In the last few years, my job in organizational communications has allowed me to learn a little bit about “branding.” Simply put, a company’s brand is its identity. The idea comes from the branding done on cattle ranches. As you’re probably aware, each ranch has a unique symbol that they burn into the hide of every cow on the farm with an iron “stamp,” or brand. The “Double D Ranch,” for example, might have a brand of two “Ds.” If a Double D cow wanders off, other ranchers know where that cow rightfully belongs because of the two Ds burned into its hide.
The idea is similar in corporate branding. There are certain things that identify a company—a logo, colors, slogans. These help create an identity for an organization. But my boss is quick to point out that branding is not just about logos and color palettes. It’s about experience. People should have a uniform experience whenever they encounter a particular organization. Whether you patronize a company in Boise or Boston, you should have the same experience.
One of the most successful brands in existence is Coca-Cola. With some slight modifications, Coke tastes the same across the country. The classic red and white swish is identifiable from Argentina to Austria.
I read recently that after the Coca-Cola company had been bottling their product for a while, they decided they wanted a unique bottle, something that would be identified as a Coke bottle even if it were shattered against a wall. And they succeeded. The shape, the color, the texture—everything about that bottle says “Coke.”
Now imagine having all this branding business in mind and reading this verse:
“ . . . I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).
While commentators offer different interpretations of what the apostle Paul might have meant here, the most obvious meaning is that Paul was referring to the many scars he carried from being repeatedly beaten and scourged. His body was literally scarred because of his association with Jesus.
But the word “brand-mark” is also the word used when slaves of that century were branded—like we brand cows today—with a mark burned into their skin that identified that slave as belonging to a particular person.
The word “brand-mark” is powerful enough when it’s taken to mean Paul’s physical scars. It’s even more profound when you consider that Paul may have had a double meaning in mind—that he was a slave of Jesus Christ and bore His brand. But I can’t help but expand the application still more as I consider some of the present-day meaning associated with the word “brand.” I ask myself--
--Do I clearly identify myself with Jesus?
--Do people have the same experience whenever they encounter me? Am I consistently Christ-like?
--If I were to be thrown against a wall and broken into a million pieces, would people look at those pieces and see Jesus?
Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
Oh! to Be Like Thee, Thomas O. Chisholm, pub. 1897