BOYCOTTS, DEBATES, AND PETITIONS
Organized boycotts are instruments of self righteousness which make people feel like they have power. I would never support or give money to Planned Parenthood or NOW or the World Council of Churches or any number of organization. Never. But I would never join an organized boycott either. If we want to be technical there are many companies and stores we visit which support unholy organizations, and many 401k vehicles invest in companies with which we have issue. We are in this world but not of it.
Boycotts in general are lazy ways to serve Christ. They are usually based upon secular companies acting like secular companies. If the food chain down the street begins to have Playboy magazine openly displayed as you go through the checkout line then I would not shop there anymore. But I would not be a part of an organized boycott of the store. You see, we cannot run the risk of being seen as moral police to the fallen world. They can never understand the things of God.
But boycotts often bring a sense of “standing for righteousness” without having our lives be that conduit. So much of the church is consumed with morality and attempting to make the fallen world march to the Biblical commands. In fact millions of professing believers now embrace a moral faith that they see as helping to restore America back to its former religious and moral glory. That is a deep illusion.
It baffles me that professing believers will publicly boycott companies but will support the largest and most corrupt and immoral company of all, namely America. If we were to set out to boycott all companies which support unrighteousness we would be very limited in our choices. Where would we buy gas for our cars since all the big oil companies have investments in unrighteous things. Churches borrow money from banks which lend money to bars and strip clubs and abortion clinics and gay enterprises. That is an open double standard. Don’t the grocery stores sell poison to people?
Let us pull back the veil a little more. Many people who join boycotts because of moral reasons do not witness or pray. Some are very self righteous and some are very caustic to sinners. Some exhibit no self denial or humility. And these boycotts serve to plug the holes in their spiritual deficiencies. Jesus did not seem to boycott some gatherings of sinners and in so doing he was called derogatorily a “friend of sinners”. So let us be as well.
We live in a highly educated society in the sense that almost all people can read and write and that information flows freely. And this culture also thrives on competition. It isn’t enough that people lose weight, but it has to be a competition. There are eating competitions, drinking competitions, baking competitions, tattooing competitions, and the list goes on and on. And then there is the sports genre in which this culture thrives.
The President gives a State of the Union address and afterward there are three responses. There are all kinds of political debates during an election which are thoroughly judged as to who won. After a boxing match the judges record their cards to see who they think won. American Idol and the Voice go through elaborate programs in order to vote for the winner. Reality shows by the dozens set out competitions which draw millions of viewers. All major universities as well as many high schools have a debate team. And on and on and on it goes. We live in a culture which lives on winning and losing.
Most competitions are built upon human prowess of some sort. Some of that would be acceptable, but let’s be honest, this culture has made it into an idol. Like the Romans we love to be entertained with competition and men and women are paid exorbitant amounts of money just to provide that entertainment. And tens of millions of people tune in to watch the presidential debates and they not only root for their candidate, but they have a bias as to who won. It’s not about issues but about who made good comebacks or even the one liner of the night. It’s oh so adolescent and again, entertaining. In fact if the two candidates are civil and just present their own views without any rancor or sniping at each other it is considered boring.
Competition is entertainment. And here is where we as believers must be very careful since we live in this culture and are easily deceived. Humble competition which seeks sportsmanship can be a good learning experience. But we as believers are called to live Jesus and His gospel. We should not get involved with public debates where believers come to cheer their man on and unbelievers cheer their man on and in the end both sides feel as though they have “won”. And these debates are about side issues which include creationism or evolution or young earth theories or the like.
Now petitions have largely gone by the wayside and they are useless as well for anything pertaining to the kingdom of God. So let us look at what Paul did in the closest thing to a debate we can find in Scripture.
Rom.14: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
The genesis account is open to at least some interpretation even if you are a new earth person. But if a true believer does not believe in a young earth, would that not make him weak in the faith and should we not make room for his growth? Or should we set up a debate and make him defend his position in an auditorium? How much more should we show mercy to an unbeliever who cannot understand God’s Word and love him to Jesus instead of dragging an unbeliever up on a stage and attempt to make him look ridiculous.
Acts 17: 16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
Please look at what piqued the interest of the philosophers. It was not some evolutionary theory, or some young earth postulate, or really any kind of philosophy. They had heard that Paul was preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus. And upon hearing that they desired to hear more. In reality this was no debate at all. This was a God given opportunity to present the gospel. You see all debates regardless if it is about abortion or homosexuality or cosmology without the gospel are useless rhetoric with no redemption. In these times debates between professing believers and unbelievers about such fringe issues provide some competitive entertainment for the audience but where is the passion for souls including the unbeliever presenting his views?
What we need is more gospel not more debates. Let the world debate. In fact the world loves a good debate which is full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. But like Paul in the midst of educated and erudite philosophers we still must present the gospel. It will never make sense to the human intellect, however it is the Spirit which can illuminate hearts to the gospel truth. Many a well educated cynic has been brought to Christ through a common presentation of the gospel rather than some lofty and well thought out argument.
Acts 17: 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Again Paul does not get bogged down in questions that have no edification. We are not here to defend the account in Genesis. If anything that should be an in house discussion. But when we drag it into the public square and even debate it with unbelievers, we draw attention away from Jesus and His gospel. Do we honestly believe the lost can and will be convinced of the Genesis account of creation because we have presented good arguments? This is most unhelpful in the course of spreading the gospel. Do unbelievers embrace the account of Noah’s flood? And if not should we debate them on this point as well? Please, brethren, let us not be dissuaded from our calling and mission and attempt to straighten the tie on dead men. Unless they are brought to life they cannot see. And unless they believe the gospel of Jesus Christ they will remain dead and blind in their sins.