Chick-Fil-A's Lesson on Loving Your Enemies
In our polarized culture, potential enemies lurk around every ideological corner. Think of the back-and-forth in the comment section of blogs, our deeply entrenched political system that pits Democrats against Republicans, or the on-going mommy wars. Whenever we face someone who disagrees with our deeply held convictions, we tend to either passionately defend our vantage point or simply dismiss them.
Jesus offers a counterintuitive proposal; "You have heard the law of Moses say, 'Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.' But I say, 'Love your enemies.'" This mantra is often quoted, but rarely lived out. We say, "Love your enemies," but then go back to our bunker, maybe with a superficial smile, but without stopping to apply Jesus' words to our lives.
Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A's chief operating officer, became the latest big-name example of someone who took this command seriously, initiating a conversation with and ultimately befriending a LGBT activist.
Last summer, a heated controversy erupted over Cathy's refusal to support gay marriage. As expected, many of us retreated to our pre-existing trenches. We declared whether or not we'd ever eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich again. We stood by the restaurant in appreciation or boycotted it in disgust. We did what we are too good at: opposing our enemies.
While we were busy fighting, Cathy slipped unnoticed into potentially hostile territory—but not for a counter-attack. Campus Pride director, gay activist, and openly gay man Shane Windmeyer, "came out" as Cathy's friend in an article he wrote for Huffington Post last month, describing how Cathy had reached out to hear more about LGBT concerns regarding his company.
In the midst of this unprecedented dialogue, Windmeyer writes, "Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being 'a follower of Christ' more than a 'Christian.' Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A, but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage."
Cathy's surprising approach gives us permission to question our default responses. Have we ever genuinely tried to love our enemies? What does Cathy understand that we might be missing? What made him stretch across the divide to initiate a friendship with a man who publicly criticized him and organized boycotts against his establishments?