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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

February, 2012

Late last year, there was an interesting news item. A national restaurant chain was suing a Montpelier, Vermont folk artist. The artist had been making and selling t-shirts with the slogan “Eat More Kale” since 2000. If you didn’t know, kale is a leafy vegetable related to cabbage. The restaurant chain’s slogan is “Eat Mor Chikin” [sic.] accompanied by images of cows. The suit stated that the artist’s kale slogan “. . . is likely to cause confusion of the public . . .” Nonsense. In the words of one business reporter, “I can’t remember the last time I confused kale with chicken.” It turns out that the artist had never even heard of the restaurant chain when he made up the kale slogan in 2000. Sounds like plain old bullying and greed to me.

What makes this case especially egregious, again to me, is that the restaurant chain makes a big deal out of the fact that it is Christian owned and its locations are closed on Sunday. Frankly, though, their actions in this case don’t sound very Christian to me. When I first heard about the story, I thought of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor. 6:7 NIV). Granted, Paul was referring to disputes and lawsuits between Christians but I believe the principle applies.

If I thought for a moment that the restaurant chain were even remotely likely to suffer loss or harm in any way, my attitude would be different. But it isn’t. The possibility is simply minuscule. Customers know the difference between kale and chicken when they see them. I suspect they know Christians when they see them as well.

We are commanded, “‘Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’” (Matt. 5:39b NIV) and told that “‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’” (Matt. 5:5 NIV). Somehow, suing others over relatively minor offenses doesn’t sound very meek. In fact, it doesn’t sound like much of a witness at all.

A few short pages after his exhortation about lawsuits, Paul would write some of the best known words about love found in any language, including these: “Love is patient, love is kind. . . . it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Cor. 13:4a, 5b NIV). It does not say “Love goes around suing people at the drop of a hat.”

I am not saying Christians should be doormats. Neither is Jesus, nor is Paul. But the way we handle offenses, disagreements and other conflicts says a great deal about us. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” (2 Cor. 10:3-4a NIV).

The battle for souls and minds cannot be won with the weapons of the nonspiritual. We should be prepared to defend our faith and ourselves but we should rarely—if ever—be the ones doing the attacking. It’s true that we live in a litigious society but we are not called to be like the rest of the world. We are called to be like Christ. Using the weapons of the world will not show that we are different. Selfishness and greed are not the marks of a Christian. Love is. Patience is. Kindness is. I pray that you and I will possess them.

“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.” (1 Cor. 6:1-8 NIV.)

Copyright © 2012 by David Phelps