Buying Into This Video Gives You A Wrong View of the Gospel

What is it about controversy that we seem to love as people? So here is the latest I read the other day on CNN, under the “Top Stories” section: Starbucks’ Plain Red Holiday Cups Stir Up Controversy.

Maybe you read about this as well.
Courtesy of Starbucks

And what is the big rampage for which I should drop what I am doing and join a new cause? Per the article…

Starbucks said it removed ‘symbols of the season’ used in the past, which have included reindeer and ornaments, in favor of a simple, two-toned red cup. When the cups rolled out in late October, Starbucks vice president Jeffrey Fields said the company ‘wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.’

The rest of the story

The other side of this story, though, that really arrested my attention was the rebuttal given by Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor who calls himself a “social media personality.” His take on this decision by Starbucks was that they were really just trying to take the “Christ” out of “Christmas” and make a statement that they hate Jesus and just want to be more politically correct.

No offense. Everyone happy. Diversity embraced.

Though Starbucks has not come out and made that statement themselves, in this supercharged age of political correctness, I would not doubt that “PC” might be an underlying motive – but I have not read any facts that substantiate that. And do I get weary of the PC movement? Yes, but that is not what I want to address today.

My issue is with Feuerstein’s message, who has gotten his share of personal attention by the Facebook video he posted about this seasonal decision by Starbucks.

My grievance today is not with Starbucks. To my knowledge they are not a Christian corporation. They are a secular entity whose goal is to make a profit. And they are doing a good job of that. And they serve some tasty products! And even if they wanted to remove from their cups every vestige of Christmas symbolism in our western culture, and even if they made this corporate cup change because they are so-called “Jesus-haters,” why am I to get riled up about that? When unbelievers behave as unbelievers, why am I shocked or surprised? This is a secular company who has no obligation to share the true message of Christmas on their coffee mugs.

Now do not come to wrong conclusions about my post. Are we to grieve as Christians over sin in our nation? Yes. Are we to feel a heaviness of spirit over the unrighteous deeds of the unrighteous? Most certainly.

I am just not sure this is one of those situations.

My biggest concern is the misrepresentation of the gospel by Mr. Feuerstein’s video. In terms of living and breathing Christianity, I would want Starbucks to know that I want nothing to do with this “brand” of being a Jesus follower that is portrayed in this video. I am not judging Feuerstein’s motives nor his intent. I am not questioning his son-ship as a believer. And it is rare that I call anyone out in my blog posts, because I will not use my blog to defame another individual, believer or not. 

I simply am not in complete agreement with his response to this issue – and that is what I am going after. And I am not addressing this to call anyone an idiot or moron. That is not my modus operandi for writing. I am expressing my disagreement over the how of his response and what he turned the issue into. 

His video simply does not speak gospel to me. And I would like to articulate three reasons why. Because if we are not careful, we can easily make the gospel something it is not and get the world ticked off at us for the wrong reasons. The gospel is precious and we must be careful to guard its purity and not add to its essence.

This video calls me to be outraged that a secular company acts secular

What I hear is “Can you believe that a company without Jesus at the center might not have the same worldview as a Christian?”

Jesus said quit succinctly…

Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. (I John 3:13)

In fact, Jesus said that if the world hated Him to not be surprised when it hates His followers. Am I to be heartbroken over the the unborn getting killed? Yes. Am I to be outraged over abusive relationships? Yes. And maybe certain events are shocking, but to be shocked that unbelievers act like…well…unbelievers shows a lack of what the Bible teaches about the system of the world.

We have been led to believe that this act by Starbucks should be offensive to us.

This video calls me to join a misguided movement

I cringe when I hear that our response should be to poke the proverbial dog with the stick. So how is telling the Starbuck’s barista that my name is “Merry Christmas” so that they have to write it on the cup preparing the soil of that worker’s heart for the gospel? How does “Starbucks, just to offend you, I wore my Jesus Christ t-shirt into your store” engender the type of heartbeat that the Apostle Paul calls out for?

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Oswald Chambers offered a valuable truth when he said,

We are not fundamentally free; external circumstances are not in our hands, they are in God’s hands, the one thing in which we are free is in our personal relationship to God. We are not responsible for the circumstances we are in, but we are responsible for the way we allow those circumstances to affect us; we can either allow them to get on top of us, or we can allow them to transform us into what God wants us to be.

This video calls me to perpetuate a misguided gospel

Again, I do not know Mr. Feuerstein and have not spent time with him to know his heart or motives. So I am making an observation here and simply critiquing his message. The gospel frees me from and frees me to.

The gospel frees me from an “I’ll show you” defensive type of spirit that screams “you can’t do this to us!” But yet the gospel frees me to an “I’ll show you” type of new-birth response.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)

Unfortunately, Christians can sometimes be known more by what they are against than Who they are following. The type of message conveyed in this video calls me to defend my rights and make a statement to this secular company. Jesus calls me to do the impossible: bless those who curse me and respond in love to those who mistreat me.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. (Luke 6:27-29)

And the impossible can happen because I have the very spirit of God within me. That is the whole point: dependence.

Perhaps there is more to this video’s intent, but I am not sensing a Luke 6 type of charge.

We need to be careful as Christians that if the world is going to get upset with us, it is for the right reasons. I am sorry, but joining this anti-Starbucks Christmas coffee cup movement is not what I deem as Starbucks hating Christians because we are followers of Jesus. To be honest, I don’t want to be associated with this message because it is not what the gospel teaches.

It leads me to define gospel responses in a way that serves me instead of bringing glory to Jesus.

I just do not see it in Scripture.

And to be honest, I am OK. It is a red cup. And I am not being sarcastic, but I have not looked to a secular corporation as to what preserves my identity or freedom in Jesus Christ. 

What is worth getting riled up about?

Do you know what the Apostle Paul spends much of his time correcting? Those who claim to be Jesus-followers who act like they were not radically changed by the gospel. In other words, believers acting like unbelievers.

Those who claimed to be part of the body of Christ but were known for…

  • fighting
  • arguing
  • backbiting
  • immorality
  • gossip (and others)

Paul tell us in II Corinthians 2:15,

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

This video certainly gives an aroma to Starbuck’s employees and leadership – and I am questioning the type of aroma. And for those who work for Starbucks and are followers of Jesus, I cannot help but think that they are a bit embarrassed over this video as it is probably closing doors of gospel opportunity. Who at Starbucks is going to turn to the power of the gospel with a video admonition such as this?

I am embarrassed for the name of Jesus. I am embarrassed because if this is what the world thinks authentic Christianity is about, it is no wonder the name of Jesus is so abused and viewed with disdain.

My goal today is not to do a public rebuke. I respect Mr. Feuerstein because he is a human made in the image of God. My aim is simply to make us realize that our every word and action is shaping someone’s thoughts about Jesus. Are we giving a right portrayal?

There may be a time my being a follower of Jesus really costs me something. I just do not think it will revolve around what is put on a Christmas coffee cup. Who knows, maybe I will purchase one of their red coffee cups and then pray for an opportunity to have a Christmas conversation about why the color “red” is so significant with regard to the Savior who bled out on the cross for me.

So “Thanks Starbucks!” Your change to all red might open more gospel doors than just associating Christmas with “Merry” or ice skates, snowflakes, or mistletoe.

I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below on your thoughts about this Starbucks controversy. Thanks!

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