One I've seen a going around recently looks something like this:
"I love you so much, and if you don't love me back I will torture you for eternity."Appalling, isn't it? Just enough contact with actual Christian teaching to sound (very, very superficially) like the gospel — for about three-tenths of a second. But some people actually see this and "Yeah, yeah, Christianity really is stupid!"
No, I don't think this kind of thing drives away Christians. But we have a large pseudo-Christian fringe society that knows some of the lingo and has a grasp of a few of the concepts, and they rely on that as their religious experience. Things like this only encourage them to not take Christianity more seriously, to not go deeper, closer and become actual Christians.
So I don't think we should let these caricatures stand. We should correct them when we can. But the people spouting (or reading) these things are probably not the deep, thoughtful conversation type — at least not about this topic, not right now. So we need sound-bite sized responses to give them a little something to chew on, a rock in their shoe.
So if you had to put the gospel into a sound-bite, how would you do it?
John 3:16 is a great summary but I wouldn't want to use it for two reasons: First, "believe" is a word that has been abused and misconstrued; in current English usage, it bears very little resemblance to what the word in that verse really means. Second, it's too familiar. When people see it, they don't really see it. It's like when you see a stop sign, you don't actually read the word "stop" every time.
So here's what I've come up with.
You've rebelled against me and so must be punished, but I love you so much I'm willing to take the punishment for you.What do you think? There's so much missing. I'd love to have a paragraph, but a compound sentence is probably the most we can get away with. I'd love a better summary if you've got one, though.
Are there any other caricatures of Christian teaching that you've come across?