Jesus, Friend of Starbucks Baristas and Patrons

Posted on March 18, 2015


Breitbart dropped an article yesterday revealing how Starbucks baristas will “hassle” customers about race relations. The right-wing conservative in me wanted to jump on board the train of derision toward Starbucks for yet another publicity stunt in the politico-culture wars. However, I’m learning to beat down that unwelcomed part of my flesh – you know, the one that screams “BOYCOTT!” every time a pagan institution or business dares to act, well, pagan.

After further consideration, I am glad to see Starbucks opening up this door to provoke a conversation on race relations.

In full disclosure, in response to this video produced by Starbucks and OUTtv last year, I stated the following on facebook:

You want to know why ‪#‎Starbucks‬ can do this? Because they have enough slaves to their product that they have little to lose by throwing their brand behind the gay agenda. The same goes for Target, Apple, Burger King, and other major brands. Yes, there might be a few boycotts here and there, but I seriously doubt many are going to toss their iPads and iPhones away once Apple throws its hat in the ring. Before long these major brands will seduce other brands and companies to join them until you won’t be able to buy any major brand that doesn’t promote homosexuality. It’s already the trendy thing to do. They are winning the so-called culture war, and it’s just a matter of time before gay is a protected civil right.

Sadly, it’s all to their shame and destruction…it will be interesting to see how many Christians love their gay neighbors and gay-supporting neighbors enough to tell them the Romans 1 truth about their sin, even if it means they will be marginalized, ridiculed, fined, or even thrown in jail for it. Because that day is coming, the writing’s on the wall. I encourage all Christians to be preparing themselves by writing 1 Peter to your heart, because the truth therein is the only truth that can preserve, strengthen, and embolden us to face the dark days ahead.

I still stand by that statement. Starbucks and the other elite brands of our culture have a name to protect, and they are sure to lose if they don’t fully embrace the homosexual agenda. We’ll see this trend exponentially increase leading up to and after a likely SCOTUS decision this summer to legalize gay marriage across the nation. So what are Christians to do in the face of a culture continuing its spiral into the black hole of moral depravity? I suggest it’s not by boycotts and creating more Christian coffee shops.

For some reason, the default reaction for many of us is to retreat when faced with hardship, persecution, or when the world is not acting like the church. We tend to retreat to two extremes to either our fundamentalist bubbles, or try to make the church look like the world. But what did Jesus say in Matthew 5:13-16:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I know it’s easy to throw our hands up in disgust vowing to never darken the doors of a Burger King because they introduced the Proud Whopper. Admittedly, I haven’t ordered from Burger King since I learned of that stunt. But I’m thinking things differently now. Perhaps boycotts have their place for a number of reasons, but if we can take calculated initiative to be salt and light, why shouldn’t we opt for an action to proclaim the Gospel rather than a retreat to “hide our light under a basket”?

I get it – we want to take our money elsewhere, like buy more chicken sandwiches. But really, how does our protest advance the kingdom? Where does Scripture say to fight evil with our wallets? I get there may be a valid principle to not support businesses that promote blatant wickedness, but beloved, the place this train is headed is that there will be few places we can buy anything where gay is not treated as the new black in civil rights. This is the world we live in, and Jesus tells us who we are to be in it – salt and light.

While I reject any cultural mandate to redeem society or “take dominion”, perishing souls make up our society and we are commanded to reach them with the Gospel. God has given His people a high calling to be His ambassadors to herald the good news about His kingdom. We are to be salt, or a preserving agent, to remind wicked men that God is holy and righteous, and their sins are storing up wrath for themselves for the day of judgment. We are to be the light that reflects the light of Christ, not only by doing acts of mercy, but by proclaiming the Gospel that the Light of Christ will spread throughout the world.

Think about it – it is the darkness that does not come to the light (John 3:19-20); the light never flees from the darkness!

Jesus, Friend of Starbucks Baristas and Patrons

Starbucks is a phenomena. With nearly 12,000 stores in the U.S., Starbucks has worked itself into the very fabric of society. It is a crossroads for postmodern culture and a melting pot for religious pluralism. One will find every stripe of sinner in Starbucks. From self-professing Atheist to idolater to adulterer to fornicator to drunkard to homosexual to thief to tax evader to liar to murderer to gossiper – all are welcomed to pour or buy coffee.

If there was a modern-day screenplay of the Gospel of Matthew, I can imagine Matthew 9:10-13 taking place in a Starbucks:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Now, having set itself up as a moral authority and agitator, Starbucks is becoming a modern-day Areopagus, seeking to provoke discussion about emotionally-charged topics such as race and sexuality. Shouldn’t Christians take advantage of this prime opportunity to be salt and light in a dark place?

If Starbucks is where sinners are gathering and where there is potential to engage folks with the Gospel, would it be better to shun Starbucks as the enemy or engage it with the truth? Do you think it’s reasonable to believe Jesus would be in the Starbucks marketplace, engaging sinners with the truth, at least until they kicked Him out?

According to the aforementioned Breitbart article, Starbucks baristas will be engaging patrons on the topic of race relations. Christians are the only ones with the real solution to racial prejudices.

Jesus came not only to reconcile Jews and Gentiles to God, but to reconcile Jews and Gentiles to each other through Him (Ephesians 2:11-22). And if He came to reconcile the greatest manifestation of ethnocentrism (believing one’s ethnicity is superior or deserves special treatment), which existed between Jew and Gentile, He certainly came to reconcile prejudices across supposed racial lines.

After all, the Lamb of God purchased with His own blood a people for Himself from every language and ethnicity (Revelation 5:9-10), and since that is true, every person in Christ has been set free from favoritism and ethnocentrism, and must grow to celebrate our diversity. In fact, the more multicultural a church is, the more it will look like heaven.

The world as represented by Starbucks may offer temporary solutions, but Christians are the only people who possess the ultimate solution to bring healing to racial tensions – Jesus Christ.

I believe a similar campaign promoting justice for sexual equality will follow this one. Instead of asserting themselves as the race police, Starbucks will assert themselves as the humanitarians against homosexual injustice. That too will create an opportunity to proclaim Christ as the only remedy – to set sinners free from their slavery to sin.

You may want to continue your boycott against businesses who promote homosexuality, but I’m afraid that won’t be sustainable in the long run.

Something else to consider might be to hold your Bible study at Starbucks instead of Panera Bread. Instead of meeting your brother at Chic Fil A for lunch, take your open Bibles to Starbucks for breakfast. Do what my friend Tony Miano does, and invite folks to sit down with you to talk about God. Be creative. Be outspoken. Consider how you can get in the battle for these souls, whether it’s a barista harassing you about race relations or the homosexual agenda, or a patron open to a discussion.

We need to be thinking winsomely about how we can reach a world that is spiraling out of control. If Jesus commanded us to pay taxes to a wicked government, I cannot see why buying a cup of coffee from a pagan business that promotes immorality is necessarily wrong, especially when the intent is to be a Gospel witness. If Christ has dispatched us to be salt and light, let’s take the Gospel to the places where it’s most needed.

So drink your vanilla latte to the glory of God, and tell someone about Jesus. That’s my plan.

Recommended Reading

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper