What you do with your finger makes all the difference

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about fingers.¬†Specifically, John the Baptist’s finger.

In medieval art John the Baptist is identified by his finger.

A long, slender, bony index finger on his right hand.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting St. John the Baptist is the most significant painting of his finger. Without question he wants the viewer to focus on his index finger.

He dressed more awkwardly than a hipster (camel’s hair) and ate more disgusting things than a reality television eating contest (locusts dipped in honey), but what he did with his finger was the most important thing about him. In high church tradition, this is recognized traditionally during the second week of Advent each year. In fact, in the Nelson-Atkins Museum holds what is believed to be (at least in tradition) the actual finger of John the Baptist.

And John the Baptist is identified by his finger for good reason: he’s the one who pointed people away from himself and towards Jesus. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). In fact, it was the calling on his life.

The thought of John the Baptist being remembered for his finger has me pondering the question: Would Christians today be identified by our finger?

My quick answer is yes, but it may not be as positive as you might think…

There are three other questions that must be asked first before a faithful answer can be given.

[1] Which finger?

Admittedly, those who are not followers of Jesus oftentimes perceive people who are Christ-followers as being people of the finger – but of a different sort: the middle one. It’s been said many times over that Christians are identified by what they are against more than what they are for. Middle fingers send an offensive message. But index fingers provide guidance, instruction, direction and a shift of vision or perspective.¬†Which finger are you using?

[2] What direction?

But even if we’re using our index finger, we still can use it inappropriately. When we use the phrase “I point the finger at _____” we’re implying that we’re attaching blame to someone or something. It can be a posture of fault-finding. Adam did this with Eve in the Garden in Genesis. When we say this we’re never implying that we’re pointing anywhere in the direction of Jesus.

If we’re, indeed, using our index finger (and I hope we are) we have to ask which direction our finger is pointing. Toward us? Toward others? Toward things which have passing value and meaning? or toward Jesus, like John the Baptist exemplified?

To be a Christian (a Christ-ian) or, as Martin Luther said, “a little Christ,” we must be people who are pointing others away from us and toward Christ – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s the centrality of Jesus in our lives that gives us our foundation, our bearing, our hope. Who/what are you pointing at?

[3] What posture?

I can be pointing at something in the proper direction but with an improper posture. Words may reveal what we believe, but body language reveals what we actually value. Christians can point our finger at Christ for others to see, but if we’re not careful, it can be perceived as arrogant, manipulative, shame-inducing and condemning. What Jesus asks of his followers is a life that is consistent with his – and his life was marked by humility. If we can’t point to Jesus with humility for others to see, our posture is not only confusing. It is wrong. What is your body language communicating in addition to your finger?

May we use our index fingers.

May we use our index fingers to point to Christ.

And may we use our index fingers to point to Christ in a posture of humility.

What you do with your finger makes all the difference in the world.

Heed the finger of John the Baptist.