I HATE miso spinach.
I can still remember the first time I ate it. It was one of the most awful foods I had ever tasted in my entire life. The deal in our house was if it was on the table you had to eat at least a little bit. So I would put one teaspoon on my plate, swallow it down fast with as much rice as I could, and drink my entire glass of milk just to get it over with as quick as possible. It got to the point where just seeing it would make me feel sick to my stomach. No other food makes me react like that.
My hatred of miso spinach became very generalized to all spinach. Anything with spinach in it I would avoid like the plague. I came to despise spinach. I didn’t even like Popeye the sailor because we stood on opposite ends of the spinach-liking spectrum. But then spinach started sneaking into my life. I had this awesome dip at a party once and when I asked what it was my friend told me it was spinach-artichoke dip. I was like, hmm… Then I tried a mixed green salad with all sorts of different leaves in it and someone told me that one of them was spinach. Hmm… Then I had some kind of soup that had spinach in it and I thought, you know maybe I didn’t give it a fair shake. And now I like spinach – except miso spinach.
Some things never change.
It was scary how easy it was for me to expand my hatred of miso spinach to everything else.
Way too easy. Everything that had the word spinach in it automatically became my MORTAL ENEMY. And that attitude robbed me of the opportunity to enjoy so many other things because I had already closed my mind to a whole category of food before I even tasted it. I had made a sweeping generalization and I acted on it before even testing to see if I was right. In the end, my actions did more harm to me than the spinach industry. And all because I had deprived myself of the joy of knowing spinach.
But spinach is just a food.
The only harm to come of it was against me. And if we limited the human tendency to make judgments to just food, we would probably be okay. But instead we do the same to people. We make vast generalizations about whole groups of human beings based on their race, on their gender, on their lifestyle without so much as blinking. We pigeon-hole them, shove them into our preconceived notions of who we think they are, and we act accordingly. Don’t believe me? You only have to look as far as the next news cycle to see that it’s true.
In Pittsburgh, a cab driver was shot in the back because he was Muslim. The cab driver had picked up the man in front of a casino at 1am on Thanksgiving morning. On the way to his house, the passenger named Anthony Mohamed (irony knows no bounds) started questioning the cab driver about his background and about his faith and even started mocking the prophet Muhammed. When they arrived at Anthony’s house, he claimed he had the cab driver’s money inside and would bring it out. Instead, he came out with a rifle aimed at the cab. The cab driver, fearing for his life, took off down the street, but not before Anthony fired off a few rounds, one of which hit the cab driver in the back. And for what? Just because he was Muslim? Did Anthony think somehow the cab river posed a threat to the American way of life just for existing?
That is only one of many examples that happened recently.
And any casual reading of the Bible will tell you this is not the way God created the world. When we forget that God created each one of us, when we forget that God loves all of us, we marginalize other human beings into being less worthy of the love of Christ than we are. And not only do we sin against God when we do that, but we miss out on the rich depth of each person’s individuality. We miss out on the kinds of relationships Christ gave his life for us to have.
We need to be on our guard every day for the judgments we make. We need to challenge ourselves not to let us get swept up in fear and fervor which robs us of our ability to think clearly. We need to take seriously Christ’s command to love one another. And then we need to do it. Otherwise we are missing out on the richness of God’s great world.
To read the complete sermon as given to the church I serve, please click on the document below.