Monthly Archives: April 2012

Seemingly . Outrageous!

“Every idea should be seemingly outrageous.” That’s the kernel of George Lois’ advice for creative people who hope to make a decisive impact on others. Lois (now in his 80s) was a pioneer in the “creative revolution” in American advertising in the 1950s and ’60s. He is credited as the inspiration for the lead character, Don Draper, on the Emmy-winning AMC TV series, Mad Men. I was struck by George Lois’ statement during a radio interview promoting his recently-released book, Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!). (Morning Edition, NPR, March 19, 2012)

“Seemingly . outrageous” ideas in George Lois’ ad campaigns included slogans and visual images that arrest attention. Observers are provoked to take notice and to ask, “Can this really be?” Lois’ ad campaigns were designed to change people’s behavior on behalf of his clients by “.the defeat of habit by originality.” Messages presented with powerful words and images were designed to penetrate people’s customary notions, lodge in their thinking, and motivate their future actions. Lois was very successful at his craft.

“Seemingly . outrageous” applies to many of the acts through which God reveals his abiding message that his grace can overcome our persistent failures in sin. Our human habit of sin is so ingrained that ordinary messages of love, justice, and kindness from God unfortunately go unheeded. We apparently have conditioned ourselves to require seemingly outrageous demonstrations of God’s grace in order for us to pay attention and to change our ways (repent).

Here are some of the seemingly outrageous ideas God has had – things so outrageous that only by God’s power and grace could they be done:

. Abraham becoming the “father of many nations” (God’s people) at the age of 100 by having a son with his 90 year-old wife, Sarah: “[God said to Abraham,] ‘I will bless [Sarah] so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’ {17} Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?'” (Genesis 17:16-17 NIV)

. Moses, a fumble-mouthed shepherd, leading slaves of the most powerful ruler in the world to the Promised Land God would give them: “[God said to Moses,] ‘the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. {10} So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ {11} But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ {12} And God said, ‘I will be with you..’ {4:10} Moses said to the LORD, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ {11} The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? {12} Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.'” (Exodus 3:9-11, 4:10-12 NIV)

. David, likely a 13 year-old shepherd, defeating the giant warrior, Goliath, who was terrorizing God’s people: “David said to Saul, ‘Don’t let anyone be discouraged. I, your servant, will go and fight this Philistine!’ {33} Saul answered, ‘You can’t go out against this Philistine and fight him. You’re only a boy. Goliath has been a warrior since he was a young man..’ {36} [David answered,] ‘I, your servant, have killed both a lion and a bear! This uncircumcised Philistine will be like them, because he has spoken against the armies of the living God. {37} The LORD who saved me from a lion and a bear will save me from this Philistine.’ Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the LORD be with you.'” (1 Samuel 17:32-33, 36-37 NCV)

But these seemingly outrageous scenes happened, with the outcomes just as God said they would. His saving power and grace were confirmed to his people, Israel, and to nations observing the grace of the God they followed. Their habit of cowering in sin was overcome by God leading them in ways they could hardly imagine.

But when people reverted to their habit of self-reliance for deliverance and lifestyles of sin, God demonstrated his grace in the most seemingly outrageous event of all time: “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. {22} Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ {23} Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!… You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'” (Matthew 16:21-23 NIV) Peter was an eye-witness to exactly what Jesus said would happen. And Peter became a compelling voice proclaiming the salvation that comes to us through God raising Jesus from the dead.

What about us? Are we called to a seemingly outrageous action in response to God’s amazing grace offered to us in Christ Jesus? Can we say that our lives truly meet the seemingly outrageous claim Paul makes as a follower of Jesus? “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

I wonder how many people would be stirred from their habit of self-reliance and sin if followers of Jesus truly lived in such seemingly outrageous faith as Paul describes.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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