a tradition since 1997. In the past, the cups have had various designs with symbols of the Christmas holiday season, which have included snowflakes, Christmas tree ornaments, starbursts, etc. This year, however, Starbucks® has decided to use a blank cup with two tones of red.
The controversy is that Starbucks® is being accused by many of trying to remove the word Christmas or the Christian meaning of the holiday from the public arena. A few questions need to be asked by each individual weighing in on the conversation:
- Have the designs of the past related at all to the Christian understanding of the meaning of Christmas?
- Is Starbucks® a Christian-owned company or was it founded with Christian ideals as its philosophy?
- If the answer to the previous questions is "no", then should Starbucks® be expected to employ Christian expressions of the holiday?
I want to give my answers to these questions and give a biblical point of view to the last question which really sums up the necessary Christian response to the general principle at stake in this controversy.
- As best as I can surmise by looking into the history of Starbucks'® Christmas (or holiday) cups, none have had any design that relates directly to the advent and birth of Jesus Christ which represent the Christian understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Christians observe Christmas as the celebration the birth of our Savior. However, Starbucks® has always used traditional, secular symbols of the holiday.
- Starbucks®, as best as I can surmise from their written history is not, nor ever was a Christian-owned company. Neither was it founded with Christian ideals as its philosophy. The following is the Starbucks® Mission statement: "To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time."
- The remaining question then is: "Should Starbucks® be expected to employ Christian expressions of the holiday?" Since Starbucks® has never displayed any propensity toward the Christian holiday in anyway, why would we Christians be upset with the absence of symbols or icons that have nothing to do with our celebration? We cannot expect people who do not believe in Christ to live by Christian values. As a matter of fact, we Christians are so prone to falling short of Christian values and principles, that we need to spend much more time focused on making sure we get it right so we don't mar the image of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Please make sure you are not hearing what you think I am saying. Christians have a tremendous responsibility to influence the world for the sake of leading others to Christ so they will be saved. This doesn't mean we lead non-Christians to live like WE think they should. Life transformation does not come from a person making a decision to change. Life transformation comes from an encounter with the resurrected Christ. Only the Holy Spirit will change a heart. When a heart is changed by God, then the actions will follow (Matthew 12:33-37, Matthew 15:18-19).
Christians must remember that if it wasn't for Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, we would be headed toward the same torment of hell as everyone else (John 3:18). We are all dependent on the mercy of Christ to be saved. We didn't earn His forgiveness, He paid for it and then offered it as a gift. Christians are simply those who have accepted/received His offer.
Keep the following passage in mind as you encounter people who have not accepted the gift of salvation and are living contrary to biblical principles:
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no * man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)What do you need to change in your way of thinking so you can more effectively communicate the gospel to people who need it? Do you need to remember where you came from and Who rescued you from there? Do you need to remember that you are daily dependent on the grace of Christ?
If you're like me, you'll need to regularly be reminded of what D.T. Niles was quoted as saying in the New York Times on May 11, 1986:
"Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread."You pray for me and I'll pray for you!
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet