Amendment: December 5, 2015
This is an extremely difficult issue and I have modified this post a number of times. I want to make it clear that I admire a Christian who is willing to stand for the truth of the Bible in the public square. Standing for the truth of God’s word in love is one of the most difficult things for a Christian to do and it is worthy of the highest respect, encouragement and support.
On the other hand, I wanted to note that it is possible to “stand for the truth of God’s word” with a judgmental attitude that would harm the gospel. While it is certainly possible that the most loving thing that a Christian could do for a gay couple seeking to get married would be to refuse to serve them, the motivation for this refusal would have to be love for God, love for God’s word and a sincere love for the couple. Any kind of a self-righteous or legalistic attitude would have to be repudiated and rejected completely. In my own case, my bias would make the love required to refuse service extremely difficult and I would have to pray for the strength of showing them simple kindness and acceptance.
So this afternoon on FaceBook, I expressed the longheld belief that a Christian asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding should bake the best cake that they are capable of and do everything they can to love those people. As I did so, I thought of some of my conservative Christian friends who might be a bit surprised at this stance. Homosexuality is clearly prohibited in the Bible and homosexual marriage is clearly not God’s plan for mankind. How could it be permissible for a Christian baker to bake a cake for a gay couple?
This is a very tough question and we must resist the impulse to oversimplify the issue. If a drug addict were to come to me and ask me to help inject him with drugs, I would refuse on the grounds that I could not be a part of a behaviour that would hurt him. How could I come to a different conclusion if I believe that homosexual marriage is not God’s will?
To see why I conclude that a Christian baker could bake a cake for a gay couple, let us consider a Christian landlord. Should this landlord rent a home to a Muslim couple? They are, after all, going to use the property to teach their children Islam and most Christians would agree that this is not God’s plan. Should I, as a Bible believing Christian, facilitate this behaviour by renting them my property? Where does your obligation to not facilitate sin end? If the potential tenant is a single man are you obligated to find out if he watches pornography?
If we hold ourselves to a high standard of purity in terms of what other people do with the commercial services we provide, then Christians are really accepting the role of morality police in society. This is extremely dangerous and contrary to the example of Christ we find in the New Testament. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find Jesus knocking on the door of a house containing a fornicating couple and saying, “Hey! Knock it off in there!” Jesus does not refuse to heal those who obtained diseases while committing sins. Neither does he refuse to heal those who will commit sins later in their life. The Bible merely records that Jesus healed all their diseases.
This is an extremely important point that requires emphasis. The natural tendency for a human being who becomes aware of our failures as human beings and how odious they are to God is to desire to fight sin with everything we are. How are we to do this? Jesus Christ only used force against self-righteous and religious people who taught in the Father’s house. Apart from that, he was a light who displayed gentleness and kindness to everyone he met. Jesus fought sin more effectively than anyone in history and he did it by being a light, teaching the truth and showing other people how to live with love for everyone.
The simple fact is that sin cannot be fought with anything but love. The primary commandment is to “Love God with all your heart soul and mind” and obedience to the other commandments is only possible if a deep love for the father is your motivation. If obedience to lesser commandments is accomplished by force, what good has been accomplished? The primary commandment has been violated while one much less important is adhered to because of some external condition. In fact, if a heart has been hardened against the truth of the gospel because of the lack of concern and empathy displayed by an immature Christian, then the net effect is evil.
Now I can easily understand being a little uncomfortable participating in a marriage ceremony that violates the clear command of God. I well recall how antsy I felt at a Catholic wedding when my friend bowed down before a statue of the Virgin Mary and prayed to her for blessing. While he was praying to the statue, I was asking God to forgive him. The only thing one can really do in that situation is ask God to have mercy on those who do not know Him and do not know what they are doing by emulating Jesus. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
Now this position would seem to many Christians to be a compromise of our beliefs. To combat this idea, probably the most effective way is to outline how I think a Christian baker should approach this issue.
In a baker shop there hangs a sign that says, “male and female created He them” (Genesis 5:2). A same sex couple walks into the shop and is greeted by the Christian proprietor.
Christian Baker: How are you doing folks, what can I do for you?
Sally: We are interested in getting a cake for our wedding.
Christian Baker: Are you sure you are completely comfortable with that? I am a born again believer in Jesus Christ and the Bible. There is a baker down the street who specializes in these ceremonies and he does great work.
Sally: Yes we are comfortable. I saw your work at the wedding of a friend of mine and I would like you to do it for us. Do you have a problem with that?
Christian Baker: Not at all. Jesus loves everyone and I do my best to follow his example.
The process of specifying the cake goes on as normal.
Now if the baker prays for this couple and is as kind as he knows how to be, I have no idea on what basis any Christian could say that he has compromised his values. He has shared his faith and his beliefs and he has loved his neighbor.
It should be noted that Christian pastors are in somewhat of a different position. A Christian pastor is given authority by God to bless a married couple in His name. Administering such a blessing on a homosexual couple would seem to me to be a clear violation of their duties as ministers of the Word of God.
Finally, I should make it clear that I believe in free speech, freedom of religion and the marketplace of ideas. Free speech does not mean freedom to say things in your bedroom and freedom of religion does not mean freedom to pray to God in your bedroom. Christians do not need a privileged position in the marketplace of ideas to triumph, but the freedom to speak out the truth makes things easier. The bottom line is that while I believe that Christians should have the right to refuse service to a gay couple, doing so requires a humility and love which is beyond all but the most mature of Christians.