Today I purchased a coffee from Starbucks. The cup was red. If you’ve been busy with “important things,” and haven’t had time to catch up on the red cup controversy, the short story is that a man named Joshua Feurerstein began digital debate by pointing out Starbucks’ removal of Christmas icons on their holiday cup. Madness ensued. Christmas advocates rose in defense while secularist’s applauded.
The debate lends itself to an important question, “Does God care about red cups?” and more specifically, “Should Christians be displeased with secular contempt?” The responses online are polarizing. There are some Christians who demand sociopolitical reform and rise up against such derision of Christ’s birth. And, there is another group which proposes a nebulous form of “love” recommending people not concern themselves with cultural matters. Those are two massively different sides of the fence. What does the Bible say?
First, Christians should feel pain when secular society strips honor from their cherished Lord and carves away at their children’s hope of living in an openly evangelical context. Jesus had every right to simply call His children home to heaven following the cross, yet He left them on earth to be “…lights of the world, like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden… placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” and due to this, Christians are to, “…let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matt 5:14-16 NLT)
God abhors all evil and He is an honest judge who is, “Angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalm 7:11 NLT). This means that God’s wrath looms over every unbeliever, regardless of cup color, and that He is opposed to those that mock Him by rejecting the sacrifice His Son Jesus. Removing a focus on Christmas, is one gesture of a society working to dispel Christ altogether.
Based on this, American Christians should vocalize their beliefs, and utilize the legal and social forums allowed by God, to recommend changes that support God’s intended morality upon their land. The book of Romans commands Christian’s to, “Submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God.” (Romans 13:1 NLT) and Paul intentionally chose the Mars Hill marketplace as his forum for public remonstrance. Therefore, as long as Christians reside in a nation which allows their voice be heard in the marketplace, they can, and should raise it.
Influencing the social and political scene to promote religion, is often easier for older Americans than it is for younger people. This is true for two reasons. First, older people remember a nation that used to have basic demarcations of right and wrong, a social moral code, loosely based on God’s original ten commands, and they remember the benefits. Second, older people have kids and grandkids. When we’re young, it’s difficult to think beyond ourself, but once our children come along, things change. For example, Starbuck’s ignorance of Christmas or Maryland’s decision to disband Christmas from the school district, may not impact us adults, largely because we have Christmas memories, and plan to continue them. But, when we realize that our generation is now the last American generation to celebrate earth (and heaven’s) most notorious holiday, and that our children’s friends will stare at them blankly when they mention “Christmas” our motivation may expand.
An ancient Chinese proverb says, “One generation plants a tree, the next generation rests in its shade.” Sadly, this works the other way also, “One generation kills the tree, the next generation suffers in the sun.” Red cups represent a larger issue. The issue of an entire generation growing up without God’s Word. To withhold the truth of Christ’s marvelous birth, and His Words of how to live holy before God, is not love, but the highest form of hatred. Being a light, means shining all the time, not just on issues that are easy!
Second, Christians must not be surprised or hurt when the world does not agree. Jesus explained that His followers would be hated by the world, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, this world hates you.” (John 15:19 NASB) The point, is that Christians will not fit in on earth, and often be despised, for shining the light on evil and living differently from those around them. Paul predicted that these issues would grow increasingly worse, “You should know this, that in the last days there will be difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred..” (2 Tim 3:1-2 NLT). And, just to make sure we really understood, Paul concluded, “…All who want to live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer.” (2 Tim 4:12 NLT)
Most people indicate that they’re staying quiet on these issues because of kindness or love, when in reality it’s because they’re nervous and untrained. In a society built largely on the number of “likes” given to a post, people shy from the thought of indicating true feelings, knowing that they’ll be ignored or blasted as intolerant for their views. Or, sadly, many who call themselves Christians don’t have a heart truly attuned to the glory and honor of their Master. Every true child of God should be saddened when their society dispels of their King! Even if Starbucks only stands as the mental representative of a world in disarray, it is still part of a Satanic machine that churns asunder the name of your Savior, and that should bring you grief!
Interestingly, it is a Christians readiness to speak, but willingness to suffer, that confuses the world. Christians speak up in love for their Lord, knowing that they will meet opposition like that of their Lord, and when it comes, they suffer it quietly. We teach our kids that Christmas is Jesus, we tell our friends that Christmas is Jesus, we post that Christmas is Jesus, but alas, when the world scours us for making Christmas Jesus, we remain patient and unshaken, because they did it first to our Lord.
Finally, Christians must not be distracted from the ultimate goal. Even as our voice is raised in the public square against societal ills, and secularism’s damning disregard for Jesus Christ threatens our livelihood and freedom, the ultimate goal is always to share the saving hope of Jesus with as many people as possible for as long as possible.
Christians realize that people aren’t damned by their coffee cups, they’re damned by their sin. And, people aren’t save by political reformation, they’re saved by spiritual transformation. They’re saved by a Savior born on Christmas! This motivates them to write every post, cast every vote, talk at every meal, preach every sermon, and end every conversation, with the hope of Christ.
Paul refused to be nervous about His Lord, “For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Jesus Christ, It is the power of God at work, saving any who believes…” (Rom 1:16 NLT). Peter commanded that a Christian must always be ready to specify what Christ has done in their life, “If someone asks you about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain.” (1 Peter 3:15 NLT) Peter’s point is that, regardless of circumstances, Christians will live with such peace and holiness, that unbeliever’s will openly question them. The walk must match the talk! A grave reminder that if our plans, posts, peers, pennies, and private times, aren’t representative of Jesus, our testimony carries no power.
Red cups may not matter, but what they indicate does matter. They are representation of a nation gone rogue against Christ. Yet, the darker the night, the brighter the light. True Christians must be prayerfully aware of growing evil, prayerfully patient when opposed for their beliefs, and laser focused on sharing the Good News at every turn. We can be grieved by red cups, but not surprised. Please go proudly proclaim that you celebrate the birth of our Lord.