When Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, expressed his views on traditional marriage, it sparked a media firestorm in July 2012. His comments landed the successful chicken franchise in hot water—or as a recent article in Forbes put it, “in a vat of piping hot chicken grease.” As a result, given the media’s intolerance for what they call “Christian intolerance,” Cathy has been rethinking if and when he should publicly express certain evangelical beliefs.
While not stepping back from his stand on traditional marriage, today Cathy says he should have handled the situation differently for the sake of the company.
“Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development and it helps by (recognizing) the mistakes that you make,” Cathy said. “And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it.”
So, how do Christian leaders balance corporate responsibility with being a bold witness for Christ? In some cases, to not speak up is blatant unfaithfulness. In other cases it’s wise to hold back. But how do we know?
Like so many situations—in business and in life—the answer is not cut and dried. We need wisdom. In his series on Proverbs, Tim Keller defines wisdom as more than knowing right from wrong. Wisdom is having “competence and skill in regard to the realities and complexities of life where scripture doesn’t give us a specific command.”
Jim Denison, founder of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, wrote an excellent commentary on Cathy’s statement. When we’re conflicted over being a bold witness vs. our vocational responsibility, Denison says, “… we should ask the Spirit to guide us and follow his lead with courage, ‘speaking the truth in love.’” His article leads to some practical questions Christian leaders should consider.:
► If our statement or actions regarding a social issue will hurt our business, are we violating our obligation to serve our employer or employees?
► Can we legitimately demand that people ignore their deeply held beliefs while at work?
► Can company owners impose their values on company policy?
As you ponder and pray over grey issues in your work, consider these Scripture passages.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:22-4:6 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. 1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,
Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!"
Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
What dilemmas has business presented your faith?
What other passages of Scripture have you found helpful?