During Starbucks 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, chairman and ceo Howard Schulz said he had “struggled for weeks to find the right words to express the pain I feel in my heart about where America is headed and the cloud hanging over the American people. ” Viewing the American Dream as a “reservoir” that is replenished with the values, work ethic and integrity of the American people, Schultz said, “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.”
He suggested citizens fill the reservoir of the American Dream back up, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility. Not with division, but with unity. Not with exclusion, but with inclusion. Not with fear, but with compassion. Not with indifference, but with love.” “It’s not about the choice we make every four years,” Schultz said, “This is about choices we are making every day.” Based on this theme, Starbucks sponsored a two-page advertisement in the WSJ and NY Times, sharing a message of optimism for the future through the choices individuals make every day.
I agree with Mr. Schultz’s angst regarding our lose of civility. To be civil is to be courteous and respectful. Men, while we will be severely tested in expressing the virtues suggested by Mr. Schultz, we will have a significant opportunity to be a positive exemplar as Christian men in an increasing hostile environment. Titus 3:1-2 gives us our marching orders, “Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights, God’s people should be bighearted and courteous” ( Titus 3:1-2 – Message). Hebrews reminds us, “Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God” (12:14 – Message).
While attempting to fill our reservoir with these commendable virtues is determined by our daily choices, we will fail. Why? We are already filled with a self-referencing false self, greatly handicapped in being virtuous. This false self will needs to be surrendered through repentance and confession so that we can be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. We cry out for God to be merciful to us as sinner living in the midst of a fallen society. We then invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill us with what is needed to navigate the entanglements of contemporary culture. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:23). The fruit manifested through our true self in Christ gives us the capacity to be other-centered, that is, civil.
Our motivation in being civil is not the American dream, but seeing other persons as created in the image of God, even if they deeply oppose our viewpoint. “I’m telling you to love your enemies,” Jesus tells us. “Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matt 5:43 – Message). The incarnation is a model for the practice of civility. God did not wait for us to cry out or act. No, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Remember God’s dealing with us is a matter of long-suffering (Rom 2:4). We live “in the time of God’s patience.” God has not chosen to rush to judgment, but rather allows us to make basic life choices, for good or evil. God will do the final accounting. In the meantime, we are to practice humility and long-suffering, which is the foundation of Christian civility.