The Soft Seduction of Self Exaltation


Most of us are surrounded by mirrors that reflect the way we look.  But it’s a rare moment when I find myself gazing into a mirror that honestly reflects who I really am; how I think.  We can all say thanks to our neighbors at Starbucks for affording us one of those rare moments of self-examination.  For the holiday season, they have given us a wonderful looking glass concealed as a coffee cup!

Mad at the World

A week or two ago, the ubiquitous coffee chain rolled out their vivid red cups celebrating the Christmas holidays.  The design is simple and elegant: a seasonal shade of red and the familiar green and white logo.  It seemed innocent enough. Then chaos descended.  A blogger accused the chain of hating Christmas and insulting followers of Christ.  By failing to include any mention of Christmas, they were discriminating against people of faith and waging the War Against Christmas. Many other religious people jumped onto the bandwagon and some called for a boycott of the coffee stores.

This elegant inkblot test allows some of us to recognize that we are too quick to judge. Some of us in the Church have this need to be part of a crusade and, apparently, it’s easier to crusade against Evil than to march together under the banner of love, grace and redemption. But in fact, most of us decorate Christmas packages in gift wrap that doesn’t mention the name of the season. Is that also a sin? Perhaps we are still wracked with so much personal guilt, such a sense of unworthiness, that the only relief we can find is proving we are morally or spiritually superior to others.  It’s basically arrogance concealed as holiness.  We need to repent and ask God for grace and cleansing.

Mad at the Church

But that’s not the end of the test. The Starbucks holiday cups have also allowed another segment of saints to self-identify. For just as surely as some people rose up to condemn the sinners at Starbucks, another segment of the church rose up almost as quickly to blast those hypocritical Christians!  What’s that expression about every action prompting an equal and opposite reaction?  There are some of us who find comfort in exalting ourselves over other church people- particularly those unsophisticated right-wingers!  It feels really good talking down to those un-Christlike church-going clods,doesn’t it? They are so committed to their cause- however misguided- that they sometimes make me feel uncommitted and not serious in comparison!  So it feels good to have an opportunity to swing my biblical billy club and bash them in their judgmental little pointy-heads.

Why are those extremists so eager to get all angry and worked up about something?  Here’s another thought: why am I? Why do I have this need to public denounce those other church people about a tempest in a tea cup that will soon blow over and be forgotten in the holiday crush?  The little red cup wonders: what is it that makes me so quick with the trigger?

Crazy Love

I can’t judge any of those folks; not the ones on the right or the others on the left. I’ve found myself in both places on occasion, sometimes quick to judge and other times too hard on others who do.  In my own life, I think it has something to do with proving my street cred.  I want to win more people to Christ and it can be frustrating when that doesn’t happen.  So I am quick to blame faceless pagans who have ruined our world, or hypocritical church people who must be turning off all the people I would otherwise get saved.

Paul keeps reminding me (and you as well) that there is a better way: love.  I should love the sinners whether they leave Christ in Christmas or not.  And I should love my brothers and sisters in the church, even when they occasionally throw rocks at sinners before aiming.  And above all of that, I should love God so lavishly that my life is always splashing over with grace.  I don’t just want to communicate the gospel; I want to transmit the things about Jesus that make me so crazy about him.

So I still have those moments when it’s really tempting to blast somebody, but I am teaching myself not to take the bait.  I want to speak the truth in love.  I want to make allowance for the sins of others.  I want to love God and treat my neighbors with gentleness and respect.  And frankly, I feel a little unspiritual because I actually drank an espresso from one of those little red holiday cups just about a week before all the hubbub erupted.  Stupidly, I thought it was pretty.  Please, don’t judge me!

Lift up the Cross!


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