Last week, pictures circulated Facebook encouraging people to support Chick-Fil-A on August 1. Initially, I didn’t notice the cause because it doesn’t take much to convince me to eat tasty food! With this attitude, I shared one of the pictures with this statement: “This sounds like a great excuse to eat Chick-Fil-A to me!” I had no idea the firestorm I was about to walk into. I was blindsided by the outrage and attacks that came from some of my friends who hold values different than my own.
So much has been published about last week’s event that I wonder if I can actually contribute any new or pertinent ideas to this discussion. Joe Dallas wrote “To My Angry Gay Friend” which I believe is the best Christian response to the LGBT community I have read. I however have no intention of composing an apologetic post to last week’s event, but will attempt to express some thoughts that I think are particularly important to pastors and Christians as we navigate these interesting times.
In this discussion, along with other hot buttons in our culture, I have seen Christian leaders opt out of the conversation for the sake keeping Christ crucified as the only message. I agree with this position at first glance. I certainly don’t want to minimize the Gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the jugular vein of Christianity. It is the message of hope to a dead world whom God loves and has called us to reach. The stance of preaching Christ crucified alone has been my response to a number issues in the past, but in all honesty I question my motives sometimes as I feel like I am hiding behind the Gospel for the sake of not having to take a controversial stance on a particular issue that is critical, sensitive, or divisive.
I guess the ultimate question at hand is does the Bible call Christians to be Switzerland (i.e. neutral and passive) on all issues outside of our message Christ crucified, or does Christ call the redeemed person to challenge the fallen culture in which they live as they proclaim Christ crucified? In seeking to answer this question an article in Time Magazine (go figure) helped me square this issue as it relates to my calling as a pastor. The article essentially asked Jerry Falwell how he dealt with Billy Graham’s criticisms of his political involvement. His response was something along the lines of, “Billy Graham is an evangelist called to lead people to Christ. I am a pastor called to lead people to maturity in Christ.” I found this response to be helpful and insightful as it shows Billy Graham’s goal was to remove all barriers outside of the Cross. Jerry Falwell’s goal was to lead people to Christ and then equip them to live out their faith in Christ.
There is a story in Acts 19 that I find particularly relevant to the debate in our land today. If you don’t remember this story, let me refresh your memory here. Paul had entered into Ephesus, and ministered there for about two years (Acts 19:10). God used Paul’s ministry in a mighty way. Many came to Christ and lives were transformed. Their lifestyles changed and it affected the local economy radically. One of the local businessmen was financially devastated because so many of his clients accepted Jesus as Lord. He pulled the “silversmith union” together try to stop the Gospel because it had utterly destroyed his industry and livelihood (Acts 19:27) as the Christians essentially boycotted their services. This is a story that clearly demonstrates the Gospel penetrates further than the soul of the individual it saved, but to everything touched by the saved individual. The Bible seems to encourage believers to give preference of doing good to those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Maybe it isn’t even an intentional action by a group of believers, but rather an organic byproduct of a group of people living according to Kingdom standards as revealed in the Scriptures? Nonetheless, it seems to me the whole August 1 event was a display of support and blessing a corporation that stands for Biblical values. Quite frankly, I was pleased to see Christians stand united for something they were for instead of the rallying against a particular cause that Christians have deemed inappropriate.
History records that the majority of people are silent as their culture is making a shift in a bad direction or towards evil. I love what Bonhoeffer said in his context of Nazi Germany, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” The most difficult thing for me is determining which things are worth standing for and what things are not. But I am certain that the majority of people choose silence instead of doing the right thing in the face of opposition. Cowardice is not a Biblical virtue. Christ instructs His followers “not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” (Ephesians 5:11-12)
In Philippians 3:20, Paul teaches that believers in Christ are citizens of heaven. The lesson is clear that we live in a world filled with pain and sorrow and we are pilgrims passing through a foreign land. I became a Christian while serving as a US Navy SEAL. To say that I saw myself as a patriot would be an understatement. During those early years God began to challenge my confusion, or syncretism, with my American citizenship and my new Christian citizenship. God used the above passage to help me shape my new identity in Christ. Does our new identity in Christ negate our earthly citizenship? I don’t think so. Paul wrote this letter while under house arrest in Rome. He was in Rome because he used the benefits of his Roman citizenship, as he did in a number of other places, to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11). Clearly Paul was okay using his Roman citizenship for the sake of the Gospel.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he instructs believers to be in “subjection to the governing authorities.” (Romans 13:1) American Christians, in large part, have had the easiest job in obeying this command in comparison to other believers throughout history. The United States is a governing authority that is of the people, by the people, for the people, and was born out of strong Judeo-Christian values. One of our greatest privileges as Americans is the right to vote. It saddens me that so few people who are eligible to vote actually register to vote and very few of those who are registered to vote actually exercise that right. I do believe that we as pastors should encourage believers to register and to prayerfully consider who to cast their vote toward.
Clarity Beats Agreement.
As a final word, I’ve been going crazy over statements made in the midst of this whole Chick-Fil-A discussion. I am shocked by the attacks against Christians and even more shocked by the Biblical illiteracy of the average believer as the Bible is clear concerning God’s position on homosexuality. I would like to end with a quote from Rick Warren as it helps untangle some of the false accusations and assumptions made in this discussion. He said, “I am not allowed by Jesus to hate anyone. Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
Good post Gunnar. I think the fear of falling to syncretistic tendencies often inhibits my discernment in these areas as well. Like you, I don’t want to “join the mob”, especially in the “this is what we’re against” mentality. And yet I don’t want to be cowardly or timid in respect to supporting Christ-like people, businesses, and attitudes when doing so is the right thing to do.
The main question I’ve taken from your post is this, “…does the Bible call Christians to be [neutral] on all issues outside of our message Christ crucified, or does Christ call the redeemed person to challenge the fallen culture in which they live as they proclaim Christ crucified?”
Should the body of Christ be changing and shaping culture simply by nature of it’s existence and life, or should it be more purposeful and proactive; challenging the culture? Some of this has bigger theological underpinnings base on one’s presuppositions about the nature of the Kingdom and Redemption. But setting those things aside as much as possible, in general, does our light shine more passively or actively? Does our salt flavour and/or disinfect more passively or actively?
Gunnar, I appreciate your post. Good job.
The gay agenda (those who support it deny that such an agenda even exists), has been an intentional attack on America’s liberties for many years now. Only in this post-postmodern age could it have accelerated to this level.
We need a revival. A third Great Awakening. Nothing short of that can save our nation, I believe.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It was interesting to hear about how God has worked in your life to bring you from a position of syncretism between your citizenship in the USA and in the Kingdom of God to a more balanced view. (There are many Christians who conflate the two.) On the other hand, I agree that this certainly does not mean that we cloister ourselves away from any public involvement. Neither the Anabaptist (aka, “be Switzerland” – great line, btw) nor the Theonomist (closer to Falwell’s Moral Majority) positions are reflective of our position in the already-but-not-yet Kingdom. The question of just how our faith should manifest in our citizenship, no matter what country we are a citizen of, is certainly a nuanced one.
However, with all due respect, I have to somewhat disagree with your reading of Acts 19. A “moral boycott” of the idol-makers in Ephesus is exactly the opposite of what happened. Rather, as the lives of people in the city was transformed by the power of the Gospel, they simply stopped using the idols and, as a side-effect, the silversmiths were in financial ruin. At no time is there a hint that Paul or any of the Christians in Ephesus put before themselves a goal of “boycotting” the idol-makers. It seems important to note also that the effect was only on those selling items directly used for wicked purposes (idolatry.) In contrast, there was no movement to boycott the pagan butchers at the markets who sold meat (or chicken sandwiches 😉 ) just because those offered their meat to idols first. (I Cor. 8 and 10 make this clear). Rather, what is described in Acts 19 is the result of revival, as during the Welsh revival and First/Second Great Awakenings in America, when taverns, brothels and casinos began to shut down simply from a lack of revenue. There was no “boycott”, but simply the side-effect of many people coming to Christ and repenting of sin. This is probably similar to what would happen to the porn industry today if all the Christians watching it simply repented. As you posited, “Maybe it isn’t even an intentional action by a group of believers, but rather an organic byproduct of a group of people living according to Kingdom standards as revealed in the Scriptures?” I’d have to say, yes! And therefore it entirely different than what happened on August 1st.
As to the concept of “moral boycotting” or “moral consumerism” as a whole, I recently wrote a blog post about this (also on the wake of Chick-Fil-A appreciation day). You can find it here: Sanctification with a pickle on top? or, Why Jesus doesn’t care about your chicken sandwich Would love to hear your thoughts if you are interested. Blessings!
I didn’t mean to convey that Acts 19 was identical…and using the term “boycott” was probably not the best word. The heart of what I was trying to convey was int this sentence, “Their lifestyles changed and it affected the local economy radically.”
Thanks for the input!