Monday, July 30, 2012

Chick-fil-a, "gays", and the Gospel

Have you been paying attention to the Chick-fil-a controversy recently in the news and through social media?

Now, trust me, I like so many of you on Facebook who are my Christian family and friends, I too initially got genuinely offended at once again, another attack by the media and political liberals on our Christian beliefs and values. And yes I’m glad that the Cathy’s do share similar faith values that I hold and I’m thankful that Chick-fil-A strives to operate as a business with Christian morals and think it’s very commendable how they are closed on Sundays for their workers can worship the Lord and all of that good stuff.

But when it really comes down to it: I choose to eat at Chick-fil-a, not because of the Cathy’s shared values we have about Christianity, but well, because the quality and product of their food is excellent! I’ve known a few Christian business owners and even members of the church of Christ who I did not give my business regularly too because of their poor product:)!

Now, regarding this issue and controvesary, I have blogged in the past about such national hot topics in the past especially regarding same-sex marriage and homosexuality. This article will be more of the same.

How should we as Christ's followers respond to all of this? Well, I am not talking about going through the drive-thru on Wednesday. (Although I not opposed or would discourage doing such to show support to this company) No, I’m talking about the larger discussion and issue of how to respond to the issue of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Well, first of all, we should be bothered by it. I am bothered by sin. It dishonors God. I dislike lust, lies, murder, oppression, hatred, etc. I regularly stand in a pulpit and strive to communicate God's plan of having sent Christ to die in our place for the punishment of sin and to set us free from sin. I need to be bothered most by my own sin.

But, again, I think this issue poses some interesting questions as to how Christ followers are to respond.

First of all, let me be clear about my viewpoint and beliefs. I believe God defines marriage in His Word. (Matt. 19:4-9; Ephesians 5:22-33; Genesis 1-2 for starters) God also describes in Romans 1 that the individual that denies God will be demonstrated in many evil ways, one of which will be homosexual tendencies and lifestyle. (Rom. 1:26,27). This means that homosexuality along with a host of other God-denying lifestyle choices (1:29-32) is sin. Why does it surprise us that a nation that does not know God, would begin to ignore God's definitions or His Word. Should we really be surprised by what we have heard in regard to this Chick-fil-a controversary.

But the question still remains: So what can we do as Christians? This sounds really simple but I'm going to say it... we need to start by obeying God. When I say that I am not conjuring up images of rallies to Washington or letters to our elected officials. Those may have their place, I just think they lose their weight when not backed with sincerity and our own life example of cross-bearing obedience. So what type of obedience am I talking about? How about these for starters...loving.... loving God.... loving your spouse.... being reminded of the definition and characteristics of marriage we find in the Bible, and then living them out.... mirroring in your marriage Christ's love for the church.... allowing Christ-followers to be defined as those people who actually keep their promises, even their marriage covenants.

Does it make sense for us to enter the public and political arenas fighting for the definition of marriage when we fail to live out the very characteristics God commands a biblically defined marriage to have? What's worse a broken marriage covenant or same-sex lust and union? How sad if a homosexual relationship is far less broken than a marriage that supposedly has followed God's way. Both have failed God's standard to reflect Christ's love for the church. Both have broken God's law. Both can be repented of and forgiven. (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11)

So should we mistreat homosexuals? Of course not. (BTW, I also don’t equate racism and gender biais to be the same as opposing a redefinition of marriage. "Gay" is not the new black.) But no, of course, we oppose mistreatment of sinners. After all, do we mistreat each other for sinning? Not mistreating sinners does not mean we stand idly by and not speak out and live out what Christ in us is to look like, nor does it mean we should fail to live out and speak out about what a natural and healthy marriage looks like. It doesn't mean that if you own a nationwide corporation that you must remain silent concerning your beliefs. Christ-followers must not be shy about God's definition of marriage; nor should we try to redefine God's words if we don't like them.

God didn't get it wrong when he put a man and a woman together for the first time in Genesis 2:21-25. It was also no accident that He said "a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh." This was a universal directive, He chose to say "a man" and "his wife" not "Adam" and "Eve" - these instructions were for all God's children. No, we should not falter as His followers in this area.

Now, I think we also need to consider another question related to this issue: "Should we expect the world to get it right (the marriage definition) when they don't know God?" Romans seems clear in reminding us that this is one of the characteristics of a people that deny God and worship themselves. It serves us well to note that any spiritual battle to be fought is best raged with a firm grasp on the gospel and its power to transform rather than on a political agenda promoting godly morals on a people that have chosen not to live it out. (And no, I’m not saying we shouldn’t then try to legislate any morality, of course we should and still do thankful in the United States).

But I'm saying let’s try to stay focused on our real agenda as Christians. Sharing the saving gospel message of Jesus Christ with the lost (and not get overly distracted on these side bar minor issues)(.

You see friends, my concern with the heated political rhetoric is that if we’re not careful (and I know I’ve been guilty of such), we will allow the message of Christianity to be misunderstood as saying, “We hate you and will discriminate against you.” Rather it is our responsibly to strive to make sure it is heard as “We love you and want you to know the deliverance and freedom that comes by making Jesus the Lord of your life.” It is the same message to homosexuals that we speak to adulterers, thieves, liars, blasphemers, atheists, agnostics, other world religions.

And let’s never, ever confuse our task as Christians. Our mission is not seek to make America a Christian nation, but to make Christians in America. And there is a major difference between those two agenda’s. The early church and Christians did not seek to transform hearts and lives through socio-political agendas of the Roman culture but rather through the proclamation of the Gospel! We cannot change hearts and minds by political fighting. (And yes I believe it is possible to talk about the issue of same-sex marriage in a Godly and loving manner with those who support it)

But at some point, as Christians, we must begin to accept the reality that whatever our nation was in the past regarding being a “Christian nation” and however upset we may get about where she stands now, clearly our nation has become a “post-Christian” nation with tremendous diversity not only ethnically and socially but also regarding morality and religiously. It will never be the same or what it once was!!

We must accept this reality as Christians. I’m not arguing that we can’t push back against this drift. But our push can’t simply be in the political arena. We cannot neglect politics, but the core of the problem is in the hearts and minds of the individuals in society. The only way the real problem will ever be solved is for Christians to be faithful in sharing the gospel of Christ with our ever increasingly non-Christian society that is America.

And we must also get serious in our lives and marriages about living out Christ; forgiving the way Christ forgave, forbearing the way our Sovereign God forbears, and advancing daily to love our spouses the way Christ loves us.

Now having said all that, and in a much less meaningful step, enjoy Chik-fil-a soon near you!

“5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6)

God bless,

Robert Prater

For more on this issue, check out an excellent blog article by my fellow preaching friend Tim Pyles, who preaches at the Broken Arrow Church of Christ in Broken Arrow, OK dealing with the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy.

Some of you may not agree with all of his perspective. But I know I needed this reminder he gives about Christians not having a “Christian over reaction” to these type of news stories.