A Response: Red Coffee Cups

Since I’ve been working the past few weeks on examining balance in our spiritual lives, I thought I’d take a break to respond to some of the mainline issues the Church in America is dealing with. With that in mind, the topics will change but the focus will be the same: how does the Christian Church in America deal with the issues it is facing in light of what the Bible teaches? Some of the issues will be petty and others incredibly impactful but either way these will be topics that merit a response.

Unless you’ve been under a rock or in a different country you’ve most likely heard this issue in the media in some shape, form, or fashion. As they have in years past, Starbuck (the world-wide coffee chain) is choosing to use solid red cups for their seasonal coffee offerings (see http://www.newsweek.com/starbucks-brings-back-red-cup-ushering-holiday-season-389343 for more information). While this the color is not anything new, what is different this time around is the absolute lack of holiday tidings and any mention of Christmas.

Due to this update, many Christians are using this as a chance to jab at the company and call followers of Christ to boycott the company and spend their money on other coffee options. Surprisingly, this has created a huge battlefield for controversy and debate on those who sit on each side of the fence (as well as those who don’t care and are inside the metaphorical farmhouse doing other meaningful things). It has created a huge arena for public speakers of all varieties to get their opinions out there and be heard.

I will follow suit and use my blog to do the same thing. Hopefully, this response is not too much of a shock; it is just a cup. You’ve got it right, it is just a cup. Starbucks has never proclaimed to be a Christian company and Christmas is indeed a Christian holiday. No one is upset when any other company does not put ‘Merry Christmas’ on its packaging (that I know of) yet this particular company has drawn the ire of thousands of Christians.

I think the reason for this is that Christians in Americans have it so easy when compared to the rest of the world that their understanding of persecution is warped. Think of it this way; when I haven’t eaten in more than 8 hours I use hyperbole and say ‘I’m starving!’ but I know in my head I’m not truly starving to death. I’m exaggerating to prove a point. The problem with this, however, is that if I use that hyperbolic phrase too often I will come to associate not eating every 4-5 hours with starvation when there are people all over this planet who go days or weeks without eating on a regular basis (http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm).

With this in mind, we have gotten to believe that when a company or the government does something that goes against our faith beliefs then we are being ‘persecuted’. I’ve seen all over social media when all of these things come up that it’s the end times because Christians are being treated poorly. They begin to twist the Bible out of its context to try and apply it to today in an inappropriate way and think that this is the work of demonic forces.

Luckily for us this is not a new problem; since the beginning of Church history people have argued over what doctrine should be followed and what should be regarded as heresy. Eventually, the Roman Empire exacted true persecution and hundreds of thousands of Christians were martyred for following Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote about these arguments and how Christians in his day were getting caught up in petty arguments that did not affect eternity and the work of salvation in those who did not know Christ yet. Here we see Paul saying,

[23] Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. [24] A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. [25] Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. (2 Timothy 2:23-25)

Paul here in context is writing to Timothy and encouraging him to stay away from spending his time arguing with those who are trying to cause division in the Church. He instead tells him to focus on teaching those who will listen through kindness and patience. Rather than being caught up in extra things that are not important to salvation and are debating foolish topics he reminds Timothy to focus on what is most important.

This passage is very applicable to Christians in America in 2015; all over the world (and in America as well) there are those who are without shelter, food, and even clothing. They lack the basics of human existence and yet we are wrapped up in concern for what color an overpriced coffee company puts on their cups. We are surrounded by those who do not know Christ and, based off of Jesus’ teachings, will spend eternity in Hell because they have not yet heard the Gospel.

My encouragement to those who wonder where Christians in America should stand when it comes to this Starbucks issue is an echo of Paul’s: there are more important things to focus on. When the time comes when we do not have to worry about salvation or basic life needs being met on this planet then we can worry about the color of coffee cups. Until then, let us do as Paul taught Timothy; be kind to everyone and able to teach those who want to know about Christ with patience and gentleness.

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