Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Red Cup Rage

In case you've had your head in the sand the last few days, there has been a huge controversy brewing, and blowing up all over social media. It's all related to this year's Christmas cups at Starbucks. If you're not a Starbucks regular, let me explain: Every year during the holidays, Starbucks uses special cups, which have always been red and adorned with some type of theme, such as snowflakes, ornaments, or trees. This year, their cups are plain red without such ornamentation. Why is this causing such a stir?

Some Christians are claiming that the plain red cups are part of the “War on Christmas” and that Starbucks is denying Christ by not putting snowflakes on their cups. In fact, videos have been made by some outraged Christians demanding everything from boycotting Starbucks, to “pranking” them by telling them your name is “Merry Christmas” so when your order is ready they will be forced to say “Christmas.”

Ugh! When I first heard this story I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach again. Sometimes I am stunned by the pettiness and foolishness of those in the Body of Christ. As I shook my head in disbelief, here are few things that came through my mind.  

1) Its frivolous drivel like this which makes Christians look so foolish. Freaking out about plain red cups does nothing to bring people to Jesus, instead it repels them. I wonder what our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are being persecuted by ISIS think when they see that the church in America is all tore up about a red cup?  

2) To be honest with you, I’d be willing to wager a fruit cake that Starbucks doesn’t have any idea who the reason for the season is in the first place. Should we really expect a secular institution to embrace Christian truth? Why are we in the church stunned when unbelievers don’t think or act like we do? Moreover, they are a business not a religious organization. If you don’t like their core principles, just don’t buy their products.

3) We have way larger problems to worry about in the world: hunger, terrorism, human trafficking, abortion, and oh yeah, fulfilling the Great Commission. Let’s focus our time, energy, and anger on something that matters; not a cranberry-colored, environmentally-friendly paper cup.

This reminds me of a story that Pastor Ray Stedman told in one of his books. He knew of a church that got into an argument over whether they ought to have a Christmas tree at their Christmas programs. Some thought a tree was fine and they understood it in a Christian sense. Others thought no, Christmas trees are of pagan origin and you should not have any Christmas trees. And so when the time came for the party, one group brought in a Christmas tree. The other group dragged the tree out. The first group dragged it back in again. They got into a squabble and finally actually some fist fights broke out at the Christmas party over the Christmas tree. Eventually, the whole thing was in the newspapers because they ended up suing each other. Ray said, “What else could non-Christians conclude but that the gospel consists in whether you have a Christmas tree or not?”[1]

We in the church are just like the Pharisees in that we can forget to keep the main thing, the main thing and instead focus on secondary issues. Recall, Jesus scathing words to Pharisees in Matt. 23:23-24, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” The red cup rage of recent days definitely fits Jesus’ description of forgetting what really matters to God. Remember it’s our job to tell people about Christ, not a coffee company. -DM  

[1] Ray Stedman, “What Matters,” Authentic Christianity <http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/romans-9to16/what-matters> 

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