It’s nearly Christmas, which means it’s that time of year when certain Christians lose their ever-loving minds over which design Starbucks will choose for their coffee cups. In 2015, it happened to be those minimalistic red ones that had conservative activist Joshua Feuerstein—with his over 2 million Facebook followers—going bonkers; this year it’s a festive little white and red number that has folks up in arms. Why the controversy? Because it includes a depiction of two women holding hands. And as we know, there are a lot—I mean, A LOT—of Christians who aren’t down with anything other than hetero.
Because the Bible, I guess . . .
What I want to tell these folks is this: Stop it. Grow up. Aren’t there more pressing things going on in the world than what one coffee company is printing on their cups? Does a potential nuclear war mean anything to anyone? Not for nothing, but I bet if we dedicated this much effort to crises that were actually relevant, maybe we could reverse the trend toward irrelevance that the American Christian Church is on.
To that end, what are some things Christians should devote their energy on, if not coffee?
Maybe we should ask Jesus.
How about we start with his very first sermon? In Luke 4, Jesus gives the reason for his divine anointing: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free. In other words, Jesus was concerned with issues of economic justice, health and wellness, and freedom for the marginalized, all of which are issues that are still relevant today.
In Matthew 25, the same themes abound. What Jesus tells us is that he most closely identifies with the outcasts of society: the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, the stranger, the sick, the least of these. And those who do the will of God aren’t necessarily the ones who say the correct prayer, or have the right theology, or hate the color red, or boycott certain companies over their stance on LGBTQI+ folks, it is those who, while not even knowing who Jesus is, still serve him in serving the outcast, the marginalized, the needy. Again, all of which are issues that are still relevant today.
Jesus takes things even further in the Sermon on the Mount, where he makes it abundantly clear what one must do to be his follower: renounce retaliation, love the enemy, pray for the persecutor, and show mercy to all. No mention of Seattle-based coffee companies, but all issues that are still relevant today.
Now, that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t call out sin. He does. Even when he shows mercy to the woman caught in adultery in John 8, for example, Jesus still commands that she go and sin no more. However, when Jesus generally addresses sin, it is with those who are insistent upon focusing so heavily on the sin of others—i.e. the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other so-called religious leaders. So, it’s not that he isn’t against sin, it is just that he seems much more troubled by those who seek to destroy others because of what they consider sinful. Hence his advice that when it comes to sin, we consider our neighbor’s as but a speck when compared to the logjam that is going on in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3–5).
At the end of the day, it seems that if we are going to be concerned about anything, we should be concerned that so many of us refuse to follow this way that Jesus showed us. We should be concerned—nay, downright troubled—that so many of us, instead of showing concern for the poor, the marginalized, the scapegoated, and the oppressed, show concern over what a corporation does with their coffee cups, or what non-hetero folks do with those whom they love, or whether everyone is saying “Merry Christmas” or not. In other words, we should be downright troubled that so many of us have reduced our faith to nothing more than an adventure in missing the point.
So, during this holiday season, if we truly desire to put Christ back in Christmas (as the saying goes), then we should start taking Jesus more seriously. He didn’t seem to give a rip what slogans people used, or what folks labelled themselves, or how they greeted each other on his birthday; he cared about what was in folks’ hearts, whether they loved or not, whether they had compassion or not, whether they showed mercy to one another or not. And he still cares today. Jew or Gentile, Muslim or Christian, Sikh or Buddhist, conservative or liberal, theist or atheist, none of that matters nearly as much as whether we love one another or not.
This what we should focus on, and what should concern us the most.
Christians, let’s start grasping this. We claim that “God is love.” Therefore, to be like God is to be loving. Duh, right? So, let us focus on love. And may we show mercy to one another as we bring about true justice and restoration into our world. Forget the coffee cups, let’s focus on the important and relevant things.