Seems every time you turn around, there is something embarrassing posted on the Internet about a purported Christian, that is, a Christ-follower- or at the very least, that is someone seemingly with moral upstanding in the world of human interactions. And that is what Christ-followers preferably should be. Morally upright. Principled. Full of honor and integrity. Among other ideals.
And yet. There it was. A receipt posted the other day by a former waitress from Applebee’s restaurant in St. Louis on which was scribbled the following: “I give God 10%. Why should you get 18%?” The receipt went viral, as would be expected. Anyone with a few marbles rolling around up top knows that something like that can’t be written down on paper and not publicized in some manner. The receipt was meant to be seen by someone. It just happened to get seen by more than the intended readership.
It went viral. And somehow landed up on my Facebook wall.
The persons in question are a waitress and a patron. The patron, we know little about. We can’t know for sure whether or not she was having a bad day or is just an ill-tempered person by nature. I’m guessing the former, as she had the full staff under question and then some fired for the receipts exposure on the Internet. The waitress, we can infer, was a likeable employee who took the fall for her fellow waitress for whom the note was intended. The waitress has also written an on-line rebuttal to those responsible for her firing in which she gives her side of the story.
There are many angles in a story like this one. There is the issue of low wages for wait staff and the necessity of tips to supplement incomes, along with concerns over privacy issues of patrons and protection of such in businesses and other establishments, as well as the issue of tithing and how it factors (?) with a casual meal out with friends.
And of course, there is the white elephant in the room: why in the name of time Christians can be so mean-spirited.
I’d like to tackle the former as I am also a follower of Christ, and it is in my best interest to understand this subject as much as is humanly possible. Christ-followers, or as we are often called- Christians, are commonly assumed to be one of three kinds of people. We are either proponents of freedom to live our lives under the cover of grace, or we are proponents of truth to live our lives under the law or we are strivers of balance seeking to live love in active service through careful adherence to both truth leading to holiness and freedom leading away from binding legalism.
What a mouthful that last one is.
If you are in the first group, you are probably a contemporary Christ follower. You might find that Scripture is open to broad interpretations and you are likely to be very open-minded toward ideas and opinions different than your own. If you fall into the second group of Christ-followers, you might closely resemble a stereotypical Christian fundamentalist. And you might also be referred to by other Christians as a legalist. And you are often not very popular in the modern day church because your ideas are un-malleable, your convictions are often a dictator and you are seen as lacking compassionate understanding for those who do not share your biblical views. If you are in the last group, you are often seen to be the most balanced of the two. However, if you even err slightly on the side of truth, you are taken for a fundamentalist. If you sway slightly to the side of freedom, people are calling you defector to the cause of liberalism.
Folks in this last group just can’t win.
The point is: Christians are not all cut from the same cloth. We do not all share the same experiences, have the same worldviews, interpret the Scriptures the same. And, surprise! Not every Christian is even a nice guy. Or gal. True. We MUST have the common ground of faith in Christ as our Savior if we are to be Christ-followers. But, past that. Like snowflakes, no two Christians are exactly alike. And in all truth, Christians are still just simply people. And we all know. That people are people are people. No matter what we claim to be. No matter what label we wear. Or what we purport to be.
Which begs the question. Why should one mean-spirited person’s ill-advised stinginess be the characterization true Christ-followers? Could that patron not be chalked up to a mere anomaly? For perhaps other Christ-followers might had already come through the restaurant that day and left generous tips. And in like manner, those claiming the opposite, to hate God, leaving nothing. Again, people are people are people. You really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
But yet we do.
And here’s the thing. We are assuming that Christ-followers are close to perfection, which sadly is not the case. Christ-followers are people. And people make mistakes. People are flawed. People don’t always live up to our expectations of what they should and should not do. Some of us are nice and some of us are not.
This being said. Should Christians be enabled to continue on acting in ways that are unfeeling, unloving and unkind? That is, acting in ways that are not representative of the One who was perfect Truth, perfect Freedom and Perfect Love? If we truly follow Christ, we already know that this is NOT the way we are to live our lives. And when we err, we ask for forgiveness. And when we are wounded, we offer grace. And at all times, our lives must be characterized by love. Because love covers a multitude of sins.
Love is Christ. And Christ is love. And this should be the underlying motive for all we do.
So while it is disappointing, hurtful and damaging that another purported believer of Christ has acted in less than Christ-like ways, and particularly because this act has received such public attention, I still believe that we need to extend compassion to everyone. To those who know better and those who don’t. And, underlying every action and reaction we make should be the mantra: What would Jesus do?
For we know that He did everything in sinless perfection, always keeping the balance of living out the truth in love. Always reaching out to us with just the right message intended for our soul’s condition, whether that be a need for more grace or more truth or more freedom or more love. God knows what we need. Our job is to be like Him. And when we fail. To humbly admit our wrongs and do things different the next time. And this process just keeps going and going and going until we hit eternity.
But until then. For me to live is Christ…and if I can live like Christ, I have lived a life worth living.