! I have so enjoyed the feelings of acceptance and freedom and peace that have come as I grow in my understanding of grace. The feelings are real and right.
But feelings can be counterfeited. I remember feeling great when I heard a new method of overcoming sin from the legalist teacher. I remember feeling loved when I received approval for doing something “right.” But those feelings were not based on foundational truth and they didn’t last. Feelings are not enough without truth.
So the marketing birds watch the other birds to see what kind of seed is being spread. They don’t really care what the seed is; they just want to get a piece of the action. They hoard the seed, dress it up to look more attractive, and mix it with other seed. Then they try to attract even more birds to snatch up the seed from the sower.
The message of grace is so much more than most of the marketers understand.
(LOL! As I wrote this, I received an email telling me that “Scripture Candy” is now 16% off at the wholesaler. Gotta get me some Faith Pops!)