The Eternity Brand
When I say the word brand what comes to mind? Is it the kind we use on cows? Is it the kind we refer to when buying clothes or shoes like Levi’s or Nike? Not many people in America know about the type of brand that is used on cattle. Most know about name brands however.
Can you hazard a guess as to what the top brands are today? Google, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Netflix, Airbnb, Facebook and Starbucks. No surprises there. All are brands that have been burned into our brains over the last few years. But these brands are more than simply well-known. McDonald’s is not on the list, even though its golden arches are a universal symbol. ExxonMobil has a recognizable logo, but it is not included either. No, the top brands today like Google, Amazon et al., have “the power to connect deeply with people and bring about change,” says one observer. “They can influence the direction of larger culture and make an impact on the way other businesses think and operate.”
The brands that matter most connect deeply with people and bring about change. They actually influence the direction of our culture. Take Amazon, for example. It has fundamentally shifted the way we buy stuff, and it “consistently gets people excited about spending their money.”
How about Apple? It is the world’s most valuable company and also one of the most beloved, “due to its gorgeous products, intuitive services and enduring halo of cool.”
Tesla makes luxury electric cars, and electric is on track to be the automotive wave of the future. Car-buyers, it seems, want to be both eco-friendly and envied by their friends.
Facebook knows that “humans crave connection.” Facebook is where it happens, more and more — for better or for worse.
Airbnb is shaking up the travel business by encouraging strangers to open their homes to each other. It is a star of the new “sharing economy.”
And Starbucks is more than a coffee shop. Beyond home and work, it is a “third place” where community is created in unexpected ways.
All of these brands connect deeply with people and bring about change. They exert an influence on the entire world.
How about the Christian brand? Our cross is recognizable on church buildings around the world, and many of us put symbols of our faith on our cars, clothing and jewelry. Some people even get cross tattoos — the Christian symbol burned into skin!
Sadly, our Christian brand is suffering. Child sexual abuse, financial scandals and political posturing have caused many people to turn away from the faith. According to the Center for American Progress, Christianity has become associated with “intolerance, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, exclusion, rigidity, stinginess, lack of compassion.”
We need to go back to our roots and reclaim our brand. And fortunately, the apostle Paul can help us with this. As much as anyone else, Paul helped to establish the Christian brand, way back in the first century. He didn’t have a cross tattooed on his bicep, but he did present the message of the cross as “the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). He believed that Christ “died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (15:3-4).
For Paul, the cross is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it shows the power of God. On the cross, Jesus died for our sins and then was raised to new life. What happened on Good Friday and Easter was more world-changing than anything developed by Amazon or Airbnb. But that’s not all. “The one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus,” said Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (v. 14). Yes, that’s right — “raise us also.” This means that we will experience resurrection right along with Jesus and will enjoy eternal life with him.
Just imagine, for a second, how excited an advertiser would be to develop a multimedia campaign around this brand. All the pieces are in place: Connects deeply! Brings positive change! Exerts an influence! “Beyond all measure!” (v. 17). Why, none of the products of the most innovative companies even comes close. Paul knows that there is no competition, since all of the things of the world will eventually pass away, from Apple iPhones to Tesla cars. “Our outer nature is wasting away,” he says, and everything around us will eventually crumble (4:16). But we do not have to lose heart. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1).
So, what are the characteristics of God’s Eternity Brand? Not high-tech phones or luxury vehicles, but instead invisible power and eternal life. These are qualities that people are craving and that the Christian faith can provide.
Think about this: What is essential is invisible to the eye. Love for family members and friends. Justice and righteousness in our dealings with others. Belief in the power of forgiveness, both given and received. The fruits of the Holy Spirit, which Paul lists as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
None of these qualities can be perceived with our eyes. But we see them clearly with our hearts, and we know how essential they are. In fact, they are infinitely more important than anything we can purchase, and the quality of our lives would plummet if we were to lose them. Imagine living without love, in a world without justice or righteousness or the possibility of forgiveness. Sexual abuse, financial scandals and political posturing would be even worse than they already are. Imagine getting up in the morning without the possibility of joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control.
Fortunately, our Christian faith gives us access to these invisible powers. We are able to love each other because God “first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We act with justice and righteousness because our God is a just and righteous God. We believe in forgiveness because Jesus died to free us from sin. And we are able to show the fruits of the Spirit because the Spirit is always working through us. That’s because at some level by the power of the Holy Spirit the unseen is branded on our hearts. We know inside ourselves when something is right, and something is wrong. We feel this deep connection to the invisible realm.
Yet sadly we seem to struggle with how to pass it on to the next generation. Blockbuster had built an empire out of punishing their renters with late fees. They benefited from people’s busyness. Netflix, however, helped people watch movies in the middle of their hectic lives. Do you see where this is going? Blockbuster profited from a system that made people come to them. Netflix profited from creating a system that went to people. Think about this. Are millennials done with movies, film and TV? Heck no. In fact, television shows are becoming more and more an art form. But the format in which they consume this media has changed drastically.
In the same way, millennials are not done with God. But like Blockbuster, churches often punish young adults with the equivalent of late fees. The music isn’t for them, it’s hard to connect with others, the sermons are hard to relate to, and they aren’t lifted into positions of leadership. Why would they want to be part of a church that punishes their youthfulness?
Our faith gives us assurance. The good news is that our Christian faith gives us invisible powers to face the many challenges of life. But it also assures us of a place in God’s eternal kingdom. That’s why it is not a temporary brand, like all of the top corporate brands today. It is an Eternity Brand.
Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v. 1). This focus on eternal life, made possible by the resurrection of Jesus, is at the heart of the Christian faith. It assures us that nothing in all creation — not even death itself — can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).
In the face of economic change, we need the Eternity Brand, which includes God’s promise of “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” This brand connects deeply with people who want to live with faith and love, knowing that the choices they make in this life are going to have eternal consequences. It brings about change, inspiring people to work hard to transform the world as it is into the world as it should be. And it shapes the history of the larger culture by giving people a vision of God’s heavenly kingdom, in which injustice and war are replaced by righteousness and peace.
God provided for the apostle Paul as God does for us. At the heart of our brand is invisible power and eternal life — “beyond all measure!” We need fear nothing. We can’t even fear the next generation taking over our churches. The eternity brand is enough for all of us. That’s the good news that will last forever. Amen.