Two weeks ago, waitress Dayna Morales posted a receipt from one of her tables. On that receipt, the guests wrote that they were withholding her tip because they could not agree with her "lifestyle."
The Internet exploded.
"Christians hate gay people."
"Christians don't tip."
"Christians are stingy."
I must confess - even I posted the story with a bit of biting commentary: "What makes us think that this is a good witness?"
Yesterday, the plot thickened when a family anonymously came forward with a shocking claim: that the receipt was theirs, but somebody doctored it. In fact, the family gave the waitress a 20% tip, and they produced both a customer copy of the receipt and their credit card statement to substantiate their claim.
And the Internet did a bit of backpedaling. So did I.
Then the Internet did a bit of finger pointing.
"The waitress lied. She should be fired."
"The family showed the customer receipt. It would be so easy for them to write in a tip after the first story broke."
"Anybody can fake a credit card statement."
"It's all a fraud!"
I posted to my Facebook profile the news story about the family's counter-claim, and it sparked a lively conversation about hate crime, homophobia, and anti-christian bias. However, my friend Jonathan nailed it on the head when he said:
There's still a big problem when we were all so quick to believe [the first story] because it fits with the attitudes so many of us have seen from so many Christians for so long.This whole story is a prism that reveals how culture at large perceives the church. It should bother Christians that most of the Internet so unquestionably believed the initial reports, as if to say, "A Christian didn't tip a gay waitress? That's to be expected." Our Savior taught that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. Unfortunately, we Christians have earned a reputation apart from love.
To paraphrase Paul, the world slights Jesus because of our hypocrisy (cf. Romans 2:23-24).
If a story like Dayna's is so immediately believable - and I'm convinced that we Christians have given culture more than enough reason to make it believable - then how can the Church change culture's perception of Christians? How can we Christians earn the public's trust?
Let's turn to Jesus and ask ourselves: how would Jesus respond if He was unfairly accused?
After all, Jesus' enemies levied more than a few incendiary charges against Him.
He was accused of healing on the Sabbath.
He was accused of eating with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes.
He was accused of being a drunkard.
He was accused of blasphemy.
He was accused of fraud.
And Jesus never defended Himself from those charges. He never said, "I would never do anything like that." He took the judgement of those accusations squarely on His shoulders, even at great cost to Himself.
Jesus' humble posture ultimately silenced His critics and gave life to His children.
Back to Dayna and her customers: I wonder if a phone call from the family to the restaurant would've been more productive than contacting the media.
The conversation could start like this: "We are so sorry for the confusion. We believe that we are the family accused of not leaving a tip for Dayna, and we want to know how we can smooth things over with her and your business. We appreciated her excellent service at our table, and we want to make things right with Dayna."
I can't promise anyone that such a phone call would change our culture's perspective of Christians, but it could be a step in the right direction.
Jesus does not call His disciples to be justified in all situations. Jesus calls us to live at peace with all people, as far as we are able to. To live at peace with all people, sometimes we need to set aside our ego by denying our craving to always be right.
And in so doing, we begin to elevate neighbor above self, love above pride, and Christ over all.
What do you think?
Until next time,