I was asked that question last week, as a result of some controversial statements made last month by the coffee company’s CEO in which he publicly supported gay marriage.
If I were a coffee snob, I probably would have answered that we should boycott Starbucks because they burn their beans. But I’m not a coffee snob. And I knew that wasn’t really the heart behind the question.
My actual response went something like this:
If your conscience is pricked by drinking Starbucks coffee, then you should not drink Starbucks coffee. That is a decision that you ought to make in your own heart before the Lord. But if other believers choose not to join you in your boycott (because they don’t share that same personal conviction), you should not judge them for responding differently than you do.
While it is not an exact parallel, the situation regarding food offered to idols (addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 8-9) provides us with principles that apply to these types of situations.
In our day, the issue involves purchasing coffee from a twenty-first century company that publicly supports gay marriage. In Paul’s day, the controversy centered around buying food from first-century vendors who had openly offered it to idols in the local pagan temple. Though the specifics are clearly different, both situations raise a similar moral question: Are believers at liberty to purchase food (or coffee) from an openly anti-Christian source?
Paul’s response to the first-century dilemma is instructive for us today. It provides principles for thinking through issues (like the Starbucks controversy) that involve both conscience and Christian liberty. Continue Reading…