By Don Ruhl
In the early 1980s brother John Hurt led a national campaign among Churches of Christ to clean up television, which gave the church national attention as the national secular media picked up on it. At the time I thought that it was a great work. We targeted certain products advertised on offensive programs by boycotting those products, thinking that hitting the companies in the pocketbook was the best way to get them to back out of the offensive program, and without sponsors the series would end.
However, at the same time I was working with another preacher who was associated with a Christian school in Southern California, and this school was trying to raise funds by getting the labels from certain products and the companies would send money to the school, but some of the very products we were boycotting. Thus he strenuously opposed what the rest of the congregation did, arguing that more good could be done by supporting the school rather than attempting to hurt gigantic corporations by withholding our dollars.
Many groups now practice the boycotting method. The AFA Journal, edited by Methodist Donald E. Wildmon, is one of the chief promoters of this method. Now you have probably heard of the recent action by the Baptists of boycotting Disney.
The Baptists need to be commended for attempting to take a stand against homosexuality, especially against a giant such as Disney. I think that we are all disappointed that Disney has come out so openly in support of homosexuality, especially because Disney was the one entertainment colossus that we could count on to give us good moral entertainment.
Disney and homosexuality
In the early 1980s two homosexual men attempted to dance together at Disneyland and the park threw them out. I wrote to Disney, commending the park for its actions. I received a nice letter in return from Bob Roth, someone high up in the organization, thanking me for my letter and telling me that Disney was committed to maintaining its family image.
However, things changed quickly and within ten years Disney had become one of the largest promoters of homosexuality. What happened? For one thing, the homosexuals did not boycott Disney, but became part of it by infiltration of the entire organization. Now they allow Gay Days at Disney World and have produced many television programs and movies with homosexual characters and of course Ellen was one of the most obvious.
The question is not whether boycotting works, but whether it is scriptural
Some people believe that the Baptists did the right thing, but now I question that, and I question what I did earlier with the John Hurt campaign. Some people will think that I am taking a soft stand on homosexuality, but that is not the truth. I believe that a consideration of several matters that I will bring up will show that boycotting is not what God wants us to do.
On the other hand there is a preacher in Texas, Mike Cope, who taught recently in an Abilene, Texas newspaper (Abilene Reporter-News April 30, 1997, page 7A) that the church is not to do a thing, that we are not to judge the world. This is also a position that is not endorsed by the word of God.
So what do we do? Boycott Disney? Do nothing?
Consistent boycotting would take us out of the world
First Corinthians 5 is about what the church is to do when one of its members falls into sin and does not repent. Paul commands that the church put away that wicked person from the congregation, or as we commonly call it, to disfellowship them. Disfellowshipping means that we do not keep company with them, even to the point of not eating with them. Other passages teach that when we do have contact with them, we should admonish them. All of this has the hope of making them ashamed of their behavior, so that they will repent and then we will receive them back with open arms. Notice what the apostle says in verses 9–12 of 1 Corinthians 5:
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
Boycotting is a form of disfellowshipping a business. If we are going to boycott Disney for their toleration of homosexuality, then where do we stop, for there are many other businesses that tolerate homosexuality also? All of the major computer makers and software developers tolerate homosexuality. Name a secular University that does not tolerate homosexuality. What about the United States military? Moreover, what about the other businesses that may not tolerate or promote homosexuality, but tolerate or promote fornication, greed, false doctrine and other sins? Have you walked into any grocery store and not seen the trashy tabloids? Is there a grocery store where you cannot buy alcohol? How about if you do business with a company that is owned by a false religious group? Marriott Hotels and Alpha Beta (at least in the past) grocery stores are owned by the Mormons, who teach that God started out as a man. If you are in a major car accident and the ambulance takes you to a Catholic hospital, are you going to refuse treatment?
So now do you see Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 5:10? If we were to separate ourselves from every secular organization of this world that has anything to do with homosexuality, or with any other sin, then we would have to leave this world. We could not shop at any grocery store, or do business with hardly anyone. We would have to join the Amish, or better yet maybe we Christians should hope that Pathfinder finds life on Mars, because we would have to move there.
However, you know that is not what God wants, as taught in 1 Corinthians 5:10 and in many other passages. For example, keeping the Great Commission of preaching to every creature requires that we live in the world with worldly people surrounding us. Let us remember the words of Matthew 9:10–13 so that we may have the spirit of our Master and avoid the spirit of the Pharisees:
And so it was, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
To be true to our Lord’s prayer in John 17:13–18 we are to be in this world, but not of it, that is, we cannot practice the sins of the world, but we must have contact with the world:
But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
We are to rebuke the world
From Matthew 5:13–16, and a couple of other passages that I will show you, contrary to Mike Cope’s comments, we learn that we are to rebuke the world or judge the world in regard to its sin, including homosexuality. In the context of 1 Corinthians 5 we are not to judge the world by withdrawing from the world. It is when we live the life mentioned in Matthew 5 and the other passages that the world is convicted of its sin and desires to come to Christ for salvation. Matthew 5:13–16 says:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
To be salt for the world we must be in the world, coming in contact with it, just like salt must contact food to be of any use. To be light for the world we are going to have to go into the darkness of the world, otherwise the light is of no use.
Ephesians 5:11 teaches that we cannot partake of the world’s sins, but we must expose them: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” We cannot participate in homosexuality, but we are obligated to show the world that it is sin, punishable by God.
However, riding the Matterhorn at Disneyland does not support homosexuality, nor does buying milk at Safeway give approval of the tabloids’ attempts to ruin people’s lives.
John 16:8–11 tells us of the work of the Holy Spirit, but I want you to think for a moment of how He does the work that Jesus mentions:
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, but how does He do it? He does it through the word. But by itself, the Bible just sits there doing nothing. It is when the church proclaims the word to the world that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, even as in Acts 2 when the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit and He spoke through them.
Consider how we are to treat the government
If we can see how the Bible says we are to treat our government, then maybe we can see the same thing with businesses. The Freemen, and some other groups like them, have thought that total separation was the answer. However, Romans 13:1–7 commands the Christian to do certain things, and remember that Paul wrote this to the Christians meeting in Rome itself, the seat of the mighty Roman government, which had several homosexuals for Caesars:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Did this mean that Christians living in the Roman Empire supported whatever wickedness the Caesars committed? Of course not! Moreover, we should pay heed to this passage in relation to our government. This relates to Disney in the sense that watching Beauty and the Beast does not mean we are supporting homosexuality.
Doing business with them does not mean that we endorse their sinful behavior
First Corinthians 8 and 10 teach that if Christians bought meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the market, the Christians were not participating in idolatry. They were buying meat. However, if a weaker Christian who still regarded idolatry as something, saw the stronger Christian buying that meat, then it might be an occasion for stumbling. In that case it would be better not to eat the meat. Notice 8:4–7:
Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
What should we do?
The world must be convicted of its sin, including homosexuality. This can be done in a number of ways, including private conversations, writing letters, if you have stock in a company, then expressing your concern. Do not engage in the sin yourself. And there are other ways, the point being do what you can. Do not hesitate to tell others that you back them up when they take a moral stand. Moreover, we should show what happens to sinners before God if they do not repent. Then we need to preach the gospel to them. This is backed up by our living. We cannot condemn homosexuality and then participate in or support other forms of sin. Continue to meditate on the word and it will instruct you on what you should do.
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