Self-described Christians are refusing to serve gay couples. The president’s spokeswoman was denied service by a restaurant owner with deeply held beliefs.
Our society is fraying. The refuse-to-serve mentality is spreading, leading us to a dark place.
As Gandhi taught, an eye for an eye and soon the whole world is blind.
We don’t have to continue down this road blindly. We can light another way. But if we want to be that light, we can’t reject, shun or demean anyone.
Instead, We must love, serve and respect everyone. Each of us has many such opportunities each day.
Last weekend, my church participated in the local Pride Parade. As we waited for the march to begin, a man walked through the crowd carrying a sign that said, “Jesus Is Coming.” He told us we were horrific sinners doomed to burn in hell.
We had to decide how to respond. Do we ignore him? Argue with him? We chose to offer kindness. We smiled, said hello and offered him a bottle of water. He was free to turn it down, but he graciously accepted it.
We didn’t attack his views but respectfully explained ours – Jesus is already here, calling us to love everyone. We wished the man a blessed day as he went on his way.
Serving others doesn’t mean endorsing their beliefs; it’s recognizing and respecting them as a child of God. To refuse service is to deny the image of God within each of us.
There are many ways to advocate for our beliefs. Demeaning others is not one of them.
Faith is service
Many self-described Christians argue that living their values means shunning those who believe differently. It’s a dishonest claim. If love is your core value, then every act of kindness and service is an expression of faith, not a rejection of it.
Sacrificial service is the heart of God’s value system. It’s the only way out of our current darkness.
What’s happening today isn’t new. Sadly, it’s been the norm in our society. Over the centuries, many Christians have refused to love and serve black people and Native American people and many others – including other Christians — whom they deemed inferior.
In Jesus’ time and place, many religious people also shunned those who lived and believed differently, insisting that any interaction with them amounted to participating in their impurity and their sin.
Jesus took direct aim on that attitude.
He befriended the marginalized and the shunned, pushing back hard against the religious people who objected. He ate with those whom others labeled great sinners.
To Jesus, a lack of love was the only sin. He understood that simply telling someone to change means nothing; we must be a source of the unconditional love that makes change possible.
And when the religious leaders objected to all of this, he told them to worry more about the plank in their own eye — take a good look at yourself and drop that stone from your hand.
Lack of love is the only sin
Instead, be like the Samaritan in the parable, the shunned person who gets it right because he loves and serves. Don’t be like the religious people who walk past with their noses in the air.
Be a source of love.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. That’s the rule we must apply.
We need to remember that shunning doesn’t help anyone grow or change. Only love can do that.
Refusing service doesn’t fulfill our faith. Only love can do that.
We can’t vanquish darkness by bringing more darkness into the world. Only love can do that.
That is the way, the truth and the light that can lead us to a better place.