It’s always funny to me how the teacher is usually the one who learns the lesson. I am the one who is supposed to be teaching children about God and His love, but they are usually the ones who make the lesson all the more real for me. This happened Wednesday night when our Sheriff visited.
For a mission event, the adults of my church gathered underwear and socks for the men in our local jail. Our kids’ task, was to write Thanksgiving cards to the inmates. The sheriff came upstairs to talk to the kids and presented one of the clearest Christian messages that I think they have ever heard. He asked, “Do you know what separates the men in that jail from you? They got caught.” He continued sharing about how we are all sinners before God. That message surely resonated with me whether the kids grasped the gravity of it or not.
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)”
No one who does good. The outrage of the week seems to revolve around Starbucks and their “holiday cup.” A Facebook evangelist (Is there such a thing?) has called the all red cup an attack on Christmas. By removing snowman and snowflake designs, they are attacking Christmas? I have to tap the brakes in pursuit of rationality. Sure, there are those who are trying to limit Christmas in the public square but removing pictures of snowmen and snowflakes from a drink cup hardly qualifies as an act of war.
Starbucks is not, has never been, nor ever will be a Christian company. They sell coffee. Overpriced, somewhat bitter coffee, but coffee all the same. They are not in the evangelism business. It is not Starbucks job to visit the men in that jail. It is not the job of a barista to minister to their needs while they are imprisoned. It is not in the goal of their CEO to come alongside those men when they get out of jail, to encourage them to learn from their imprisonment, and help them walk a straighter path.
That’s our job as Christians. That is the job of the Church of Jesus Christ. One of my favorite quotes comes from Morton Kensley: “The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.” I feel like (and have been guilty myself of) sometimes the Church creates this wall between us and the world. In part, that is a good thing. We are to separate ourselves from this world. But we are also called to reach out and welcome anyone in who would come. Sure, we admonish, correct, and teach, but it’s hard to do that when we lock the doors and don’t let anyone in.
The Christ that found me did not find me in a church. The Christ that found me found me when I was at my lowest point. I was the farthest thing from being a “saint.” I had rejected Him and His teachings for years. I was my own God. The Christ that found me, though, did not condemn me. If anything, He ran to me, the way the father in Luke 15 did. He presented me with a message of love, hope, and forgiveness. Had I been presented with a message of judgment and hellfire, I would have walked away from it again.
This world is lost, there is no arguing that. The people, though, are still very much salvageable. Obviously, since Christ has not returned yet there is still someone out there who will accept His message of forgiveness. But, how will they ever hear that message if all they hear from Christians is a silly quibble about missing snowmen on a cup? The Christmas message that puts the plan of salvation in high gear is far bigger than a coffee cup. The message of Christmas is the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8-9,
He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day, they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.
So, my Christian brothers and sisters, let’s skip the fury over the Starbucks cup. In the end, that’s not our mission. Our mission is the message found in a letter that I saw one of my kids writing to an inmate.
In it he said, “We are all equal and God loves you.” That is the message that the Church of Jesus Christ must preach to the world that desperately needs to hear it. I’m pretty sure that the Author of Life is bigger than what’s on or not on a coffee cup.