Should I boycott if I love Jesus?

SINGAPORE (BNC) by Chantelle Swayne — “I love shopping at Target but I love Jesus more.” I read these words and I stopped.

Does shopping at Target really mean that I hate Jesus? Will I lose my soul if I don’t follow along with everyone else as they boycott yet another wayward company?

It may seem like a black and white issue on the surface. There’s a company whose moral code conflicts with your faith—so you shouldn’t give them your business and no one should, right? It seems like an open and closed case, but there’s actually a bit more to it than that.

It may interest you to know that this very issue was addressed in the writings of Paul, on several occasions. Obviously they had no Target or Starbucks back then, but there was a very similar situation in the first century where the people had a choice between two kinds of meat—the meat from the market or the meat that had been offered to idols. The meat that had been offered to idols was cheaper, but the proceeds from the sales would go to fund idolatrous temples and their practices. If there was anything that the Christians would not have wanted to support, it would have been this.

So did Paul tell the Christians to boycott the temple meats? No. In fact, he tells them it’s not an issue.

“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience” (1 Corinthians 10:25).

“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8).

“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (Romans 14:14)

I have a feeling that if there were any social media platforms back then, the Christians with weaker consciences would have been posting about how others needed to abstain from temple meats if they really loved Jesus. They would have been saying how the other Christians were selling their souls for a cheap cut of meat. They would have been applauded by other Christians for their displays of strength.

Yet, while that might have seemed like the virtuous thing to do, it’s not what God commanded, nor what He commands today. And really, it makes complete sense that God wouldn’t demand for a boycott to be held in this situation. Why? Well, to be absolutely consistent with things like this, Christians would not only have to shun all other companies openly supporting just one sin, but they would also need to stop supporting businesses that funded any sins. They’d need to ask every local business, “Excuse me, but is the owner a drunkard, does he give money to false religious practices, or does he look favorably upon homosexuality? Because if he does I can’t give him my business.” 

God didn’t intend for the Christian walk to be more difficult than it had to be. He says His commandments are not burdensome and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30; 1 John 5:3). In binding things that God has not bound, we make the Christian walk more difficult than necessary (cf. Luke 11:46; Matthew 23:2-4). Further, we do damage to the actual message that we preach – the gospel. Jesus asked for obedience as proof that we love Him, not unnecessary inconvenience. We need to pick our spiritual battles wisely.

Instead of telling the Christians to boycott, Paul teaches them an important, under-practiced, and often misunderstood principle—the principle of respecting other Christian’s consciences on matters of opinion.

“As for the one who is weak in faith [conscience], welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand […] So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding […] But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:1-4, 19, 23).

He essentially tells the Christians, “If you think it’s a problem to eat the meat, then don’t eat it—but don’t push your opinion. If you think it’s fine to eat meat, then eat it—but don’t force those who think it’s wrong to eat it and don’t wave the fact that you do eat it in front of their face. Both of you, respect each other’s opinions. Don’t look down on others for their opinion—just make sure you are convinced of your own.”

So how we should approach these kinds of issues, according to Paul?

If we believe we need to boycott, we should. We should never go against our conscience. However, we shouldn’t be forcing others to do the same as us or making them feel like they are sinning for not doing so. We need to realise it’s a conscience issue.

As for the one who is weak in faith [has a weak conscience], welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions (Romans 14:1).

If we believe we don’t need to boycott, we don’t need to. We aren’t bound to what God’s law hasn’t bound, but we don’t need to force those whose consciences believe otherwise to be offended. Blatantly posting pictures that will potentially upset those who truly believe it’s wrong isn’t the most loving thing to do. We need to respect others’ consciences.

“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Romans 14:20,21).

God never asked for boycotts as a proof of our love. If we choose to boycott it is because we must preserve our conscience. It doesn’t make us any more noble for our convictions or sacrifice, it’s just something we must do.

All God asked for is faithful obedience to His commands, and for His followers to display a love for one another that goes so far that it respects others’ quirks and differences.

I’m not going to ask anyone not to boycott. I have absolutely nothing against those that choose to boycott Target, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walmart, your local donut shop, or any other company that supports any certain immoral practice. Just remember—if you begin down that path you will be able to find something wrong with pretty much any company that isn’t run by a member of the church. At the end of the day, if it goes against your conscience to shop in any one place, then you absolutely mustn’t do so—but don’t make it an issue of salvation or of exactly how much someone loves Jesus.

I’m also not going to ask anyone to boycott—but I will ask anyone who doesn’t boycott to respect those that do, and not to flaunt their purchases online. Edit out logos or just don’t post that picture (gasp! Yes, that is possible). At least wait until the hype dies down, if you must. It’s a small inconvenience for another’s conscience.

On this issue, as with every conscience issue, it is important that everyone be fully convinced in their own minds and that no one destroys the work of God by pushing their opinions. In these kinds of matters either decision is okay, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble because of what he chooses to do. We will all have to give an account to God for our own actions (Romans 14:5, 12, 20).

Let’s stop drawing lines where God didn’t intend them to be drawn and binding things that He never intended to be bound. To boycott or not to boycott is not the question in this instance—it is, “How am I going to live out my decision in a way that does not cause my brothers and sisters any grief?” That’s what Paul did, and that’s what God is asking us to do.

“But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).

“Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him” (Romans 14:3).

“just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33).

Chantelle is an Australian wife to an American missionary and mum to a 7-month-old boy currently working with the church in Singapore. She writes about faith, food, and fitness at happyhealthyholyhome.com. Chantelle graciously allowed BNC to repost her article from her website.

Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us

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35 Comments

  1. Willie

    I love Jesus, too, but I boycott all liquor stores and bars.
    If Target wants to mandate political issues and force me to obey their code of ethics and give up my religious beliefs, then I am not their consumer–too many other good stores to shop at that are simply selling their products, not trying to control .

    • Hey Willie,

      Good for you for living in a way that protects your conscience – that is exactly what God wants of you. I’m not aware that Target asks their consumers to give up their religious beliefs when they walk into their store, but if that’s how strongly you feel about it, then you should definitely stay away!

      God bless.

      • Willie

        To clarify, I do not wish to use my hard earned money to support a company whose policies put children in harm’s way of sex offenders. Also, my interpretation of the article is that we are “Christians without borders or boundaries.” I choose to live my life in such a way that will be a good influence to others and pray other Christians do the same.

        • Dave

          Anytime anywhere. I will prove you are wrong. But one caveat. ONLY the word of God can be used for proof. Paul would say you are the weaker just as the guys who thought idol meat was wrong. And that is fine, but when you try to make your opinion into a law that is unbiblical, I have a problem with that, brother.

        • Willie

          To clarify again, I had not read article about boycotting Target , and I did not sign petition to boycott. I was simply responding to this article. Frankly, Target has never been a store of choice for me simply because I usually find what I want to purchase cheaper at other stores. I have been in Target stores less than five times in my life.

          What really does concern me about this article is some of the posts in response to other posts–attitudes that show little or no respect and are presented in combatic, un-Christian like manner. Should Christians resort to insults when other Christians have an opinion or do they do so
          because they feel it strengthens their argument? Perhaps it is an attempt to silence those who disagree with them.

          Frankly, I am sorry I took time to read this article and respond to it.

    • dave

      Willie, I love Jesus, too, but choose not to boycott liquor stores. Sadly, there are those in the church who have tried to make their opinion as the actual law of God, precisely what this article so well discusses. No where in the Bible is alcohol condemned, only the abuse of it.

      • Dave, do you drink alcohol?

        • dave

          Yes, willbreun

          • Thanks for your honesty. While it does not justify your statements it does clarify them.

        • dave

          willbreun, I take it from your snide remark that you think God didnt do a good enough job in the way he made laws regarding alcohol use and you are going to fix it for him. Willbreun, God knows how to make a law and when people as yourself try to bind your opinion as law, you will even go to the extreme of adding to what He says. It is an opinion regardless of how much you hate it. But I am commanded to be patient with the weaker brother so that is all I will say to you on this.

        • Dave

          Willbreun, anytime, anywhere. I will prove you are wrong. But one caveat. ONLY the word of God can be used for proof. Paul would say you are the weaker just as the guys who thought idol meat was wrong. And that is fine. But when you try to make your opinion into a law that is unbiblical, I have a problem with that, brother.

          • Dave, are you not a man of your word? You said earlier with regard to my second response, “that is all I will say to you on this.” I guess you couldn’t help yourself. When you say “ONLY the word of God could be used for proof” did not Paul appeal to an outside source? (Titus 1:12,13) Would you oppose quoting from Hebrew and Greek Lexicons for word meanings in such a discussion? Also why would you care what reference materials may be quoted from if you have the proof you claim to have? Dave, when you answered my question, that was all I needed to know where you were going. Many twist and pervert the scriptures to justify their actions.

        • dave

          Fair enough, brother willbreun. I have researched your previous posts and will tell you that I have the utmost respect for a man who has preached in the pulpits of the churches of christ for the many years that you have. They will be shutting down the comments on this post shortly so I would ask that when they do, please contact me at my email address umrebs64@yahoo.com. Until then, I say again, fair enough, if you want (or need to) reference outside sources for our debate, go ahead. But I have relied on Strongs for many many years and the original hebrew and greek only prove my side every time. But just so I’m clear, why do do you disagree with what God said in Deut 14:26? Not a gotcha type question but I seriously want to know why you dont agree with a statement God actually said, brother?

          • First, Dave, I don’t disagree with Deu.14:26 or any other Bible passage. Second, this was written to the the nation of Israel, not Christians. (Deu.5:1-3) The context has to do with the “tithe of ones increase. (v.22ff) What you have to prove is what is it in this verse (26) that applies to Christians. Do you believe we are to “tithe of all our increase?” What I need from you is the passage in the law of Christ (New Testament) that authorizes the child of God to drink alcohol as a beverage. If you can do that the debate is over.

      • Hey Dave,

        Thanks for reading! You are correct that the point of the article is that some try to bind their opinions.

        Unfortunately I have to disagree with you on the other point, as I don’t see the drinking of alcohol as an opinion issue. Although drinking is not explicitly condemned, sobriety (to be free from intoxicants) is commanded. 1 Thessalonians 5:5-7 actually shows how directly opposite light and day, and drunkenness and sobriety are, and links being children of the light to being sober.

        That’s not really a part of the discussion of this article, but I thought I’d put that out there as food for thought. I find the discussion in 1 Thessalonians 5 very interesting and it’s not often brought up in this discussion. 🙂

        Thank you for your comments!

        • dave

          Chantelle, I know this may be getting off topic a bit but I feel compelled to discuss this. You are making the same mistake as many other Christians in regards to alcohol. You are confusing the scriptural, acceptable use of alcohol with drunkenness. Alcohol throughout the Bible is never condemned. In fact, God would take it away as punishment at times (Deut 28:51)! The scripture you listed in 1Thess is completely out of context with the point you are trying to make. The Methodists were the first to corrupt the Bible’s teaching on alcohol. Welch’s grape juice was invented by the Methodists because they believed all alcohol was sinful and wanted nonalcoholic juice for communion. Well meaning people as yourself have been duped for so long as to what the Bible actually says. Most people dont even know the true story of Nadab and Abihu. The average COC will tell you they were struck dead because of their strange fire. If you read a few verses further you will see they were killed because they got drunk and made a mockery of their worship tasks.. What did God himself say about this? From then on, no drinking of alcohol “on the days you go into the temple. (Lev 10:8)” He didnt prohibit it even then! How about the Nazarite vow? People who took the vow were not allowed to drink alcohol UNTIL THEY HAD COMPLETED THEIR VOW.. Bottom line we both can agree on: If alcohol was a sin in Bible times, it is a sin today. If it was not a sin in BIble times, it is not a sin today. I submit that God Himself is the best source to go to on this subject. If He says it is permitted, that is ALL I need to hear, case closed. And a verse that PROVES that is one that, for obvious reasons, gets omitted when this discussion comes up:And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,(Deuteronomy 14:26). Do you think He made a mistake here?

      • Willie

        Dave, my attitude about liquor stores and bars is based solely on personal experience, not Biblical comdemnation. Dearly loved friends and relatives destroyed their lives and homes because they abused alcohol.

        • Dave

          I have relatives who went in debt due to overspending but I still use money. I have relatives who are fat and lazy but I still enjoy a good meal and relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. Sex, food, money, recreation and alcohol are all gifts from God (His words not mine) and people abuse ALL of them.

    • Allen

      Well… they’re not exactly forcing you do obey their code or give up your beliefs. You don’t have to use the bathroom there. All that Target is really saying is “these are Targets values. We think it’s OK for people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.” They don’t ask you to accept it of change what you believe. At the same time, you’re well within your rights to avoid it. I’m not keen on their stand on the issues either, but they’re not imposing ANYTHING on me nor can they force me to do anything… including shop there.

  2. Good Intentions

    I missed the memo that every Christian should boycott Target. However, I feel my love for God and concern for certain of my fellow humans lead me to prefer to shop elsewhere since Target continues their push to have society accept non-Christian attitudes and ideas. I also boycott bars, brothels, betting sites for dog and horse races, liquor stores (don’t even feel right going to the farmers market in their parking low), drug dealers, etc., etc., etc. I have noticed during my over 75 years that many do not understand that my first commitment is to God but I never let that deter me from making what I think is the best choice. I do raise an eyebrow to those who are quick to choose to support things that to me are clearly in the grey areas of godliness, ethics and morality but I allow them the same freedom of choice that I exercise. After all, the New Testament never condemns or even speaks out directly to disapprove slavery and the status of women in that time. Jesus taught that we should “love each other as He loved us.” And He didn’t use a headline that was especially attention getting (as much of the media of today does) before making that statement so far as I can tell. He left the “horn blowing” to the Pharisees and such.

    • Hi!

      Definitely, if you feel like this is something you must boycott– then please, boycott! All I ask in this article is that we don’t draw lines where God has not drawn them. As uncomfortable as that might make us feel, there are actually situations where neither decision is wrong.

      Remember – if we were to boycott everything that didn’t gel with our principles – we would boycott almost everything! Pretty much every store sells products that keep people in sweat shops in another country and – and I could go on, but I won’t. I wouldn’t really equate going to Target with going to a brothel, buying drugs, or betting either. They are single purpose institutions where the actual one thing you buy is against Biblical principles.

      Again, if boycotting is something you feel is a moral obligation for you and your family, no one has any right telling you not to boycott! You need to do what you feel is right for your conscience.

      I applaud you for living true to your convictions, and thank you for commenting!

  3. Ken Gardner

    To me it’s not about boycotting because of disagreeing with Targets policy. At least not nearly as much as it is about keeping our loved ones safe. Now that Target has been so foolish as to publicly announce their bathroom policy, their bathrooms are going to draw perverts like magnets. So while it might be part conscience that keeps me and my loved ones out, it’s even more a safety issue.

    • dave

      Ken, I think that is part of the point of the article. Some people want to drag Jesus into the discussion. “I love shopping at Target but I love Jesus more.”

    • Hi Ken!

      It is definitely an unfortunate move on their part, no one’s denying that! Some people simple opt to not use their bathrooms – but if you feel like this means you need to avoid them altogether, then by all means, do so! Dave is right that this is the exact point of this article.

      Thank you for your comment!

  4. The boycott isn’t about not shopping there because they’ve sinned. It’s about the fact that their “open door policies” have opened the doors to perverts who could harm my little girl. So, I refuse to shop there for that reason. I have an eight-year-old daughter who I don’t wish to put at risk if we happen to need the restroom while there (and we usually DO need to use the restroom).

  5. Joe Wheatley

    A very good article Chantelle. The Target boycott doesn’t concern me because: 1. Boycotts seldom work and make the boycotters look like religious fanatics. 2. I have a bathroom in my house and I go before I leave to go shopping. 3. Target is trying to protect transgendered people, not perverts. Sexual perversion is still against the law. If you are that worried do you suspect every man in the men’s room of being gay and wanting to molest your boy or every woman in the ladies room of being a lesbian on the prowl for a young girl? Get a life. 4. Big Macs and smoking injure more people than perverts but I don’t see anyone boycotting McDonalds or the corner gas station.

    If your son was transgendered and started to dress like a woman would you want him to go to the men’s restroom? Could happen. Eunuchs weren’t allowed in the temple but Jesus said some were that way from birth. Homosexual and transgendered people don’t choose to be that way, they are born like that. Get your information from a psychologist, not from Brother Brimstone who thinks Paul used the KJV.

    On the issue of alcohol, if all consumption of alcohol was a sin would Jesus have turned water into wine, would Paul have told Timothy to stop drinking water and drink wine instead, would Jesus and the 12 have drunk wine at the last supper (they did, “fruit of the vine” is a Hebrew idiom for wine), would Paul have said that deacons should not be given to “much” wine, would taking a vow and not drinking wine been that much of a sacrifice? Again, get a life. Stop relying on what you have been told and study for yourself. Just because you have always heard certain doctrine preached doesn’t mean it is right.

    • Thank you for your kind words about my article Joe, and your concern for my personal faith.

      Contrary to your fears, I have, in fact, “gotten a life” and studied this issue for myself.

      The short answer to your long question is that in both the Hebrew and the Greek the word for “wine” could mean either juice or alcohol depending on the use. They didn’t have separate words, unlike in English. I suggest reading the book “Bible Wines.” You can get it for free online.

      This isn’t really the place to argue this kind of thing and the way you have made your point certainly isn’t the way to make it.

      “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

      • Joseph Wheatley

        “Get a life” was NOT directed to you, Chantelle, but to those people who think they may no longer scripturally shop at Target. I think you understand the issue and yours is a voice that needs to be heard.

        I get impatient with people who fret about alcohol when there are so many more important issues in the world such as people who have never heard the gospel and people who have been driven from the church by the actions of those who strain at gnats.

  6. A couple of the more intense posters has been given a time-out, so they won’t be responding further to comments to this article.

  7. Thank you for this. Your article can be applied to a lot more than just a Target boycott. Thank you for having the courage to write about such a sensitive subject. I wish more people were less concerned about policing everyone around them, and concentrated on their own personal relationship with God. What an easier time we would all have!

  8. Bill Cartwright

    I want to thank you Young Lady as I read your article it reminded me of something Luke wrote in chapter 7:9 “Not In all Israel have I seen Such Faith.” Your understanding and discernment gives me hope that when my task is over that Jesus Christ is alive and Well. To put it another way, 75% of the New Testament or 67% of Paul’s writings are rebuking, chastising and admonishing the Church not the World. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah not because of the world but because the righteous had failed to be a light to the world he would have saved it if he had found ten righteous in that town and the righteous squandered their inheritance. God did not destroy the world with a flood because of the righteous had squandered their inheritance. God gives us the leaders we deserve and still we want to be like God and choose who is righteous. Yes Young Lady I will bend my knees and give thanks for you and your family In Christ Bill Cartwright

  9. William McCormick

    Very wise woman. I totally agree. Amen walls and electric lights.

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