“WE LOVE JESUS, YES WE DO, WE LOVE JESUS, HOW ABOUT YOU?”
I remember yelling that at one point in middle school with some friends at a church camp, and I remember our group leader (one of the dads from the church I grew up in) getting on to us because the other groups were chanting it back, but louder. In his words, we weren’t being “bold” enough. I never really got it, how that was supposed to affect my standing with God, but it bothered me that I apparently was never bold enough.
Never loud enough.
Never doing quite enough.
This terrified middle school me. So my high school years became a period of being overzealous and trying like hell to keep people from knowing what was really going on inside me – bitterness, lust, and doubt. Crippling, terrifying doubt.
At that point, Christianity was about all that stuff. Telling enough people about Jesus (I actually had a Sunday School teacher tell me if I wasn’t “sharing Christ” with at least two people a week, he doubted my salvation. And this was while I was in college), going to church enough, being in the right Bible studies, liking the right music, all of that. Internally, that struggle raged.
Externally, Christianity was marked by the culture wars. We were Christians. We didn’t go to Disney because they had “Gay Day”, we didn’t buy Snapple because they advertised on Howard Stern, we didn’t listen to secular music because…well…we just didn’t (I never got a good reason on that one), and we didn’t think anyone else should.
With all that going on, my internal struggles with all of those things and my stance on social issues (I actually wore a shirt that said “ABORTION IS HOMICIDE” somewhat regularly freshman year at Ole Miss), I went off to college. I was going to show those non-Christians in Oxford what real Christianity was all about.
Then, to make a long story short (though I love telling it in full, I’m laying off telling it now because I don’t want to write a 500 page personal history), I was confronted my own inadequacies and the Gospel, and my perspective changed. I’m not saying I somehow “got it” when the schmucks back at the church I used to go to didn’t (in actuality, very many of them got it way better than I did and I realized that after I stopped being an idiot). Christianity stopped being about me, it stopped being about some culture war, and it started being about Jesus Christ crucified. It started being about a God who loved His people so dearly He sent His Son. And once I realized that, my perspective changed on so, so many things.
So, fast forward to last week. I’m aware that there is a culture war. I’m also aware that Christians have a responsibility to fight it, though I’m still working out in my own mind what that looks like. I knew this culture war would be fought in the media, in public schools, in the arts and in…junk food and fast food?
In the last month, Dan Cathy and Oreo both took stances on the attempt to re-define marriage (note: this argument is not about the right to marry but the definition of marriage). Cathy, and Chick-Fil-A, took a stand for the traditional family and Oreo (and Kraft) took a stance for re-defining it.
Since then, I’ve heard that, as a good Christian, I am supposed to somehow support Chick-Fil-A and not eat Oreos. That’s half awesome, because I love Chick-Fil-A, and it’s half terrible, because I love Oreos too.
And, as a side note, I’ve been saddened my many of my friends Facebook/Twitter statuses in response. Everything from “take our country back” to “Christians need to shut up about gay marriage until they get marriage perfect” to “well they’re just being nitpicky about what sins they have problems with.” A few responses:
1. It wasn’t our country to begin with.
2. No one will ever get marriage perfect, but I know the whole “the divorce rate is the same in the church as outside so shut up about marriage” statistic, and it’s misleading at best. People who attend church weekly have about a 20% lower divorce rate than people who never attend church, and around 15% lower divorce rate than people who attend yearly. So, while the “I’m spiritual but not Christian” and the “we go to church on Easter and Christmas” crowd are technically part of the church, when people sit under good, sound teaching week in and week out, the divorce rate drops. Including those groups in those statistics is like including me in statistics about College Republicans at Ole Miss – I went to one meeting and joined the group because you got free pizza if you joined.
3. It also needs to be said that Dan Cathy isn’t being nitpicky about sins, he’s just saying what he supports. And he’s not saying who can and can’t come into his restaurants. If you’ve ever lived near a Chick-Fil-A, you know the service they do for the community. And they perform said service indiscriminately – they are for bettering their community (which in and of itself is a Biblical principle – see Jeremiah 29). Being for something necessarily makes you against the opposite, but still. That’s kind of a ridiculous argument.
Look, simply stated, people should eat what they want. If they have a problem with where their money is going to go, then they shouldn’t eat there. This is, for the time being, still a free country, and you have the right to do that. You also have the right to do what you want with your money, so if Dan Cathy wants to spend money in organizations promoting the traditional definition of marriage (or communities, or camps that help kids, or whatever else), he has the right. And if Kraft foods decides they want to spend money in organizations that support redefining marriage, they have that right.
THAT SAID – here’s the point I’m getting at:
There has never been a time in the history of the world, except for maybe when Constantine declared Christianity as the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire, when it has been as easy to be a Christian as it has been in the United States of America. This whole idea of “religious freedom” that we hold in such high esteem as Americans is awesome, except that I don’t really think there’s much of a Biblical category for it. Matthew 10:22 says that Christians will be hated on account of Jesus. John 14 tells us that the world doesn’t know the Spirit. John 15 pretty simply states: “the world hates you.” I have a really hard time seeing how we reconcile that with religious freedom.
So what do we do? Persevere. Romans 8:31-39 tells us why. If God is for us, who can be against us? That doesn’t mean protesting and holding up signs and boycotting businesses and not eating oreos and this that or the other. It means showing the love of Christ to those who persecute us. It means being there to pick up the pieces of the people around us when their lives fall apart from living in sin.
They don’t know we’re Christians by the signs we hold up, or the places we don’t eat (or the places we do eat), or anything like that. They know we are Christians by our love. And they’ll hate us for it. Jesus was the most loving person to ever live, and they nailed him to a tree.
But you can’t really grasp that concept until you grasp that, if you are a Christian, you were in the same place as those being condemned, and the only reason you aren’t there anymore is because God loved you and pulled you out of that. Not because you deserved it – I love the way the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it – “From all eternity, and simply because it pleased Him…” God saved His people. For no other reason than it pleased Him.
Once we get that, I think we get how to love those who hate us.
I always wish I had more time to write. Alas, I do not. It’s one of those things where I tell myself “well, when the summer gets here, you’ll be able to write more.” Then halfway through the summer, it’s “well, once school gets started back up, you’ll have more time.” Then it’s December and I’m thinking “I’ll write when I’m dead.” This is a pretty feeble attempt to keep those embers burning until I can develop a somewhat normal writing schedule.