I want to share a few personal observations about the excellent He Gets Us commercial that aired during the Super Bowl on February 11. If you have not seen the commercial… Wait. I know you’ve seen the commercial. I know at least 123.4-million people have seen the commercial and you are one of them. In case you need to view it again before you read my comments or you’re compelled to watch it after reading, here it is:
The ad gives us several beautifully enhanced photographs of different people in a variety of settings adopting the posture of our Savior Jesus Christ, obeying the direct command of our Lord, stooping down and washing someone else’s feet. A police officer washing the feet of a Black man in an urban alley. A White landowner washing the feet of an older Native American. A Pro-Life protester washing the feet of a pregnant girl outside an abortion clinic. An oil man washing the feet of an environmental activist. A White woman washing the feet of her Indian neighbor. A Black woman at a protest over an unidentified issue washing the feet of a counter-protester. A Black and White man sitting together, each with a foot in the same bucket of water, smiling in a post-mutual-foot-washing moment. The ads ends with the dramatic tag-line, the Scriptural, historical, traditional, Christian fact that “Jesus didn’t teach hate; he washed feet.”
Most people seem to believe this whole two-year campaign is aimed at non-Christians to give them a more realistic view of our King. In dozens of these ads, Jesus is depicted as homeless, as a refugee, as persecuted for his non-conformist actions, as being an outsider in his own community–all of this is true according to the Gospels and are critical facets to the biblical picture of our Lord–to show non-believers that Jesus understands them. He gets us.
But I believe this whole campaign, and particularly this Super Bowl commercial, is aimed at the Christians. It’s a dramatic way to remind us of the identity and the priorities of the King we claim to follow, and to rightly judge those among us who talk and act toward the outsiders, the foreigners, and the marginalized in decidedly un-Christ-like ways.
In almost all the pictures in the ad, it’s very clear who in the photograph has the power and who doesn’t. It’s obvious who’s got the advantages, the rights, the money, and the law. And in those pictures, it’s the person in power who is washing the feet of the one who has no power. These are moving images of people you and I can relate to–pictures of us–setting aside our rights, putting down our megaphones and protest signs, forgetting our claims and beliefs about law or justice or political party platforms long enough to obey our Lord and serve the needs of others. Meet the needs of others. Just like Jesus commanded us to do.
That last night at dinner with his disciples, Jesus got down on his hands and knees and washed their feet. He was their Lord and Teacher, the Gospel says. He was by far the most important person in the room. But he made himself the least important person in the room when he washed their feet. He gave up his power and authority and assumed the posture of a servant. He served. He met needs. He “showed them the full extent of his love,” it says. And when he finished, he said, “Wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
The commercial is reminding Christians that this is our King and this is his Way. Like Jesus, we are called to reject the ways of the world, to reject the ways of power and authority and threat and division–snap out of it!
Jesus didn’t teach hate; he washed feet.
Most of those getting their feet washed in the commercial are representing, generally, groups of people who have been hurt by Christians and, in a lot of ways, in the name of Christianity. Christian values. Again, generally speaking, these groups have experienced hate from those who claim to be acting out of loyalty to Christian principles and Christian rights. The ad is for Christians, calling us to return to love and grace, forgiveness and mercy, service and peace–the authentic Christians values.
If this ad has anything to say to non-Christians, maybe it’s offering hope that there are still some Christians in America who love and serve and forgive and show mercy in the name and manner of the One we follow. Maybe it could even be an apology on behalf of the King’s subjects.
It’s a wonderful commercial, effective on so many levels at presenting Gospel truth in a compelling way.
And, yet, lots of Christians hate the ad. Predictably, I suppose. Sadly. These Christians, ironically, fail to realize they are not judging the ad, the ad is judging them. Most of those expressing displeasure with the ad fit into the categories of people depicted doing the foot-washing. Evidently, these Christians do not like being portrayed as Jesus-figures of love and service in a world of violence and division. Why do they hate the ad? Because they see themselves as what they know deep down they should be but, because of their misguided loyalties to worldly kingdoms and worldly ways, they can’t.
I know which of the pictures made me flinch. I know which photograph caused me immediate concern and put a big balloon-sized question mark above my raised eyebrows. I know exactly which picture did that to me. It was only one. And it got me. It judged me. It convicted me. It took a couple of minutes, but it corrected me. It reset my priorities. I’m thankful. Praise our Lord.
We don’t judge great art; great art judges us. Your reaction and response to the ad reveals a lot, I think, about you. The Super Bowl ad says Jesus Gets Us. He does. That ad gets us, too.