An Australian construction and property management company apparently decided that the name of Jesus is too offensive for a digital sign in a shopping center. The company forced an evangelical church to remove the name and replace it with “the risen Christ” in posters for an Easter festival.
Elim Christian Ministry in New South Wales paid for posters advertising an Easter celebration from March 29, Maundy Thursday, to April 1, Easter Sunday. The posters read, “the greatness of His Power. Jesus is Alive!” Pastor Martin Duffy told 2GB radio‘s Ben Fordham that the property management company Lendlease forced him to remove the name of Jesus, changing it to “Risen Christ.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Jesus, and the phrase ‘Jesus is alive’ is the core, the central message of the Christian faith and what Easter’s really all about,” Duffy said.
“That phrase became offensive to the people,” the pastor surmised. “There’s like a minority group out there that are constantly distorting the message of Jesus Christ. They made us change it.”
Duffy remarked on the irony of censoring the name of Jesus while the shopping center presents ads for lingerie. “In the same center, they’ve got advertising for lingerie — it’s semi-pornographic, I’ve got to direct my children away from it,” the pastor said. “So that’s not offensive, and all the profane language, but this is offensive.”
The pastor further noted that “Jesus is Alive” is an extremely mainstream message. “This is a historical message and it’s preached to a billion people every Easter,” he said. “The death of Jesus on Good Friday. He dies, pays the penalty for our sins [and] that He rose again on Sunday means that He’s a miracle-working God, nothing is hopeless.”
Ironically, those most offended by Jesus might be even more offended by substituting “Christ” for His name. Many religious Jews strongly reject the idea that the 1st century figure Jesus of Nazareth is really the promised Messiah, what “Christ” really means. By substituting “Jesus” for “Christ,” Lendlease arguably made the Easter message more offensive for Jews who reject Jesus.
Some people use the term “Jesus” as a curse word, but it is abundantly clear the poster did not carry this meaning. No one swears by saying “Jesus is Alive!”
To its credit, Lendlease realized its mistake and sent Elim Christian Ministry a formal apology. “It was an error of judgement to ask the church to change its message and we apologise unreservedly,” the company said. “Lendlease values diversity and inclusion and we welcome people of all backgrounds at our shopping centres.”
Even so, it is rather ironic to have the name of Jesus blacklisted as Easter Sunday approaches. According to the New Testament, God the Father gives Jesus the “name above all names,” because Jesus emptied Himself of His glory and became obedient to a gruesome and humiliating death.
Due to this humility, “God highly exalted Him, and gave Him the name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Easter is the day Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead after He demonstrated His humility by dying on the cross. The resulting exaltation will not completely take place until Jesus’ Second Coming, but every Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate His resurrection and look to His final glorification. (The Resurrection is the key historical claim of the Christian faith, and the Apostle Paul wrote that if the Resurrection did not happen, Christians are “of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19)
Having the name of Jesus maligned by this world in this specific way fits the New Testament picture of the world. According to Ephesians 2, “the prince of the power of the air” rules over the world. While the glory of Jesus will be fully revealed (Titus 2), that glory is temporarily hidden.
Lendlease reversed its decision, and it remains unclear why this happened in the first place. Christians in Australia, like Christians in America, do not face the brutal persecution many Christians face across the world, and the name of Jesus is held in high esteem in these countries. Even so, Christians ought not to be surprised if Jesus’ name truly comes under fire, despite their hope that His glory will ultimately be revealed and His name revered by all.