Posts tagged ‘Values’

The Big Apple And The Chicken Sandwich

A little over a week ago, Dan Piepenbring, writing for The New Yorker, derided what he called “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City.”  He declared:

New York has taken to Chick-fil-A.  One of the Manhattan locations estimates that it sells a sandwich every six seconds, and the company has announced plans to open as many as a dozen more storefronts in the city.  And yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.

Mr. Piepenbring goes on to single out the chain’s headquarters adorned with Bible verses, its policy to close its stores on Sundays, and its CEO’s publicly expressed concerns about same-sex marriage as examples of its “pervasive Christian traditionalism.”  As Mr. Piepenbring points out, the company’s purpose statement also betrays its founders’ Christian commitments.  Chick-fil-A’s purpose is:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

As a Christian, such a corporate purpose statement does not trouble me, as it does Mr. Piepenbring.  A cardinal claim of Christianity is that what Christians believe cannot be divorced from the work they do.  The apostle Paul summarizes this spirit when he writes, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).  A Christian’s creeds, Paul says, should always result in gracious deeds.  Chick-fil-A’s purpose statement teases out this connection.  The first part of the statement explains that the company’s leaders desire to give glory to God.  This is a commitment to a creed.  The second part of the statement explains that the company’s leaders desire to positively impact all who interact with Chick-fil-A.  This is a promise to do good deeds.

There is a secular trend to espouse a kind of happy humanism that claims that people are perfectly able to do good deeds apart from having to appeal to ancient and, according to the secular mindset, distasteful theological convictions.  In this way of thinking, Chick-fil-A would do better to fashion itself as an inoffensively affable and vaguely moral corporation instead of explicitly appealing to, again, according to the secular mindset, burdensome and superstitious Christian convictions.

But why would Chick-fil-A want to do this?  Its founders certainly aren’t secular.  Furthermore, extracting faith from goodness is trickier than many secular humanists care to admit.  Even if something is perceived to be good, without an external source of authority like Christianity, secular humanism still struggles to offer consistent reasons why anyone ought to do good.  Furthermore, apart from faith, people not only have no unifying set of compelling reasons why they ought to do good, they also have no set of stable standards as to what is good.  A coherent morality without a transcendent authority will be inevitably fraught with fragility.

The age-old philosophical conundrums of moral authority aside, there is widespread agreement between Christians and secular humanists on the morality of things like human dignity, community involvement, and good, old-fashioned geniality.  All of these are values that Chick-fil-A, with its evangelical roots, and New Yorkers, many of whom hold more secular sensibilities, espouse.  For this, at least, we should be grateful.  Mr. Piepenbring, however, asserts that, in a city like New York, “Chick-fil-A…does not quite belong here…Its politics, its décor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging are inflected with…suburban piety.”  This may be true culturally if one assumes there is some inherent and necessary pitched battle between a down-home corporation and a high-brow cosmopolitanism, but it is certainly not true personally.  The people who work at Chick-fil-A in New York are from New York.  And my hunch is, they care about New York and desire to serve people around New York.  Maybe we should let them.  And maybe when they smile, chicken sandwich and waffle fries in hand, we should smile back.  After all, one does not have to agree with every value and belief of a particular slice of society to treat them in a way that is neighborly.

I’m pretty sure someone said something about that, somewhere.

April 23, 2018 at 5:15 am 1 comment

When Cultures Clash

Society 1Three weeks ago on this blog, I shared a quote from The Gospel Coalition’s Trevin Wax that I think brilliantly summarizes a radical shift in our culture:

A generation ago, a person’s religious observance was a public matter, a defining characteristic of one’s identity, while a person’s sexual activity was something private.  Today, this situation is reversed.  A person’s sexual behavior is now considered a defining characteristic of identity, a public matter to be affirmed (even subsidized) by others, while religious observance is private and personal, relegated to places of worship and not able to infringe upon or impact the public square.

The culture clash today is less about the role of religion in business or politics, and more about which vision of humanity best leads to flourishing and should therefore be enshrined in or favored by law.[1]

Sex has become a – if not the – defining characteristic for many in our society.  I recently read an article about a professor who, in a women’s studies course, asked the class to write down the moment they realized they were gay, straight, bisexual, or queer.[2]  For many, one’s sexual awakening has become their road to Emmaus.  It is nothing less than their conversion experience.  I grew up Baptist, and the question I was often asked was, “When did you ask Jesus into your heart?”  Now the question is, “When did you have your sexual awakening?”  Sexuality is what gives many their meaning, purpose, and identity.

As I wrote three weeks ago, as a Christian, I cannot define myself in the way so many in our society have chosen to define themselves.  I must define myself by Christ and His Gospel.  I am, however, well aware that when I define myself in this way, I offend a whole host of societal sensibilities, especially as they pertain to sexuality.

As I’ve been pondering this clash of values, I’ve come to realize that Jesus faced much the same situation.  First century society was rife with sexual standards that were radically different from His.  Take for instance, the emperor of Rome during Jesus’ day, Tiberius Caesar, who, according to the Roman historian Suetonius, enjoyed watching group sex.[3]  This type of sexual licentiousness is, thankfully, offensive to many in our day, but, sadly, nevertheless acceptable and practiced among some.  So how did Jesus respond to sexual ethics that contradicted His own?

First, Jesus was ethically rigorous.  Jesus didn’t compromise His sexual standards in an effort win allies or appear tolerant.  I think of Jesus’ clash with the religious leaders over divorce.  In a world where many religious teachers taught that it was acceptable for a man “to divorce his wife for any and every reason,” Jesus responds, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:3, 9).  This sexual standard was so rigorous that Jesus’ own disciples exclaimed, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10).

It was William Ralph Inge, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, who famously quipped: “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”[4]  Jesus was not interested in conforming to the sexual spirit of His age.  We should not be interested in conforming either.

But there is another side to Jesus’ engagement with the sexual spirit of His society.  For at the same time that Jesus was ethically rigorous, He was also relationally generous.  In other words, even if people were in lifestyles He could not condone, He did not shun them.  He loved them.  I think of the woman at the well in John 4.  Or the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  Or the woman who anoints Jesus with perfume in Luke 7.  Jesus cared deeply for these people.  We should too – even if they do not share our ethical commitments.

A faithful Christian response to the sexual standards of our society, then, demands that we answer two questions.  First, where do we stand?  Have we compromised biblical sexual standards to kowtow to the spirit of our age?  If so, no less than the living Lord commands that we hold the line.  But second, who are our friends?  Do we generously befriend those who do not think or live like we do?  If our friends are only those who share our ethical commitments, we have traded Jesus’ love for quarantined law.  And that helps no one.

As Christians, we need both ethical standards and relational grace.  I hope you have both.  You should.  Jesus has given you both.  After all, how do you think He befriended you?


[1] Trevin Wax, “The Supreme Court Agrees With Hobby Lobby, But Your Neighbor Probably Doesn’t,” The Gospel Coalition (6.30.2014).

[2] W. Blue, “When Did You Know You Were Gay?Psychology Today (7.15.2014).

[3] Suetonius, Life of Tiberius 43.

[4] Tony Lane, Exploring Christian Doctrine: A Guide to What Christians Believe (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2014), 48.

July 28, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Four Lessons From The Spurs You Probably Already Know

Credit:  Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

This past week was a great one to be living in San Antonio.  For the fifth time in franchise history, the San Antonio Spurs brought home the title of NBA National Champions.  As much as I enjoyed watching Game 5 of the National Championship and seeing the Spurs come back from a 16-point deficit to win 104 to 87, the Spurs have a lot more going for them than just one big win in one big game.  Their words and demeanor season after season offer some good, even if simple, lessons.  Here are four that I’ve been thinking about.

A Lesson in Teamwork

The Spurs, as sportscasters, fans, and bystanders alike will tell you, are a team.  But not just in the sense that they all happen to be wearing the same jersey.  No, they play like a team.  They act like a team.  And they win like a team.  Benjamin Morris noted that the Spurs “had nine different players take four or more field goal attempts per game throughout the playoffs, compared to just six for Miami.”[1]  In San Antonio, everybody gets to play because, in San Antonio, everybody needs to play to bring home a win.

Playing as a team, of course, is needed not only on the court, but in the Christian life.  To meet the challenges we face, everybody needs to play together.  I think of the apostle Paul and all of his teammates, or, as he called them, “partners” (e.g., 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 1:5; Philemon 1:7), in the gospel.  With whom do you need to team up so you can share and show God’s love more effectively?

A Lesson in Humility

When Kawhi Leonard was named Most Valuable Player for the Finals, his shock was apparent – and endearing.  I loved how he responded to his high honor:  “Right now, it’s just surreal to me,” he said. “I have a great group of guys behind me.”[2]  Kawhi knew he performed great in Game 5.  But he also knew it wasn’t just about him.  It was about them – all the Spurs behind him.

In a world where Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are full of people shouting, “Look at me!” – to have a man point to the men behind him is impressive and important.  This is true humility.  Indeed, true humility is not about degrading yourself, but about lifting others up, which Leonard did beautifully.  Who can you point to in humility?

A Lesson in Perseverance

Before they were the National Champion San Antonio Spurs of 2014, they were the team that let everything slip through their fingers in 2013.  The front page of the San Antonio Express-News reflected last year’s heartbreak in its headline:  “REDEMPTION!”  But it took 362 days after a heartbreaking Game 6 loss to get that redemption.  362 long days.  “A day didn’t go by when I didn’t think about Game 6,” said Coach Gregg Popovich. “For the group to have the fortitude to get back to this spot speaks volumes.”[3]  The Spurs took a fall, yes, but they turned that fall into fuel for fortitude.  In the words of Tim Duncan, “What happened last year definitely helped our drive … We could have reacted in different ways.  We reacted the right way.”

Where you in your life do you need to persevere?  Where do you need to take things that go wrong and learn from them so you can do right?

A Lesson in Inclusion

Scott Cacciola of The New York Times recently published an article hailing the Spurs as “The United Nations of the Hardwood”:

The Spurs, as has been well established, have developed an international flair under Coach Gregg Popovich.  Eight players on the current roster were born outside the United States.  Loosely translated, that means the Spurs use at least four languages – English, Spanish, French and Italian – to communicate among themselves.

Manu Ginobili, an Argentine, is the team’s one-man version of the United Nations, capable of conversing in Spanish with his Brazilian teammate Tiago Splitter and in Italian with Marco Belinelli, who was born outside Bologna.  (Ginobili speaks in English with everybody else.)

Boris Diaw, who is from France, converses en français with Tony Parker, who was born in Belgium but grew up in France.  Both players also know some Italian, enough to eavesdrop on conversations between Ginobili and Belinelli.

Even the two team’s two Australians, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes, have their own dialect.

“We’ll hear them and be like, ‘Whoa!’” the assistant coach Chad Forcier said.

Tim Duncan, who is from the United States Virgin Islands, is considered an international player by the NBA.[4]

During the championship ceremony, many of these players wrapped themselves in the flags of their home countries.

The inclusion of so many men from so many places, all together on one team, makes me smile.  It reminds me of the promise that anyone from any “nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9) can be included as one redeemed by the Lamb through faith.  And the more, the merrier.  That’s why one of my prayers is that heaven is chocked full.  I’d hate to see one empty corner where a person could have been.  So would the Lord.  He wants as many people included in His Kingdom as possible.  Who can you pray for to be included in eternity’s celebration?

In reality, these lessons are pretty simple and straightforward.  Indeed, I suspect you have probably already learned these lessons somewhere along the way.  Nothing in this blog is probably news to you.  But lessons don’t have to be esoteric and unknown to be profound and helpful.  They just have to be true.  And these lessons most certainly are.  That’s why I thought we could all use a little reminder.

So congratulations, Spurs.  And thanks for the lessons.  They’re great.


[1] Benjamin Morris, “The Spurs Were an Outlier of Unselfishness,” FiveThirtyEight (6.17.2014).

[2] Associated Press, “Kawhi Leonard named Finals MVP,” ESPN (6.16.2014).

[3] Jeff McDonald, “High five! Spurs dethrone Heat for fifth NBA championship,” San Antonio Express-News (6.15.2014)

[4] Scott Cacciola, “The United Nations of the Hardwood,” The New York Times (6.15.2014).

June 23, 2014 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Sermon Extra – “I’m A Creative Visionary Leader Who Is Also Obedient”

Creative.  Visionary.  Leader.  Ambitious.  Inspiring. We place a high premium on these values in our culture.  When we are looking for a job, we know that these words, or some combination thereof, are sure to make potential employers salivate and want to know more about us.  When we are seeking out a mentor, these are the qualities for which we look.  For the most part, we want to know people – and we want to be people – who are out in front, recognized and respected by many, leading the pack.

Obedient. Now there’s a word you won’t find on a resume or on a top ten list of values to which we aspire.  Indeed, this value is more often denigrated than celebrated, especially in our popular culture.  From the James Dean classic “Rebel Without A Cause” to a motorcycle named the “Rebel,” disobedience is much more admired and prized than is obedience.  After all, obedience seems so – well…boring!

Perhaps we shouldn’t so readily dismiss obedience.  For obedience is highly prized in the Scriptures.  A sampling of Scriptures will suffice to bring out the premium the Bible puts on obedience:

  • “Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 6:3).
  • “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).
  • “This is love for God: to obey His commands” (1 John 5:3).

Clearly, the Bible likes obedience.  And no one is exempt from this cardinal virtue of obedience – not even Jesus.

In my sermon this past weekend, we looked at Luke 2:41-52, the only canonical gospel account of Jesus’ childhood.  This story is depicted by one of our stained glass windows, pictured above.  As the story opens, Joseph and Mary take Jesus in tow, traveling from Nazareth to Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover Feast.  After the Feast, they travel back to Nazareth only to find that Jesus is missing at the end of the first day of their travels.  So they make a desperate search for their son.  As I mentioned in my sermon, after finding Jesus, when Mary says to her son, “Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you” (verse 48), the Greek word for “anxiously” is odunao, a word meaning, “pain.”  Mary’s concern for her lost son was so great that it caused her pain.  It put a lump in her throat.  It made her sick to her stomach.  And Jesus knows this.  And Jesus cares about His mother and her anxiety.  And so we read:  “He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.”  Jesus, the Son of God and the Sovereign of the universe, is obedient to his earthly father and mother.  Such is the primacy of obedience.  It is a value extolled and practiced by our Lord.

The Greek word for “obedient” is hypotasso, meaning, “to arrange under.”  The idea is that, out of love, people should learn to place their concerns, wants, needs, and desires under the concerns, wants, needs, and desires of others.  That is, people should be concerned with others before they are concerned with themselves.  In the words of the apostle Paul, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).  This is obedience – to show concern for the interests of others.

Jesus is concerned with the concern of His parents.  For they have been worried sick trying to find Him.  And so, He is obedient to His parents.  Indeed, Jesus’ whole life and ministry is one of obedience as  “He humbles Himself and becomes obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8)!  Jesus’ obedience is so unflappable, it leads Him to a cross.

What premium do you put on obedience in your life?  Do you intentionally arrange your concerns, wants, needs, and desires under the concerns, wants, needs, and desires of others?  Obedience may not be a secular value, but is a biblical one.  And it is a value that, when embodied by Christ on the cross, wins our salvation.  Perhaps we should take a value as powerful as obedience a little more seriously.

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June 14, 2010 at 4:45 am 2 comments

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