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Monday, April 18, 2016

Jesus Ate with Criminals; Why Wouldn't He Bake a Cake for a Gay Person?



The radical shift in society's understanding of homosexual unions has caused a sort of whiplash in our culture. Homosexual activists see any resistance to their agenda as bigotry, yet Christians are caught between the teaching of scripture on homosexual activities and the command of Jesus to love one's enemies. Further, Jesus seemed to embrace people who were marginalized by the religious conservatives of his day. What's a Christian to do?

This tension has played out fairly visibly in the news and in the courts with Christians such as florist Barronelle Stutzman who refused to provide flowers for her longtime customer Rob Ingersoll because those arrangements were intended to celebrate Ingersoll's union with another man or photographer Elane Huguenin, who was told by the New Mexico Supreme Court her free speech rights were secondary to the state's non-discrimination laws when she turned down photographing a lesbian couple's ceremony. Aaron and Melissa Klein's story is perhaps more notable. The Kleins were ordered to pay a $135,000 fine for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple.

Was Jesus an Enabler?

The legal bludgeoning of Christians who as a matter of conscience wish to not celebrate a ceremony that stands in direct opposition to their beliefs is alarming. It has sparked several states to try and balance the anti-discrimination laws which most believe are good things with accommodations for matters of conscience where one may disagree with the message one is being forced to send.

Even here, such moves have prompted a considerable backlash, even among Christians. I recently saw a tweet that tried to argue in just that way. Showing a picture of Florida Governor Rick Scott signing a law protecting pastors, she tweeted: "Jesus ate dinner with criminals and prostitutes and you're telling me you can't bake a cake for a gay person?"

Drury is alluding to the times in the Gospels where Jesus asks to dine with people like Zaccheus (Luke 19:18) and Levi, tax collectors who had a habit of overcharging the citizenry so they could pocket the excess. Mark tells the story: "When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?' And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners'" (Mark 2:16-17, ESV).

I think Drury is simply wrong in trying to claim this incident is a parallel. Certainly, Jesus reached out to those with whom he disagreed and he even ate with them, which would be considered an act of friendship in that culture. However, Jesus very clearly stated why he did these things. He came to call sinners to repentance. In other words, Jesus was trying to get them to change their ways.

Now, imagine a different scenario. After dinner, instead of Zaccheus telling Jesus "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much" he asks, "Jesus, since you are a carpenter by trade, I wish to hire you to build me a tax collection booth so I can continue with my chosen lifestyle. Since your services are available for public consumption, I think you should make my job collecting money from the people easier, even if you disagree with what I'm doing." That's the equivalent scenario. Does anyone believe that Jesus would acquiesce to such a demand?

Forcing one to violate conviction means forcing group-think

In the florist case above, Stutzman never refused to sell to Ingersoll because he was homosexual. He was a regular customer. Instead, she refused to draw upon her artistic talent to celebrate an event she considered to violate here convictions. To participate in a celebration is tantamount to endorsing it. The Kleins were in a similar situation. Huguenin's work included crafting a book that would evoke feelings of warmth and celebration as part of her services. It was a story that she simply didn't believe and therefore wished to refuse.

Beliefs and convictions are important. They matter as they shape who we are. If any of these folks were operating a grocery store and those couples came in to buy film or cake mix or even pre-cut flowers from the store's cart I would say they were wrong in their refusal. But that isn't the situation here. In each of these cases, the business provider would have to participate in some meaningful way in the celebration of the event. It's asking someone to participate in what they think is wrong that is the true violation here. To force someone to violate their convictions is to impose a form of group-think upon those with whom one disagrees. That isn't only wrong, but dangerous for society.

Jesus did eat with sinners, but he never made it easier for them to continue in their sins. He may have healed the woman caught in adultery, but he also commanded her to go and sin no more.

Image courtesy Stephanie Astono Salim (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10 comments:

  1. Exactly. Why is it so hard to understand that Jesus never condoned sin in any form?

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  2. If Jesus was the baker, and he was asked to bake the cake with all the decorations for the event, He might have asked the persons a question before saying if He would or would not. Then the topic would probably have changed quickly, and the asking for the cake would have probably ceased and the people would have left the bakery. How many times did that scenario happen in the Bible, especially when they tried to trap Him with a question. I wonder what His question would be? - - - - - I'd like to think about that.

    QUESTION: Jesus may have asked, "Why is a man to leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they become one flesh?"

    ANSWER: Would the persons have answered if they were versed in the Law, "Because Adam said of Eve after she came out of Him through his Father's creation, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

    CLOSING COMMENT: Then would Jesus have said, "Be conformed to God's creation in that way"?

    THEN WHAT? Who can argue with Him in His Presence?

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  3. Should we really refuse service? Refusing service in our culture gives the message that I hate you or that I am better than you. As Christians we are to serve others. It seems weird that refusing service to someone is the correct thing to do. I think the Church has botched the culture war. Not only have we lost the battle against same sex marriage we have lost the battle for the hearts and souls of these individuals. We have also put ourselves in a position that we are now at risk of losing rights ourselves.

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    Replies
    1. Refusing to participate is not the same as refusing to serve. The florist in question had never had a problem selling flowers to her gay customer. She was sued for refusing to participate in something she considered offensive. It's like the difference between a linen service cleaning someone's sheets or being asked to provide linens for a KKK rally.

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    2. I am mainly looking at this from the angle that turning someone you don't know away may harden their heart more toward Christ. I don't think that making a cake or providing flowers to a same sex marriage says you agree with them. I get the picture from the New Testament that we are supposed to make a judgement and hold a standard for fellow Christians. I don't think we are to hold others to our standard and instead are to go the extra mile in whatever we do for them. You can't let your light shine to these individuals if you turn them away. You are not being asked to sin, you are just being asked to do what you already do everyday for anyone else.

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    3. I do see your point edge3281. Let's then take another step into your though process. All thought should be examined by taking that ideology to the extreme to see whether it holds to all scrutiny. What would be your answer to this scenario... Suppose a Christian pastor is asked to provide his service in joining a homosexual couple in marriage, to which the pastor is morally against. What do you suppose then of the pastor's plight? Should he offer his services to this couple? If so, how can he provide this service while at the same time not be condoning the act of a homosexual marriage?

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    4. Reggie, I believe that a pastor should be able to decline to do the wedding. This is already with in their rights to do with a straight couple that they have counseled and believe they should not get married.

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  4. The criminals knew they were criminals.<--- With the law being spoken at every street conner, and to those that would dare to live in disobedience,nobody could say he/she did not know if they were sinning or not. Can we say the same for today's generation?

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  5. Jesus never felt obligated to do what others expected Him to do. Love does not mean that we necessarily do what a person wants; it means we do what is best for them. Supporting/encouraging/participating in a sinful celebration is not love...not godly love.

    If you had a friend that was a medium and that friend invited you to a seance she was conducting, what should to do? Occultic activity is forbidden by God. What should you do?

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    Replies
    1. That is an easy question to answer. You don't go because we are specifically instructed not to take part in that. People in the early church were forced to carry Roman soldiers gear. We are instructed that if we are forced to do that we should go an extra mile. Carrying their gear does not mean you condone their actions. Same as baking a cake for them doesn't condone their actions

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