We are obligated by Scripture to serve, love, and even sacrifice for the sake of manifesting Christ and communicating His gospel to all persons, whether they be homosexuals, racists, liars, murderers, idolaters, fornicators, tyrants, or any other type of sinner. Christ has instructed us to love even those who are our personal enemies, even when they are persecuting us and pouring out hate upon us. (Matt 5:44, Luke 6:27,35) We are to live this way because we ourselves were once murderers, liars, fornicators, racists, homosexuals, and persecutors of Christians (1 Cor 6:9-11). The only difference between us and any other sinner is the fact that we have been forgiven through faith in Christ. And because we now love Him, we are compelled to actively demonstrate His love and communicate the truth of His grace and forgiveness to all of our fellow sinners, without exception. (Titus 3:1-8)
That truth brings us to the question of the hour: Does that mean we oppose civil servants and states who enact religious freedom laws like the one passed last week in Indiana? Over the past several days, Facebook and the Twitter-verse and our news media have been ablaze with various opinions and pieces regarding this very question. Many well-known business figures and religious figures have weighed in with articles and live interviews regarding the law and its impact. Unfortunately, in the midst of all the hype, I have seen many of my spiritual brethren jump to one conclusion or another without really taking the time to understand the issues. The following are some points that I would ask my fellow Christians to seriously ponder as we weigh these matters.
WE RIGHTLY OPPOSE DISCRIMINATION, BUT HAS DISCRIMINATION TAKEN PLACE? The kind of discrimination that is being discussed right now in the media has not happened. In 1993, Bill Clinton signed into federal law the same kind of legislation that Indiana passed last week. Before Indiana, 18 other states previously passed some form of this law. In twenty-two years of legal history, these laws have never been used to deny a homosexual a seat in a restaurant, a room at a hotel, or any other individual service. NOT EVEN ONCE.
The political machine of the LGBT community as well as our own biased media have propagated the lie that such laws support hateful discrimination, but there is not a single Christian business owner on the legal public record advocating the type of behavior or discrimination that is being portrayed in the media. They are attacking religious freedom with an army of straw men. On the other hand, discrimination has taken place against Christians. Consider the case of Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington state who served and employed gay people for years, yet when she declined to participate in a gay wedding on the basis of her personal convictions, she was sued by her own state and is in danger of losing everything she has. There is discrimination taking place, but it is not against homosexuals.
CONSIDER THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PERSONS AND EVENTS. As already noted above, we are all sinners, and thus we are all in need of God’s forgiveness and love and grace. One of the objectives of my Christian life is to speak and demonstrate the truth of Christ. As a pastor, I welcome any person, regardless of their sexual orientation, to attend my church, hear the truth, and see the love of God’s people. If I owned a restaurant, I would gladly serve homosexuals. If I were a baker, I would gladly provide baked goods to them from my shop. If I owned a hotel, I would gladly host them. If any Christian business owner were to make the decision to not serve sinners, their business plan would be self-defeating because all men are sinners.
However, a wedding is not a person, it is an event, and supporting an event communicates a degree a advocacy. To use a previous example, I may serve a racist in my restaurant, but that does not mean I am obligated to cater a rally for the Ku Klux Klan. I can accept and love all persons in the name of Christ, but I cannot advocate with my talents and resources an event that is diametrically opposed to my beliefs. Nor would I expect anyone else to do so for me. I love eating at my local Turkish Restaurant, and I would rightly be a victim of discrimination if they refused to serve me because I am a Christian. However, I do not think the owner there is being bigoted and discriminatory if he refuses to come serve pork barbecue at my church picnic.
UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE NOT DEALING WITH A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE. The fact of the matter is that in the course of American history, far too many professing Christians sinned grievously against African Americans by first supporting slavery and then supporting discrimination laws. As a result of the Civil Rights movement, such laws were rightly abolished and such behavior was rightly acknowledged as wretched sin. Now 50 years later, the LGBT community has succeeded in portraying the issue of homosexual marriage as a civil rights issue when in fact it is not. Biblically speaking, God is the One who forms each child in the womb (Psa 139:13), so your gender and sexual orientation are defined by your Creator, and His choice results in you being born physically as a male or as a female. Absolutely no biological or genetic evidence exists to support the idea that someone is born gay.
Thus, to make the choice to change oneself from the gender or sexual orientation of one’s birth is purely a moral choice; a choice that can be changed at will by the individual. Race, however, is who you are, not what you chose to be. We are traveling a very dangerous road when we create special classes of protection for those who are merely making a moral choice. We do not even want laws creating a special class of protection for religion, which is also a choice; we simply do not want the free exercise of religion impugned. That is why the first amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
DO WE REALLY WANT A GOVERNMENT THAT FORCES MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE? No, we do not. A thoughtful, devout Christian may come to the conviction that as a photographer, baker, or caterer, he or she has liberty in Christ to serve a homosexual wedding in the hope of bearing out the truth of the gospel. May God bless their efforts! Another thoughtful, devout Christian photographer, baker, or caterer may have the conviction that they could not support such an event. I hope we would all agree that neither the government nor any special interest group should have the right to force the latter Christian to either violate their conscience or shut down their business. This is exactly where religious freedom laws are necessary — to protect businesspersons who have religious convictions from losing their source of livelihood.
Living in a free society means that different convictions will be held by different people. It also means we are free to find other businesses and outlets to serve us when someone’s convictions differ from our own. If we allow the government to enforce a uniform societal conscience, then we effectively put in place a single, state-sponsored religion where secular officials largely determine what is right and wrong for everyone. They could dictate that all obstetricians must perform abortions, that all schools (public and private) must be grounded in secular humanism, and that any speech that calls homosexuality a sin is hate speech. Such ideas may sound far-fetched, but such socialistic measures are already in place in some European countries thanks to the political force of secularists. Christians in those nations wish they had something akin to the first amendment to protect the free expression of their faith. Why would we surrender such a gift from our forefathers in the name of political correctness?
IF YOU ARE GOING TO THROW YOUR SUPPORT BEHIND SOMETHING, HOW ABOUT THE GOSPEL? Individually, we are all called to be faithful citizens who live and vote and conduct business according to Scripture. While the occasion may arise where we must unite and speak with one voice against some great moral evil (for instance, the murder of unborn children), we must be very cautious of politicizing ourselves. When we take sides in every political battle, we run the risk of identifying the kingdom of God with a human political agenda. Lost persons in America today largely view Christianity with contempt because we have come to be identified as a political ‘moral majority.’ While we certainly should vote in accordance with our biblical morals, the last thing we want to be is a political movement. We are not called to change the world through political activism, we are called to change the world by proclaiming the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet 2:9).
At the end of the day, Christ is our greatest love as well as our greatest allegiance. Bigotry and homosexuality exist in the world because mankind is fallen. He alone is the cure. Christ is the only One who can change the hateful heart of the bigot to a heart of compassion, sacrifice, and love. He is the only One who can bring a lost sinner out of the darkness of sexual sin and despair into the light of righteousness. Therefore, when we are weighing in on the issues of the day through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social outlet, let us do so redemptively. May we lift up the righteousness, love, and forgiveness of Christ, trusting that He will draw all men to Himself (John 3:14-15).