When Christians Refuse to Serve Their Neighbor | Sojourners

When Christians Refuse to Serve Their Neighbor

The Supreme Court is considering a case about a Christian baker who refuses to make a cake for a gay couple. It’s framed to be about religious liberty and free expression.

There's way more to it. 

The case reflects a trend in this country. Many self-described Christians are emphatically rejecting the suffering-servant model that Jesus taught, lived, and urged his followers to adopt.

They don’t want to suffer or serve.

Instead, they’ve come to the viewpoint that Christians should never have to sacrifice for their faith, but others can be inconvenienced to accommodate them. They think being Christian means they can choose which of God’s children they serve and which they can shun.

This isn't about religious freedom, but religious arrogance and supremacy. 

Everyone has moments when we must choose between our values and something else. When a job or an activity conflicts with our values, we are free to make another choice, although it will often involve a sacrifice of some sort. Many Christians today don’t want to have to choose.

We see this in the court clerk who chooses a job that puts her personal values in conflict with her duties. When the conflict occurs, she insists the job should be redefined to fit her personal beliefs. Of course, she is free to move to a different job in government or the private sector, but she doesn’t want to be inconvenienced that way.

She will stay, and everyone else will sacrifice to accommodate her.

We also see this religious arrogance in the Christian business owners who refuse to treat everyone equally. Opening a public business amounts to entering a social covenant. The public supports your business through taxes that provide many government services, programs and institutions ­‑ services provided by everyone that you could not afford by yourself.

In return, business owners agree to treat everyone equally. That’s the deal. If you don’t want to bake wedding cakes for everyone, then don’t make them for anyone. You are free to make a living by selling goods for other occasions, as do many bakers, Christian and otherwise.

Instead, some Christians want the benefits of a public business without having to fulfill their public responsibilities. They see their beliefs as an exemption from sacrifice — let those whom they turn away pay the price.

They’ve decided that their faith isn't worth any sacrifice, even though Jesus repeatedly reminds us that we must be willing to sacrifice for our beliefs. There’s always a cross to be carried.

There’s nothing more anti-Jesus than a refusal to love and serve everyone, including those whom we would like to characterize as an enemy. The religious folk of his time told Jesus to shun those who were different. Don’t love them, don’t serve them, don't participate in their lives in any way.

Jesus did the opposite. He healed everyone. He fed multitudes without judging anyone. He washed the feet of everyone, even the betrayer and the denier – with no thought that his service was endorsing their betrayal and denial.

When the religious folks objected, he told them to stop judging and to address their own shortcomings instead. Worry about the plank in their own eye instead of the speck in someone else’s.

Jesus actively participated in the lives of everyone he met by offering them love, acceptance, and healing. He particularly sought out and served those whom religious folk deemed to be great sinners.

He said we must do the same, we must become servants to one another And we must remember that servants don’t get to pick whom they will serve and whom they will turn away.

The suffering servant cares for everyone who shows up at their door.