If you were out of the country for a few weeks, and returned on August 1, hungry for some All-American food, you were probably shocked when you showed up at a Chick-fil-A store where customers packed the house and waited up to three hours to show their loyalty on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day! That phenomenon was repeated all over the country by thousands of people hoping to make a point.
A while back, Dan Cathy was interviewed by Baptist Press about Chick-fil-A and the business principles it was built upon. They asked some pointed questions about the values they promote (like closing on Sundays and community development), including his personal convictions about marriage and family. The wider media took some select comments from the interview and started a firestorm. After Cathy admitted he was “guilty as charged” about not supporting gay marriage, he became the brunt of negative blasts from the gay community, mayors of some major cities, and national companies like General Mills, Starbucks and Amazon. To counter a boycott launched by gay marriage activists, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee suggested the positive counter-response that occurred on August 1.
The marketplace has been buzzing with passionate conversations about the Chick-fil-A controversy. How did you engage in the issue—was it about culture wars? human rights? constitutional freedom? zoning laws? As followers of Christ who traverse the marketplace every day, it is vital that we learn how to ask the right questions and navigate through divisive matters with wisdom and discernment. God has given us two distinct and necessary guide stones to mark our path in the public square.
The guide stone of Love. Jesus said that His kingdom boils down to two commandments: 1) love God with all of your heart and 2) love your neighbor as much as yourself (Luke 10:27). The distinguishing mark of Jesus’ followers is supposed to be the way they demonstrate love. Interestingly enough, Chick-fil-A has always been known for its exceptional service and care for its employees, customers and communities. The Cathy family and the Chick-fil-A leadership team has always modeled Luke 10:27. As the rhetoric increased, one of Cathy’s most important quotes received less and less attention: “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
The guide stone of Truth. In today’s world, one of the greatest challenges is to determine which version of truth we will defer to. People can become very intolerant in their quest to enforce “tolerance.” Open-mindedness, acceptance and forbearance are demanded by one side while simultaneously showing narrow-mindedness, prejudice and anger toward the other side. Personal opinions or preferences hold no greater authority than the person or group that is loud enough or strong enough to impose their particular view. Is this freedom or anarchy? Each one of us must answer “Who or what is my ultimate authority?” In America, our constitution and laws serve as the rules for public life. As followers of Christ and citizens of His kingdom, we are called to submit to the laws of the land (Romans 13:1) unless they directly go against God’s written word (2 Timothy 3:16). We need a solid foundation to work from, not our own imaginations or news outlets or political surveys. “The one who speaks from his own authority seeks his own glory.” (John 7:18) Does that shed any light on the motivation behind most current events?
Am I Chikin? Love without Truth . . . or Truth without Love . . . like the proverbial chicken and egg these cannot be separated. Love without truth is passive and unable to transform. Truth without Love is harsh and unable to unite. Christians are free to debate the interpretation of Scripture among themselves, to hold and speak our personal convictions, and to operate our businesses by biblical principles that uphold the laws of the land. Dan Cathy did not go looking for a fight or attack any person or group, yet he was criticized and vilified on both personal and corporate levels. I’m sure the Chick-fil-A people were warmed and encouraged by the masses that gave them a record sales day on August 1. Few of us will face the challenge of speaking our understanding of God’s Truth in front of the national media. All of us will have to find the best way to be confident enough to stand up for truth in a spirit of love before our colleagues and clients. Maybe that happened to you this week. You may be misunderstood. You may be criticized. You may be trivialized. You may sacrifice sales or market success. Will you stay true to Christ in the public square? This week should encourage you that you’re not alone.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, as I look around, our country seems polarized by so many controversial issues. These are challenging times yet I want to be faithful to You and Your purposes. I ask You to grant me the courage to stand strong and true to Your Word by knowing what it actually says . . . show me how to live out my beliefs with a heart of mercy and humility. I also ask You to grant favor to individuals and companies like Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A who have been pursuing excellence and integrity and faithfulness all these years. Let them shine as an example for smaller businesses to follow after. Amen.
LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the LORD;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
A song of David