Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Love, Hate and the Chikin Sandwich

I love Chick-fil-A.  I have since the very first time I heard my Aunt Leslie order a "breaded chicken sandwich with pickles and mustard only" while on a trip to Texas when I was a kid.  At that time, most Chick-fil-A restaurants were still south of the Mason-Dixon line and like Big Red soda and Blue Bell ice cream, I was only privy to their Southern greatness every couple of years during trips to visit my grandparents in the Lone Star State.  

Without a doubt, Chick-fil-A has THE BEST chicken sandwich in America.  And who doesn't love the waffle fries and lemonade?  Those Southern folks also love the sweet tea.  Being born north of the Mason-Dixon, it's not my cup of - well - tea, but since they sell it by the gallon, I'm pretty sure it's a hit with some folks.  It's always "my pleasure" to eat there.  They have great food and great service. 

I loved them WAY before I realized that they were owned by Christians.  In fact, I didn't even realize that until I was an adult and saw that they were giving away Adventures in Odyssey CDs in their kids meals.  Sweet!  Once I realized this (and that they're not open on Sundays, even though they could be making MILLIONS more a year if they were), I realized that it's my duty as a Christian to love Chick-fil-A.  Jon Acuff pretty much said so and he certainly knows about Stuff Christians Like.

Fast-forward to today.  Chick-fil-A has been making headlines, not because they give away thousands of free meals to people in cow costumes, but because one of their owners, who has never hidden his faith or his convictions, told a Baptist newspaper that he supports a "biblical definition of the family unit."

   Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

Somehow, those tiny little paragraphs at the end of the interview sparked a firestorm of controversy and have somehow made Cathy, and all who agree with him,  now unwelcome by high ranking and high profile politicians in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia.  

Here's the thing.  This is probably not going to shock those of you who know me, but I personally agree with Cathy. I'm "very much supportive of the...biblical definition of the family unit."  Don't stone me yet, okay, there's more.  I'm a follower of Christ.  You know, Jesus, the guy who when asked, said that the greatest commandments were 

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Jesus said I am to love people?  Even *gulp* gay people?  Yep.  In fact, we, the Church, are to strive to be like Christ, welcoming others so that they may know Him as well.  Last week there was a great little church bulletin that said it very well.  In case you missed it, here's what it said.

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.
If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!
I think that for many Christians I know, when it really comes down to it, we want to agree with the above statements but aren't really sure what it looks like to do so.  We know that we're supposed to love our neighbors but are afraid that if we socialize with lesbians or gamblers that we'll be labeled as "wishy-washy" "sinners," or worse yet, "liberals."  At the same time, we're afraid to call sin "sin" for fear that we'll be known as "intolerant," "hate-mongers," "unintelligent" or just plain "un-American."  We want to show love to our neighbors without compromising our beliefs.  How in the world is that possible?  

What I see in the Bible is a God who came down from Heaven with a furious love for his people and a deep desire to have personal, meaningful relationship with them.  The Jesus shown to us in the New Testament called sin "sin" and took his meals with "sinners."  He loved.  He rebuked.  He was personally vested in those around him.  He didn't stand on a corner with a sign condemning anyone.  He was perfect, without sin.

I will never, in this life, be perfect.  My sins are many.  Some are hidden, others are right out there for the world to see.  I will fall many, many more times before my days on this earth are over.  Though imperfect, I am a seeker of Truth, a friend of God, and a lover of his people.  I will continue to do my best to follow his example; building real, meaningful relationships with his creation.  Only then can I truly love.  Only then can I rebuke.  Only when I have a personal, vested interested in others does my opinion on anything matter.  I will not be standing on a corner or in a restaurant condemning anyone.  

When I "eat mor chickin," (and I will be gobbling up breaded chicken sandwiches with pickles and honey mustard whenever I have the chance) there is no "thinly veiled hate" in my action.  There is no "I love you, but..." in my affection for waffle fries.  There is only a longing in my heart to be more like Christ and to somehow reflect the love he has shown me into the lives of those I encounter while on my journey to eternity.  That and a longing for a tall glass of lemonade to wash down the waffle fries.