Dear Chelsea,

You’ve had a rough week.

First, there was that pastor who visited your restaurant and decided that, because she gives God 10%, she should be excempt from the 18% gratuity on her bill. Even though you weren’t Paster Bell’s server, it’s infuriating to see that kind of disrespect from guests. When she was called out for her stinginess, she should have apologized. Instead, she got you fired.  I’m sorry. That really sucks.

Situations like this are always awkward for Christians. In the name of our God, someone has done something really stupid and embarrassing. We cringe as we see it, knowing that many people will say, “See? That’s just how Christians are!” Sometimes it feels like Christians do more than our fair share of stupid, embarrassing things – what with our boycotts and televangelists and the Crusades and our bad tipping and all that. Really, most of the Christians I know are kind and generous and caring people. But the obnoxious/violent/crazy ones seem to get the most press.

Following Jesus isn’t easy. We have such good intentions, but we mess up. As a former server, I always make a point of tipping really well. But I know that I’ve done other embarrassing stuff that would make me blush if it ever found its way to Reddit. I’m sorry that you had to see the ugly side of Pastor Alois. If I knew your address, I would send you and your fellow servers the tip you should have gotten that night. And I’d ask your forgiveness, on behalf of my fellow Christian.

See, that pastor forgot one of Jesus’s most important teachings.

Jesus once said that if we show love and generosity to those around us, we are showing generosity to Him. By stiffing you, she wasn’t just ripping you off… she was ripping off God too. Ironic, isn’t it?

A lot of us are pretty upset with Alois Bell by now, and I understand that. But, though it’s our first impulse, I wish that we wouldn’t be so quick to throw her to the sharks. We follow a religion that teaches grace and forgiveness, yet we’re so quick to condemn those who embarrass us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be embarrassed, or that we shouldn’t call her out. But we should probably remember that we all do stupid and bad and awful stuff sometimes, and that’s why we needed Jesus in the first place.

I’m sorry Applebee’s fired you. I hope that they give you your job back, or that you find a better one. I hope that Pastor Bell apologizes to you and your colleagues for her lousy actions. I hope you’ll give Christians another chance.

And I hope that all of us who follow Jesus will go out of our way to be extra generous next time we get a chance.