Gordon Ramsay Doesn’t Say Sorry

Gordon Ramsay, of Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares fameI’ve been watching my fair share of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares lately (thank you, Netflix, for helping me indulge my cinematic gluttony). Two things have become clear:

1. Gordon knows how to cook.
2. He expects the best from everyone.

Gordon Ramsay is in incredibly polarizing television personality, famous for his incredibly high standards in cooking which he enforces with an iron fist. With twenty-two current restaurants to his name and another dozen that have run their course, he hosts multiple reality television shows which both challenge and develop their participants.

But he doesn’t exactly always do this nicely. The reason he is so polarizing is because of his methods– loud, abrasive and harsh. His shows have lots of shouting, a fair share of swearing (Netflix episodes are uncensored, by the way, so fair warning) and lots and lots of confrontation. I’ve really only ever been a fan of Kitchen Nightmares, where he travels around to failing restaurants (there are seasons in both the UK and US) and tries to turn them around. He generally does remarkably well, with most of the restaurants resurrecting on the back of his changes and relaunch.

But these renewals are not easy or comfortable, and Gordon isn’t easy on the restaurateurs with whom he works. He is terribly difficult to impress (or even satisfy, really) and tolerates no laziness whatsoever. With uncomfortable frequency, the chefs serving embarrassingly poor entrees question Ramsay’s authority and try to disregard his opinions. But, without fail, his opinion is gold and, when they follow his advice, it proves accurate with restaurant-goers.

But why am I even bringing this up? What on earth does Gordon Ramsay have to do with worshiping and glorifying God?

One thing I admire about Ramsay is that he doesn’t back down. He is thoroughly assured of his authority regarding cooking and running a restaurant. He doesn’t apologize for his success in the kitchen nor his success in business. Instead, he uses his knowledge and experience to admonish, correct and encourage. It’s one thing that disappoints me about modern-day Christianity. We love to apologize for our goals of righteousness. I don’t mean that we are appropriately humble, but rather that we do not recognize the authority of our testimony.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

While in college, the Christian fellowship that I attended was an evangelical organization, through which I discovered a trend (that is particularly epidemic in the evangelical movement, but certainly not absent in other traditions) that I think is meant to build rapport between Christians and non-Christians: apologizing for everything.

I get the idea: show we aren’t perfect to help display God’s purifying and redemptive power. I get it and that’s a very valuable message to communicate. However, that can’t be our constant message. We can’t spend our lives just displaying our weaknesses from the pulpit.

Christianity isn’t about figuring ‘it’ out. Yes, we are all growing and learning, but following Christ isn’t about trying all sorts of approaches until we have enough experiences to be able to make inferences about universal rules for spiritually healthy living. Jesus didn’t just drop us, dooming us to figuring it out ourselves, using a shotgun approach until we finally hit the target. On the contrary, Jesus left us with another member of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit, who “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Not only do we have the Holy Spirit (as if that wasn’t enough!!), but we also have the scriptures. As Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy, “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Well, if that isn’t a declaration of authority, I don’t know what is. We don’t have to figure it out ourselves and we don’t have to apologize for following its teaching. We shouldn’t apologize for standing in its truth.

2 Timothy is a very valuable book to us in these days. The world that Timothy faced isn’t all the different from our own (as much as we often believe that the world facing early Christians was so much more ‘holy’); he was being sent out to minister to a world of narcissistic, greedy, prideful, abusive, disrespectful, ungrateful, slanderous heathens (don’t believe me? Reread 2 Timothy 3). Sound familiar? But yet, Paul instructed him not to apologize for his beliefs and teachings, nor to give them up and live like the non-believers, nor to sequester himself to preserve his own righteousness.

No, on the contrary, he was sent out, armed with the teachings of sound doctrine and the holy Scriptures. He is commanded to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Timothy is sent out to make disciples and train them up in the way of Christ. And he doesn’t do so by constantly telling stories about how he has failed to keep the commandments himself, but of how he keeps trying and trying and God is forgiving (although this is all very true and valid). He does it by using his education and the Scriptures to correct faulty doctrine, rebuke sinful behavior and encourage righteousness.

I love that Paul instructs Timothy to do these things patiently and carefully, that they need to be done with love. While Gordon Ramsay is frequently criticized for not doing this, it should be noted that he does change his approach depending on with whom he is talking (sometimes the change is very subtle) and you can tell that he genuinely cares about and for the restaurateurs. But yet he doesn’t drop himself down and compromise his experience, knowledge and values to do it; he stands firm, correcting, rebuking and encouraging.

So what are we apologizing for? Why are we footnoting all our statements with “according to my interpretation”? Yes, of course there are times that our views are based in interpretation, which is why we should “be stubborn about [our] goals, but flexible about [our] methods,” in the words of marketing guru, Jeff Sheehan. Bear in mind the maxim “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. Stand firm on the essentials. Stop apologizing for your goal of righteousness (Matthew 6:33, Romans 3:20-31). Be proud of your direction and the foundation from which you work (1 Corinthians 16:13). Speak boldly and proclaim loudly the new creation that Christ has created in you (2 Corinthians 5:17). Live publicly and intentionally, so that everyone may see the work that He is still doing in you today (1 Timothy 4:15). Make your life your testimony.

Whether you are young or old, a new Christian or a raised-in-the-pew believer, you cannot let anyone look down on you because of your physical youth or your spiritual youth, not even yourself. Speak boldly and confidently, and do not be afraid to speak truth. After all, if God will even speak through a donkey (Numbers 22), then all the more will he speak through you.

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

– 1 Timothy 4:11-13

Do not be afraid to speak truth and disciple others, just as others disciple you. Accept the wisdom of other Christians and offer your own, and do so boldly, girded by the wisdom of the Scriptures, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of Jesus (Luke 17:3, Matthew 18:15) and Paul (Colossians 3:16, Colossians 1:28, Galatians 6:1).

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