On a fairly regular basis I receive invitations to boycott this store or that product because of some “offense” that the company made toward Christianity or Christians.
Over the holidays I received numerous emails listing naughty or nice stores based on whether the company or business advertised “Merry Christmas” (nice stores) or “Happy Holidays” (naughty stores). The implication of these emails or sometimes Facebook or Twitter posts is that if you are a “good” Christian you have to support the cause and join the boycott.
Instead of my usual religion column, let me rant a little. First off, it irritates me when we as Christians try to force non-Christian companies to play by the rules we ourselves determine. I don’t think we are winning friends or influencing people when we try to bully them into compliance.
Come on, we don’t like it when they do that to us, why do we think it’s somehow different when we do that to them?
The apostle Paul reminds us Christ-followers, “We do live in the world, but we do not fight in the same way the world fights. We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places.
“We destroy people’s arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NCV).”
There was a time in this country when we operated by Christian consensus, a time when the majority of people had at least a Christian background and we could (and did) exert pressure and enjoyed some influence in our culture.
In fact, up until the 1960s, the church was listed as one of the main influencers within our society, but by 1966 that had changed and the church was completely dropped from the list of societal influencers. The problem is, our culture knows that but the church doesn’t. We are still trying to lead from a position we no longer have (and perhaps never should have had).
The early church had no wealth, no power, no political clout, they could leverage in their day.
The Apostle Paul gives us the picture when he writes to one of the more influential churches of the day, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV).
Yet, in the first three centuries, the group that became known as Christians revolutionized the world. They did it not by boycotts and passing laws that favored them or their cause, but they did it by their love and generosity.
When plague hit the Roman Empire, people fled from the cities in an effort to save themselves, but the Christians stayed behind and cared for the sick, often to their own peril, and their influence grew.
As the sect of Christians began to grow, one Roman Emperor who was trying to revive the worship of the old Roman gods and goddesses, lamented that the pagan priests were losing ground because the accursed Christians were caring for the needy when their own priests would not.
Probably the worst thing that happened to the early church was when Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians and then announced that he had become one. At that point, a shift began to take place and the church started to exert influence through her newfound power rather than through the power she was meant to have, namely, the Power of God through her intimacy with Christ.
By organizing boycotts and forcing legislation, the church continues to take the easy way out and bring change through power rather than bringing real change through a change of heart.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.