Easily the most talked about, and most controversial commercial during the Super Bowl was a product of the #HeGetUs campaign. The marquee ad, entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” ran during the second half, as all the parties would have settled into the game and begun contemplating who would emerge as winner.
As you can see above, the ad featured 60 seconds of photos of conflict underlied by a soulful bluesy song by John “The Ragin’ Cajun” Jones called “I’m Only Human After All.”
The most controversial aspects of the ad are hard to determine. The fact that an organization is running ads to promote Jesus proved to be in and of itself controversial, as pundits across the spectrum questioned whether Jesus would have bought a Super Bowl ad, and whether the money could’ve been better spent feeding the poor.
While the Bible teaches mercy and benevolence toward the poor, those who have actually read the Bible know that in the New Testament, Jesus set the spread of the Gospel and the making of disciples as the top priority for the churches.
Such criticisms have even led many to call for taxing churches. However, the funds for the ads did not come from churches, but rather came from David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, who literally made his fortune selling beads to hippies and soccer moms, and who gives half of the profits of Hobby Lobby away every year to organizations who spread the Gospel and provide relief to those in need.
Would Jesus buy a Super Bowl ad? I don’t know. But I do know that He would be pleased His name was proclaimed to millions without the neglect for the poor.
The second point of controversy was the confrontational aspect of the ad. The images of protest and conflict conjured up emotions of rage toward those on opposite sides of the political spectrum from us, then the message blindsided us with “Jesus loved those we hate.”
This message refers back to the words of Christ spoken during the Sermon on the Mount, and echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King, that we are to love our enemies. Love your opponents, and those who work against you.
The objective in loving our enemies is twofold, (1) To identify ourselves as God’s people and (2) to see our enemies redeemed.
This concept goes against our human nature, so we find it offensive. Yet, it’s not only Biblical, it was mandated by the Lord Himself, in the red letters, in the New Testament. There’s no getting around it. We are supposed to love our enemies.
Thus, there was an implied call to repentance in the ad. And that will always draw backlash.
Perhaps the final, and most controversial aspect of the ad was this… that Jesus loves those we hate. We have been conditioned to think that our enemies, our opponents, those different from us, are inherently evil and should be defeated and destroyed.
That is why our political discourse is as inciteful and incendiary as it is today. It’s not enough to defeat your opponent in a debate or in an election, you must also destroy his life so that evil can be vanquished and peace can permeate the world.
This mindset is wrong, because it’s false (opponents need to be won over, not destroyed) and based on a faulty premise. The wrath of man cannot bring the will of God, nor can it generate His peace.
However, when cable news, columnists and talk radio have convinced you that the other side is the embodiment of evil, the idea that Jesus could love them is startling.
Furthermore, if Jesus loves them like He loves me, then could He side with them also? Could Jesus possibly disagree with me?
And those questions drive the faith community, which easily drifts into self-righteousness, crazy.
A Jesus that disagrees with us is a Jesus that we still need to repent and turn toward, whose views we still need to conform ourselves to. And that means that it’s not just those we see as being lost that are being called to repentance, but it’s ourselves also.
That’s a confession too few of us are willing to make. Thus, the controversy surrounding this ad was near universal.
However, that doesn’t mean that the group behind the ad made a mistake. In his book, “Leadership Not By The Book,” David Green discusses the need to be disruptive, to shake things up and get people’s attention.
This ad was definitely disruptive. It broke our conventional thinking into what an evangelistic ad should look and feel like, and it broke cultural norms about who we perceive Christ to be. That forces us to either deny the Gospel, or re-center on who Christ really is and believe the true Gospel.
And because of that, I find the #HeGetsUs campaign to be hitting all the right points.