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Rev. Dr. Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church

It seems like a month since Taylor Swift and the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII, but it was just eleven days ago, and it’s still much on my mind. I will leave it to others to evaluate the quality of the game and the officiating. I have NO interest in wading into the ups and downs of the relationship between Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift or its effect on football. I don’t even want to discuss Usher’s halftime show or the commercials—well, except one.

Early in the first quarter we saw an ad that was funded by a couple of Christian billionaires (the same ones who also help fund Hobby Lobby) called “He Gets Us.”

The commercial pictures Jesus washing people’s feet, followed by a montage of images of ordinary people doing the same thing in modern settings. The tagline at the end of the ad is, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.”

This commercial runs a full minute and cost $15 million to air during the big game. It caught me by surprise and moved me. I surely did not expect to see such a powerfully religious message on television during the single biggest cultural event of the year. The numbers say that this year’s Super Bowl was watched by 123.4 million people.

Shortly afterwards, I was scrolling through social media, and the first comment I saw about the ad was, “Jesus has a foot fetish.” Ugh! The debate continued throughout the game and beyond. Some thought it was brilliant for Christians to run such a bold message in these divisive times in the middle of a huge cultural event. Others said that Jesus himself would not have spent the money this way and that it would have been better for the believers to use their $15 million to build affordable housing or feed hungry people. To put it in perspective, even if we assume that some Super Bowl watchers were in the restroom or fetching snacks, that single commercial was seen by exponentially more people than have listened to all of the sermons that I have preached in my entire career, and if even the smallest percentage of them are moved to read the Bible or visit a worship service, God might do some amazing things through those lives. On the other hand, giving someone a job or a safe place to stay in Jesus’ name arguably does a lot more to change a person’s life than any commercial.

How much should Christians engage with the larger culture? Should we join it, challenge it, or retreat from it? These are ancient questions, and historically, different groups of believers have answered these questions differently. For example, December 25th was a cultural celebration of the winter solstice long before Christians used the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth among us. Conversely, our modern traditions of Halloween developed in response to the Christian celebration of All Saints Day, the November 1 recognition of all the believers who have gone before us.

Surely, their ghosts would come out on All Hallows Eve, and Americans should spend $12.2 billion on candy costumes, and decorations!

What is a Christian to do in a world like ours? I say that we should not be afraid to be different—more generous, gracious, and servant-hearted than ever.  We should cross boundaries and wash people’s feet, and let the haters say that Jesus has a foot fetish if they want to!

God Loves You, and So Do I!

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