Tuesday Re-mix –
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32
Last year, companies in the Northwest U.S. came out in favor of a same-sex marriage law in Washington state, citing business reasons such as keeping quality employees (who would presumably feel compelled to leave the state, and the company, in order to live somewhere where they could enjoy their same-sex marriage). Those announcements would not ordinarily have made national news, except for the names of some of those companies: Microsoft, Nike, and (alas) Starbucks. Actually, not even Microsoft’s or Nike’s announcements got all that much attention, despite their HUGE place in the homes of Christians all over the world. But Starbucks…well, then the Christian world was in an uproar, to say the least. People were calling for a boycott. Messing with our computers and our $200 tennis shoes was one thing, but then they were messing with our coffee!
IN THIS CORNER: “How can you say you believe the Bible and then support gay marriage by purchasing Starbucks coffee?!” And IN THIS CORNER: “How can you say you follow Christ and then refuse to associate (like He did) with those with whom you disagree?!” And with those positions, both sides dangerously agree on one contention: “If you disagree with me on this, you must not really be Christian.”
I am a peacemaker. This sort of conflict is what I live for! So I boldly waded out into this one with some words of counsel to my Christian friends who simply could not resist this fight. “If you and your Christian friend are really going to debate this issue,” I said, “because she is boycotting Starbucks and you don’t want to…or because you are boycotting Starbucks and she doesn’t want to, you need to follow some rules.” Of course, my friends already knew these rules, because they come from the same Bible we each used to support our argument. Permit me a few paraphrases of those “rules of engagement”:
1. Do not overestimate or overstate what is at risk. Neither your salvation nor your friend’s are at stake here. I’ve searched and searched the scripture on this…there is nothing in there about boycotting the secular world’s businesses in order to be saved…nor, for that matter, even as evidence of our salvation. Moreover, your Christian friendship is likewise not at risk here, nor your worship relationship, nor your ability to love each other, minister together, or discuss scripture together. Keep a “ceiling” on the discussion and do not let it escalate beyond its reasonable borders. The Christ in you and the Christ in your friend are still the same…and still very much alive!
2. You are on the same team. The friend with whom you are arguing is not your enemy. We in the church do have an enemy, and he loves it when we break unity, especially over stuff like this. Figure out whose strategy you are going to play into here…and be careful.
3. Keep your words edifying. Quit taking the other side’s position and then carrying it out to some ridiculous “logical conclusion” just to try to make them look foolish. That doesn’t build them up. Understand their position, yes, but don’t misinterpret it. Quit trying to change their minds about their own position. Just explain why you have made the decision you have made without tearing them down for their decision. Ask yourself what is to be gained by using words of contempt and shaming them into agreeing with you…you may have won the debate, but at what cost?
4. Keep bitterness and anger out of this discussion. That is sometimes easier said than done. But all of us as Christ followers need an anger gauge that sounds an alarm when we feel it rising up in us. And then we need to find some quick, honest, relatively painless way out of this discussion until we can re-enter it with coolness and love and gentleness. How embarrassing will it be for you to stand before the Lord one day and have to admit that you destroyed a Christian friendship which HE ORDAINED FOR YOU over a disagreement about where you buy your coffee. Ouch!
5. Don’t use your life experiences to interpret scripture. Rather, use scripture to interpret your life experiences. Be honest. If you have an idea in mind of what you want scripture to say before you even open it, then your “research” is already tainted.
I hope these reminders help. They always help me. Consider yourself adequately warned now. So, go ahead…strap on the gloves and slug it out. And may the best Christian win. 🙂