Monday, November 9, 2015

I Love You, But Your Flowers Stink

Starbucks™ takes snowflakes off their red holiday cups and does not use the phrase “Merry Christmas.”

Christians freak out.


Just a reminder (again) of one of my rules of life: do not be surprised when non-Christians (or companies owned and run by non-Christians) do not act like Christians. They cannot act like Christians and should not act like Christians. If you got your wish, they’d look Christian on the outside but would still be unconverted and on their way to hell. The counterpoint to this life-rule is: always be surprised when Christians act like non-Christians. Always.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written [in Habakkuk 2:4b], ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16,17).

Snowflakes aren’t the Gospel. Neither is Santa Claus, red cups, or the phrase “Merry Christmas.” Neither is Christendom, a “Christian culture,” or a “Christian nation” (three ideas not found in the New Testament).

I meet with a group of men on Thursday mornings. We’re reading slowly through Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology. We meet in a local coffeehouse. The barista is a New Age sort of guy who listens to Peruvian flute music and is seeking divinity through natural medicines. I have no idea what that last part means, though I ask him and listen when he tells me. We call each other by first names. I offer to pray for concerns he mentions and always try to inject Gospel views on things he brings up. I don’t remember if he says “Merry Christmas” or not. I will not yell it at him if he doesn’t next month.

Only the Gospel saves. A “Merry Christmas” culture does not. I say that as someone who loves the Christmas season more than all of you put together. We will pass out bags of candy (with a Gospel tract in each bag) at our town's Christmas parade at the end of this month. Next month we'll go caroling in two towns in our county. We aren't trying to establish Christian culture. We are engaging our community with the hope of presenting the Gospel to individuals, praying the Holy Spirit uses that presentation to save souls through faith in Christ. They can decorate their cups however they want and use whatever greetings they want. I don't care about their culture or business. I care about their lost souls.

By the way, some of you wanting to exert pressure on Starbucks were the same ones rallying to Chik-fil-A’s defense a few years ago. And then Hobby Lobby. I was with you on all those things, but where’s your freedom of speech, freedom of liberty, and desire for a free marketplace now? I thought we believed business owners could follow their conscience. I had these same thoughts long ago when my denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) tried to boycott Disney. Meanwhile, it’s quite a struggle to get our resource company (Lifeway) to keep from selling heresy.

By the way, the same folks wanting to build a Christian culture have (in my estimation) pretty lax views on other cultural issues (Halloween, entertainment choices, alcohol, and the setting aside of the Lord’s Day). Consistency, anyone? The 50’s you’re trying to rebuild wouldn’t approve of some of your choices, my friend.

Anyway, I had one of those days last week. One moment I (jokingly) felt like an awesome life coach. Then I sat with an elderly woman in an assisted living facility for an hour while she told me repeatedly that her husband had just stepped into the next room (he had passed away two days earlier). A bit after than (same morning) I tried to counsel someone with some issues I’ve dealt with – how do you counsel someone into a maturity it’s taken you decades to barely reach? Still determined to stay positive (life-coaching myself, I suppose), I decided to bring my bride home a 12-pack of Coke and some roses. Coke, check. All the roses, though, looked tired and wilted. I grabbed some stargazer lilies and brought them with the Coke instead. Guess what: stargazer lilies have a pretty strong smell. After a day of torturing the family, I relocated my stinky love flowers outside our dining room window. My bride could see them, but no one was given a headache. Sometimes, in our desire to do a good thing, we unintentionally cause harm to the household.

She appreciated the flowers, but nobody in the house enjoyed the smell. I appreciate your desire to fix our broken society/culture/nation, but don’t care for the fact that you’re using the wrong flowers to do it. Yours stink. Your militancy for Christian culture is missing the Gospel. I'm sorry for my snarky tone (snark takes no maturity or skill, and it comes way too naturally to me), but I have lost friends. I work continually to maintain relationship with them and am thinking of them in every word I say in person or post online. You should see what they're saying about your misplaced priorities and wrong facts. It breaks my heart because this is a stumbling block to them ever receiving the Gospel. Jesus said pretty serious things about being a stumbling block.

Only the Gospel saves. It doesn’t save a culture or company, but individuals, “the Jew first and also…the Greek.” Read the Book again. Remember the Gospel. Say it out loud. Write it down. Tell it to each other. Tell it to the barista instead of yelling “Merry Christmas” to him or her.

Only the Gospel saves.

Only the Gospel saves.
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By the way, a sister in the Lord posted this perspective-giving pic. I concur.

Another sister posted this. Just as true.

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