"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:46-48 NIV)I can't get over Jesus. He just has a way of turning things upside down, compelling me to step outside of myself to cross lines I had never thought of crossing. His call to love enemies and to "greet" people who are not "your own" is one of the most profoundly backwards and compelling invitations in the gospels. Now, for me, when I think of enemies, I think of terrorists and rapists. I'm sure that many will think of less extreme varieties of people, perhaps just people with whom they've had personal relational conflict. But this second piece of the command, to greet people who are not "your own," puts a slightly and subtly different spin on it. To "greet," in this context is more than just saying "hello," it's actually about paying respect and welcoming hospitably, often with a kiss and an embrace. The King James Version uses the word, "salute." It implies a level of respect which says, "I take you seriously, you are important to me."
Jesus invites us to love the wrong kinds of people, people on the opposite side, people who aren't from our tribe, and to love them in such a way that they become important to us, that we make it known to them. The invitation is marked by irony. It is an invitation to define ourselves by our association with and concern for people who aren't like us. Where a club or a tribe is usually identified by internal commonality, followers of Jesus are invited to be identified by their external welcome and love for people they'd be expected to reject.
With this in mind, I want to turn to a specific and contemporary issue. You've likely heard about Chick-Fil-A, the fast food restaurant once known only for their dipping sauce and quality chicken sandwiches, now famous for their political stance against same-sex marriage. Maybe you've heard that they've come out verbally and financially against the gay community. Or maybe you've heard that they're under attack for their belief in "traditional marriage." The fact is, you can spin it either way.
The owners of the company have taken a public stance on the issue and it has become fodder for much discussion and controversy. What's more, they're dedicating a day, August 1st, to the cause. Evangelical Christians and political conservatives have been pushing August 1st as an opportunity to support Chick-Fil-A and to encourage them while the gay community "attacks" them. The perception on the other side, however, is that this is a rally day against gay rights, essentially against an entire people group.
Now, Chick-Fil-A is going to make a lot of money on August 1st., money that will likely be used to fund a political agenda to oppose the legal implementation of gay rights. It'll be a busy day at their stores and no blog post or protest will likely change that. And while I don't want to dispute the moral legitimacy of homosexuality or gay marriage here, I want to invite you to consider Jesus' teachings. Whatever your vantage point may be, August 1st will be perceived by gay people as a social attack, indeed (an this is tragically true) an assault from the church on their community, their tribe. One tribe against another--that's going to be the perception.
But Jesus invites us to be a different kind of people. People who are not positioned as one group against another, but people who are positioned to love and "salute" those we're expected to reject. The world expects the church to turn out and rally together against the gays on August 1st. I believe that Jesus' sermon on the mount includes an invitation to surprise the world by speaking out to the gay community, "we support YOU! YOU matter to us! YOU are loved!" by withholding our support for an institution which has pointedly positioned itself against them (if only according to their perception). Wouldn't that be backwards?! Precisely!! And that's why I'm so convinced that it's the way of Jesus.
So this is my plea to the church: don't go to Chick-Fil-A on August 1st! If you want your money to be spent on preventing gay people from being legally married, then go on another day. But please, let the gay community know that they are important to us, more important than the reputation of a chicken restaurant. If we will persistently "greet" those who are not our own, how long will we continue to be divided? How long before our wounds of conflict are healed? If there's one thing, other than love, that Jesus is all about, it's healing. Perhaps once our relationships have been healed, we will find a way to work out our differences. But for now, let us simply love them. Let us salute them by standing at their side the way Jesus did. Join me in ignoring Chick-Fil-A Day.