It’s been a long couple of weeks since the whole Chick-fil-a fiasco. I’ve spent some time discussing it with people, both in person and online, and I’ve also read several news stories and blogs covering many aspects of the story. I also have close friends and family whose opinions are across the spectrum on this issue, and some who are just fed up with it all and can’t wait for it to blow over. Honestly, the only way I can now describe my feelings after seeing this whole thing unfold is simply to say that I am sad. I’m saddened because I know people who are hurt by the backlash from one or both sides, and I’m saddened because I don’t believe our actions as Christians have glorified God through any of this.
I could spend a considerable amount of time debating the specifics of the issue, and still not convince anyone that I am right (nor could they convince me I am wrong). So rather than going down that rat hole, I would like to challenge my fellow Christians to be better. Let me start by asking this question: find a story in the Bible where Jesus lashed out at someone who was already marginalized by society at large? Before you open your Bible or your browser to do some research, let me save you some time…..you won’t find one.
In everything that I read about Jesus, both in his actions and in his words, He never further marginalized anyone who already feels like a lesser human being than the rest of society. In fact, the people that riled his anger the most were the religious elite or zealots (i.e. Pharisees and Sadduccees) who were more concerned about keeping the law than they were about showing compassion or love for their fellow man (Mark 7:6-8). You will also find stories where Jesus reached out to outcasts like tax collectors (Matthew 9:9-11), Samaritans (John 4:1-26), and lepers (Matthew 26:6).
One of the most notable stories that is often discussed is when these pious men brought an adultress to Jesus (John 8:1-11) and wanted him to agree that she should be stoned, just as Mosaic law required (Leviticus 20:10). Without saying a word, Jesus knelt down and began to write in the sand. He then raised up and said that the person without sin should throw the first stone. That ruled out everyone except for Him. But what did He do at that point? He knelt back down to continue writing in the sand, and the men left him one-by-one until only the woman was left standing there. He then told her to go and sin no more.
When Jesus was brought before Pilate on trumped up charges, He didn’t fight back (Matthew 27:14). He hardly said a word. Instead of defending Himself, or pointing out that proper protocol was not being followed for His trial, He actually prayed for them (Luke 23:34). He then allowed Roman soldiers to mock Him, spit on Him, beat Him, and eventually crucify Him (Mark 15:16-37). This is our model, and the One who gave His life for us, for all of us who daily betray Him with our sinful actions.
Compare that example now to where we were the last few weeks when we felt not that we were going to be put to death, but only that our freedom of speech was being threatened. What is our reaction? We throw a big rallying party at fast food locations across the country and post on Facebook and Twitter with actions and words that largely are not meant to glorify Him, and in fact, further marginalize an already downtrodden group of people.
Not only did Christians pour out en masse that day, but our actions also served as a sort of safe haven for people who actually are full of hate, fear and bigotry. Did you read any of the stories that interviewed homosexual employees of Chick-fil-a? Many of them had to serve people who said they were glad that their company was against “perverted gays”. Regardless of your opinion on the morality of homosexuality, the legality of same sex marriage, or whether or not this had anything to do with free speech, if you are a Christian, I hope you re-evaluate your response to this whole mess. The minute we divide the people of this country into and “us vs. them” mentality, we have lost our witness. Maybe some think it was justified, but honestly, I cannot find evidence in the Bible that would support that claim.
I get that we need to stand up for rights that we feel are being infringed upon, but I don’t think we can attach our religious beliefs to every single political movement out there. Not once did Jesus make a stand on a political issue during His ministry, even though he was asked directly to do just that (Mark 12:14-17). We scream when we are being persecuted in arguably the country with the most freedoms in the world, but remember that freedom of speech guarantees only that we will not be arrested for speaking our mind, it does not guarantee that we can say whatever we want without someone disagreeing with us. Not only that, why should we be surprised that people won’t like our values and what we stand for? Jesus promised this would happen if we followed Him (John 15:20).
I guess if you fully realize that God poured out an endless amount of love, grace, and mercy onto people like me; a lying, thieving, prideful, hypocritical, envious, blasphemous, sinner; then it makes you think about how you should treat others. Maybe if we are going to err on one side or the other we should do so on the side of showing too much love, grace, and mercy. The truth of the matter is that no matter how much love, grace, and mercy we can muster it could never match the amount that God has shown to us.
In the end, I just don’t think this was the place to make our stand. Where I think we should make our stand is in finding homes for orphans, or feeding the hungry, or not allowing someone to go through an illness alone, or any other of the countless social issues that the church has shown such a rich history of combating. We are on this Earth to be a light, to offer hope, and to show people a glimpse of our Father in Heaven, and I don’t see how waiting in line for an hour for a chicken sandwich did any of that at all. You’ve heard it said that to whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48): by being richly blessed to live in a country with freedom of speech, we’d be better served to use that freedom to speak out against real persecution around the world vs. using it to fuel the flames that have caused a great rift such as this.
In college I was in a fraternity that had no secrets and all our creeds, oaths, and principles were available for anyone to read them. We used to say by doing so, we made it to where anyone could hold us accountable to them. I believe it’s even more important that we, as Christians, hold ourselves accountable to what we claim we believe. Given that the Bible is the best selling book in history, if we don’t hold ourselves accountable to it, we’ve already seen that others will.
May we think and rethink our positions both politically and morally so that when we deliver the truth, we do so out of love and we show that the reason we point it out is not because we want to be “right” but because we actually care about people (Romans 12:9-21). We will never be able to control what people think about us or what will be said about us, but we can manage our reactions and show that we are His people by speaking with love in our words and compassion in our hearts (Philippians 4:5).