As I was waiting for my son to arrive home from camp, I saw the news today about a restaurant in Virginia refusing service to White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and while I admit I am resonant with his feelings, I struggle with his action. (Disclaimer – I only know what I read in different news stories about it – there may very well be a lot more to the story than we have been told – I am just going with what I know from what I have read…end disclaimer).
Let me explain. Yesterday morning, a dear brother in Christ, Don Meeks, preached at the PCUSA General Assembly morning worship on how to seek unity during times of disagreement. At the end of his message, he shared the following covenant he seeks to follow in his life following him sharing about a beautiful friendship that formed between he and a fellow Christian who held very differnet views on same-sex marriage than him. Don’s 5 points were the following:
- In light of John 17:20-23 – I will pray for and live towards unity with other Christians
- In light of Matthew 7:3-5 – I will acknowledge my own prejudices, excesses, and failings before I attempt to criticize or correct other Christians.
- In light of Romans 12:10 and 18 – I will trust that the intentions of those with whom I disagree are honorable and speak the best of what I see in their efforts to serve Jesus Christ.
- In light of Proverbs 18:13 and James 1:19 – I will seek to listen with understanding before speaking my own concerns.
- In light of 1 Peter 3:15 – I will contend for my convictions with gentleness and respect out of reverence for Jesus Christ.
As I heard about the news with Ms Huckabee-Sanders, I thought of those five points and I thought about the debate we had at GA about fossil fuel divestment and a call that we felt it important to be able to stay at the table to help effect change and then I also thought of these words from Romans 12:20-21.
…“if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
By quoting this I am not saying Ms Huckabee-Sanders is “the enemy” but to just kick her out of the restaurant does not help the situation we are in today. What if instead the owner of the restaurant asked if he could have a polite conversation about his (and many others’) concerns? What an opportunity missed to break the stereotypes we have of one another and show that we could do this a different way. What could it have meant if the story told was that this man and Ms Huckabee-Sanders had an honest and deep conversation with one another (of course, that isn’t as “newsworthy” – end snark).
That’s why I love Paul’s words in Romans 12 – it is saying to do what those with whom you disagree (or going to the extreme of someone who is “the enemy”) would least expect. After all, as a follower of Jesus, we have to remember that Jesus didn’t just sit down for meals with those who supported his message and followed him, but he also sat down for meals with those who were against him and were literally out to get him.
This is just another example of what the Lord spoke and what I shared in my last post – this is hard work. The easy thing is to kick someone out. The easy thing is to refuse the drink to “the enemy” who is thirsty. The easy thing is to not share the sandwich with the person who hates you. But the disciple’s thing to do is to get that water, to share the sandwich, to offer to sit down and talk, to break the cycle that we find ourselves in.
Can we please at least sit down with one another? Maybe we’ll start getting somewhere.