Jesus Doesn’t Use Fine Print

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

While watching TV these days I’m often bemused by some of the ads for new medical treatments intended to treat a variety of conditions and illnesses. While describing the benefits of these wonder drugs, accompanied by a family-friendly scene and upbeat music, the announcer often adds dire warnings like: “Do not take this medicine if you are allergic to it. This medication may result in anxiety and depression, sleeplessness and hallucinations, dizziness and immobility, indigestion and nausea, pain and paralysis, heart failure and shortness of breath. It may cause your skin to turn green, your teeth to fall out, and result in a sudden and painful death. Talk to your doctor to see if this treatment is for you.”

Umm . . . no thanks. I think I’ll stick with the illness I have.

A similar thing happens with ads for legal and financial services. But in this case the spoken ad from a pitch man is accompanied by disclaimers that fill-up half of the screen – for about three seconds – with fine print so small you’d need a powerful microscope and two days to read and decipher it.

Our culture can be very misleading, very deceiving, can’t it?

In reflecting on the state of modern advertising, it occurred to me how different Jesus was in describing the personal sacrifices required in following him: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 16: 24-25)

“Deny yourself . . . take up your cross . . . lose your life.” Nothing sugar-coated about that, is there? No hidden disclaimers, no fine print. Jesus puts it right there, out in front. “If you want to follow me it won’t be easy. You can expect difficulties, sacrifices and suffering.”

That warning of Christ is being fulfilled these days by many Christians around the world who are being persecuted and are suffering and dying because of their faith. And it’s an important message for us, too, whenever God sends some cross into our lives. “I didn’t bargain for that,” we protest. But yes, in fact, we did, when we chose to follow Christ.

Something to think about: The message of Jesus is very clear. There’s no commitment without the cross.