Every once in a while our crazy, carnal culture opens a spiritual door so freaking wide that even we slight-sighted, tongue-tied, thick-as-a-brick, bumbling believers can walk through without tripping on our well-tended timidity.
This week Starbucks began encouraging its baristas to write the words “Race Together” on cups to get its customers talking about race. CEO Howard Schultz wants his baristas to prod customers into conversations about race relations. Some might find this corporate cue an unwelcome intrusion into their sacred Starbuckian space, but I think it’s one of the most remarkable, culture-sanctioned, public invitations to share the Gospel of Jesus that we’ve seen in a long time.
And I don’t mean a chance to launch a doctrinal diatribe of mass destruction at some poor barista and nearby customers. For once we don’t have to go against the flow. This time we can simply surf the latest progressive wave.
Most nonreligious people don’t realize (and many Christians forget) that Christianity has been, and remains, the most powerful force for social justice and equality in world history. Its revolutionary message of universal human value shocked the ancient world, a world which was steeped in institutional slavery and the oppression of women. Into that world the first Christians brought the astonishing message that the kingdom of God had come, and that in Christ Jesus all people—regardless of origin, age, race, or gender—are equal in the sight of their Redeemer. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is good news indeed.
And there you have it: the Christian perspective in a nutshell and a gracious, redemptive response to your local Starbucks barista. Jesus Christ is the great fulfillment of Starbuck’s “Race Together” campaign, not one merely written on a paper cup but one written on the hearts of all who truly believe in Jesus. Starbucks is offering an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have . . . with gentleness and respect (and room for cream if you want it). It’s a win/win.
So here’s my suggestion for all you Starbucks saints. Upload Galatians 3:28 into your brain and have it ready for your next coffee run. When the barista writes “Race Together” on your cup or asks you, simply share this verse with them. If you’d rather be more conversational, put the verse into your own words. Just respectfully and confidently say something like this: For Christians there are no second-class skin colors or genders. In Christ we are all equal because we share a common relationship with Jesus. Thank you for asking. That’s it. No sermon. No awkward explanation. One barista. One cup. One verse. And you’re outta there.
There are almost 12,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. and almost 20,000 worldwide selling some 4 million coffee drinks per day. That’s major mission mojo, mister. Just imagine: social awareness, progressive participation, world evangelism, and a smoking cup of coffee. That’s my kind of Christianity—hip, hot, and highly caffeinated. The Great Commission never tasted so good.
Surf’s up, dude.