Recently people have begun to question the rights and wrongs of forcing people to serve individuals whose lifestyles they cannot condone on religious grounds. I cannot serve this gay couple because my religious beliefs tell me they are [ fill in the blanks]. Sounds strangely similar to the rationale of previous generations of 'Christians' who argued that it was their right to own slaves because the Bible mentioned slavery, it was their right to fight slavery because the Bible said things about treating our neighbors as ourselves, or I can refuse service to this Negro because my religious group or society believes them to be 'other', inferior', or 'different'.
We like to stride to that high moral ground and plant flags in grand gestures but we really fail on the small daily, 'rubber meets the road' ground of ordinary life.
A writer is struggling to determine how best to develop their skills and is torn between several genres. They excel at writing insightfully about subjects of a religious nature that demand thought, study and accepting the challenge that they might be wrong. These works are well-accepted by the few who bother to note and respond or comment. In evaluating the number of responses the writer decides writing about religious topics is obviously not the choice or there would be more support and response. The crossroad of decision is made and they walk down a path that allows them to write deeply and significantly inserting their core spiritual values as they go. Their talent is not added to the discussions of strictly religious themes where it would have challenged, inspired and educated because that group could not bring itself to show they appreciated or valued what the person was doing.
A person on Facebook, brought up to believe that Christians will help and support other Christians - always, finds that instead they often become tunnel-like in their vision, seek only people who think or act exactly like they do and hold themselves somewhat superior because of their religious experience. They require daily doses of 'scriptures' that affirm them, they manipulate people "if they really love God to pass this along right away! or post it on their page - unless they are ASHAMED of God." They know a lot of people but care for none. They invest their time online but never in people. They care for their profile but not your input. One person noted that they actually received "more caring and loving support from agnostics and pagans than from my Christian friends."
We would do well to remember that on the high morale ground there is also a cross - we can stand there only as we remember the love and mercy represented by that symbol.
So, what does it mean to be a friend - Jesus style?
Christians should be accepting of others as human beings who sin. Jesus dined with those who were outcasts of the religious and righteous of his day. Those people who followed all the religious laws to be found blameless before God and who followed every rule of right living. They ignored the tax collectors, the fallen women, the sick, and the hurting because these must be curses of God brought down by their lack of religious fervor. Jesus spoke with the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the outcast and the social inferiors (women, Gentiles, etc.). Is there any instance where he turned away from anyone?
To be a friend like Christ means we love everyone. We may not like their lifestyle, we may not like them, and we may not want to act like we support a cause that is not reflective of our beliefs but WE MUST LOVE THEM!
To be a friend like Christ means we care for others more than we care for ourselves. We have one gift that we cannot refill, cannot replace, and that is the gift of time...the gift of ourselves. The Samaritan on the road did not have time to help the man beaten and left for dead but, unlike the holier-than-thou types who had gone before, he took that time and spent in on the behalf of another. He did not check the pedigree, did not check the theological stance, or look for signs the man was worthy of his help. He simply rolled up his sleeves, took the time, made the effort and did what was truly reflective of the message of Jesus Christ.
Why do we withhold the good word of praise that may affirm someone making a decision of how to use the talents they feel God has given to them? Why do we want to pick and choose who is worthy of our help, care or love? Why do we withhold the willingness to sit with sinners, show them love and show them Christ-followers are not all wild-eyed, raving idiots holding up intolerant and hate mongering signs?
Friendship - as Jesus knew so well - was the giving of oneself to others and for others.
So, the next time you march up that high moral hill to plant your flag, look around for the cross and then ask yourself what are the motives stirring you and are you being the type of friend Jesus was when he sat with sinners, walked with skeptics, loved the unloved and upset everyone else's neat little world?