You’re sitting at a dinner table and the conversation takes a left at Albuquerque when you know it should’ve gone right. The person across from you notices that you ordered the Grilled Chicken and a shadow darkened their normally bright face. With your fork poised to insert a juicy piece of said chicken into your mouth you feel it necessary to ask your table mate what’s wrong. Their answer is as follows: “Christians can’t eat chicken. To be a true believer, one must not eat chicken.” What do you do with that? Do you let it slide as a moral issue that falls under the purview of liberty and bearing with weakness of the weak or not?
Before you answer what if this person ups the ante with their position on chicken. At church, they preach about the necessity of never touching chicken again because True Christians don’t eat Chicken*. You notice their gospel preaching starts incorporating terms like “Repent, Be Baptized and Reject Chicken.”. Would you say this is a point that the subject of Chicken needs to be dealt with?
Now there’s a couple of ways that this can be dealt with. One way is to contact the person privately. If they deny what you’re saying and persist in their perversion of the Gospel then I think it’s important to publicly condemn the person’s position. If the person persists, I think it’s important to condemn the person’s position and invite Christians that the Heretic admires to have a meal with Chicken. At this point the example is to show that Chicken doesn’t matter–that the matter of conscience has been lifted to an inappropriate level.
The second way to deal with this sort of thing is to get bumper stickers and groups called Christians-For-Chicken. Now the point is surely to attack the thinking that Chicken-Eating rejects the Gospel but it does it in such a way that no one truly learns why you’re a Chicken-Eating-Christian. Are you doing it because you like being crass? Are you doing it because you’re liberal? Are you doing it flaunt your lack of care for Chicken-Haters? In every single way such a testimony is inordinately offensive for no proper reason.
I mean, we wouldn’t wear tee-shirts for non-issues like Christians For Reading…why do it with something that needs some unpacking like Chicken Eating?
Therefore, its important to understand that Chicken is a non-issue, and that one must use wisdom in correcting people who make Chicken-Eating a gospel issue, and that one must even consider how Chicken-Eating is dealt with–but when its dealt with, one must do all things openly and emphasizing the freedom inherent in the Gospel.
See in both cases someone has taken the Gospel and added something to it making it a requirement for salvation. In the first case the person was bringing the charge against you and in the second case the person has brought the charge and publicized it. The question you find yourself asking when it’s gotten to the second stage is one of when you should have dealt with the very obvious problem.
Now this is a toughy and just underscores how much the point of the Christian Faith culminates in people who have to wrestle with problems on a case by case basis without any hardline law of when X crosses into a bad area. For instance, the early dinner I think is the perfect place to start laying some groundwork on how the person is mistaken about their position in Chicken. Maybe emphasize how Chicken might be an issue that can besmirch testimony or ruin reputation but that its really not an issue that negates Salvation. The second illustration would be the example of a person who has gone too far and probably needs a private talking to again culminating in a public correction in front of a company of many.
See the Gospel has been derailed.
Now, regarding Chicken–does this mean I should up front proclaim my love of Chicken, join groups that profess to Eat Chicken and wear, at last, a tee-shirt that says “Christians for Chicken”? I don’t think it does–if anything doing such a thing takes what is really a non-issue and makes it offensive for no immediate reason without the outlet of explaining your position.
This sort of thing might wind up derailing the Gospel as well–albeit in a more underhanded sort of way.
*Obviously Chicken can be replaced with anything that has no moral charge but can wind up becoming morally wrong depending on overuse, misuse, abuse and so forth. I mean, insert Comic Books, Television, Beer, Politics or the Internet. It all winds up doing the same based on usage