Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A, and the Love of Jesus

I hate to interrupt our Paradise Lost series right as it gets started, but I wanted to touch on a current event in national news.

Just over a week ago, nationally recognized LGBT leader Shane L. Windmeyer wrote a stunning piece for Huffington Post, entitled, Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A.” As a champion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights, Mr. Windmeyer has led protests against Chick-fil-A and what he saw as the bigotry of the Christian-owned company. All that started to change on August 10 of last year, when he got a personal call from Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy.

Windmeyer writes, “He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?” Instead, what he found was a man filled with love and compassion. Their first conversation lasted over an hour, and they continued to interact over the phone. Then they started meeting privately for more dialogue. In the process, something amazing happened: they became friends.

Several questions have been swirling around in my mind over the last week. What caused a friendship like this to form? What happened here? Dan and Shane are still committed to their respective causes and neither has changed his political or religious positions, so what happened?

The simple answer, I think, is this: Shane Windmeyer came face to face with the love of Jesus Christ in the person of Dan Cathy. As I’ve contemplated this story, I have noticed three similarities between Dan Cathy’s behavior and the behavior of Jesus described in the Gospels—and, particularly, in the story of the woman at the well.

Jesus Initiated
In the city of Sychar, Jesus sat down by a well and soon encountered a Samaritan woman. Jews and Samaritans weren’t exactly on speaking terms at the time, so it was socially uncouth for Jesus to reach out to her—but reach out to her He did. He began with a simple question, which led to a meandering conversation about water, eternal life, adultery, worship, God, and the coming of the Messiah.

Similarly, Dan Cathy reached out to a man that many Christians wouldn’t even think of conversing with. And Dan’s approach wasn’t designed as a frontal attack on an enemy; it was designed as an act of love.

Jesus Shared Grace
We know from other places in Scripture that Jesus was full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14, 17). Like the words jumbo and shrimp, grace and truth might seem at odds, but they don’t need to be. They complement each other wonderfully. And Jesus definitely had a heaping dose of grace for the Samaritan woman. He pointed her toward the true answer to all of life’s questions. He spoke in a way that engaged her attention and left her wanting more.

Likewise, the manner of Mr. Cathy’s approach both caught Mr. Windmeyer off guard and left him with a desire to further the conversation. Cathy’s honest and genuine love was refreshing and appealing. Windmeyer describes their conversations as “awkward at times but always genuine and kind.” And Cathy “expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-a.”

Jesus Shared Truth
Truth can be used as a weapon of war, and it can be used as a tool of love. For the Christian, it must be used as a tool of love (Eph. 4:15). In the case with the woman at the well, Jesus drew the truth of the woman’s sin out into the light. She tried diverting the issue by switching topics, and Jesus actually went along with her. Nevertheless, His words were not lost on her. In fact, the words of Christ were what she shared with others after leaving Jesus: “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did” (John 4:29).

So Dan Cathy shared the truth of the Scriptures. Windmeyer says that Cathy “offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.” While the article doesn’t explicitly state it, I’m sure part of their discussions involved what those “genuine beliefs about marriage” are all about.

In conclusion, the Huffington Post article has provoked me to desire more Christ-likeness in my own life. What Shane Windmeyer expected to be an encounter with a Pharisee turned out to be an encounter with a humble and loving disciple of Christ. Like Dan Cathy—and like the woman at the well—I too have been the recipient of Christ’s initiation, grace, and truth. And like Dan Cathy, I want to show more initiative, grace, and truth with those around me who need an encounter with the love of Jesus.