Chick-Fil-A has been at the center of a national controversy regarding comments made by CEO Dan Cathy. In a Christian publication, he expressed his view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
In a politicized culture, it did not take long for the comments to make national news. In response, some have labeled the restaurant, which has never denied that its business practices were defined by Christian values, as “anti-homosexual.” They claim that Chick-Fil-A’s views are biased towards homosexuals. Others, mainly Christian conservatives, have rallied to support the fast food chain. They believe Chick-Fil-A is being persecuted, by the mainstream media and liberal advocacy groups, because of its leadership’s faith.
It is a fierce battle in yet another resumption of the culture wars. On one side, you have those who deeply believe that homosexuality is not sinful and that society should embrace gay marriage. On the other side, you have those who deeply believe that homosexuality is a sin and it would be sinful for society to allow gay marriage.
Both sides claim to be right. Both sides claim to be following Christ in their practices and their advocacy. Both sides, however, are doing something completely different.
The loudest voices, those you see throughout the national landscape, are engaging this issue by using “us versus them” practices. Unfortunately, this is a practice that defines much of our engagement in society today. Christians are not immune from following this tactic. We can be some of its most prominent users. The usage of “us versus them” practices to discuss serious issues is counter to what it means to follow Christ.
First, let’s try to understand what an “us versus them” practice looks like. I have written about this before in previous posts, but it never hurts to express what takes place when this is our main form of discussing a topic. Those who see themselves as the “us” are those who believe they are right. When Christians use this practice, the “us” group claims to be the ones in complete adherence to what it means to follow Christ. They are the ones who truly understands what it means to be holy and to follow God with every ounce of our being. They claim that they are the ones who are doing God’s will.
As well, they are standing against “them.” The “them” is anyone who does not support the views of God, which the “us” group holds as true. It is a group of people who seek to keep “us” from following Christ or being who we are. Anyone associated with “them” are outside a true faith with Christ. Because they do not support the “us” group, members of the “them” group are considered as “persecutors” and promotors of society’s worst.
This type of practice should be familiar. It is akin to the practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ time. They believed they were the “us” group. They were the ones who truly understood what it meant to follow God. They understood the laws. They understood the practices of the faith. They were righteous. The Pharisees and Sadducees had those whom they placed in the “them” group. It would be composed of anyone the Pharisees and Sadducees believed were not living in accordance to God’s will. This included the Gentiles, tax collectors, and other sinners who did not look, act, think, or dress like the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus dealt with this kind of “us versus them” thinking. His earthly ministry consisted of breaking apart of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ usage of this practice. Jesus did so by associating with the members of the “them” group. Jesus ate with the sinners, who the Pharisees and Sadducees believed had no place in the Kingdom of God. Jesus welcomed women into deep discipleship, who the Pharisees and Sadducees would not allow to be taught. Jesus showed love and compassion to those considered outside of faith by the “us” group of the time.
There are some lessons, here, for us today.
When we us “us versus them” practices, we are more interested in keeping people out of God’s kingdom than in expressing the love of Christ and truth of God’s Word speak into someone’s life. It becomes more about drawing dividing lines than about bring people together in God’s love. By interacting with the “them” group, Jesus welcomed them, showed them love, and invited them on a journey of faith and discipleship. He didn’t tell them to remain in their sin, but invited them on a journey of holiness by accepting the gift of faith.
Divisive practices prevent us from hearing from the other side. We cannot hear from someone if we draw a line in the sand to separate who is in or out. This is true with any issue, and especially so with homosexuality. If you are divisive in engaging this topic and believe homosexuality is a sin, how can you hear someone who struggles with their faith in Christ and their personal desires? The same goes to those who believe homosexuality is not a sin. If you are divisive regarding this topic, are you able to hear from someone who compassionately believes that homosexuality is a sin?
True dialogue is inhibited by this approach. If we refuse to talk to “them” we are missing a chance of deep engagement and understanding. This is true for anyone we place in the “them” group, whether it is a homosexual, a Christian conservative, a liberal Christian, a drug addict, or anyone else.
As Christians, we are called to sit with the sinners and share life with them. It is one of the most difficult expressions of our faith and aligns ourselves with Jesus’ practices, who did not consider it below himself to talk to us when we were placed in the “them” group of those outside a relationship with God.