Perhaps you’ve followed the hullabaloo in the news lately about Christian business owners at odds with LGBT activists, the media, the law, and public opinion over their refusal to provide goods and services at same-sex weddings on the basis of religious belief that marriage is designed by God for a man and woman. The state of Indiana also go into hot water for passing a law that would provide some legal cover for people of faith, such as Christian business owners, who feel it would violate their religious beliefs to provide goods and services at gay weddings. Several states have similar laws. Even the federal government has a law that provides protections based on religious belief and practice, though it was originally intended to cover Native Americans who wanted to use Peyote (a hallucinogenic plant) in their religious ceremonies.
LGBT activists have a propensity to label traditional Christians as bigots and haters. They paint Christianity with a broad irrational brush and have recruited many in society to jump on their bandwagon. When Christians tell the gay community and the world that we love them but we do not love their sin, well, that just goes in one ear and out the other.
Should Christians fight back in the legal, political, economic, and cultural arena? Well, allow me to play devil’s advocate here. Christian business owners (such as those who own bakeries, floral shops, and wedding photography studios) might want to consider the stories of Jesus at the Canaan wedding and Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah. How does a straight wedding in Canaan two thousand years ago apply to gay weddings today? Well, Jesus supplied wine at the Canaan wedding … a lot of wine. Maybe you only go to dry weddings, but I’ve been to some wet weddings where some of the guests were not just pleasantly buzzed on a glass of good wine. Nope! I’ve seen guests get hammered, tanked, and falling-down-drunk at weddings. According to the Bible, getting drunk is a sin. Should Jesus have refused to turn the water into wine because some of the guests were sinning by drinking to the point of inebriation? Granted, we do not know for certain that any of the guests at the Canaan wedding were drunk, but it’s a pretty good guess there were some.
Lot was a fairly righteous man who moved his livestock business to the region around Sodom and Gomorrah. You may recall that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because everyone in those cities, except Lot and his family, were engaging in evil deeds all the time. The citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah had become so immersed in debauchery that they could not be redeemed. One of their sins was their enthusiasm for same-sex sexuality. I am guessing but it seems highly probable that Lot bought and sold goods and services with his neighbors despite their debaucheries. Since the entire population of Sodom and Gomorrah was guilty of such sins, how could Lot live among them and refuse to do business with them based on his religious beliefs?
Okay, I am no longer playing devil’s advocate. But the question remains: should Christians refuse to provide goods and services at gay weddings? If Christian business owners were to refuse to do business with all sinners outside the church, there would be no Christian businesses. Yes, situations arise where we need to take a stand based on moral conviction; I get it. We are to be salt in this world, a force that slows the process of decay. Still, I wonder if we are being overly selective about sins that inspire us to apply our principles. Perhaps God puts more emphasis on individual responsibility than we imagine. In other words, when people choose to sin, they own the sin; the person who supplied their tasteful wedding cake does not own the sin.
Apostle Paul has some thoughts on this topic as found in 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13 (NLT):
“When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.
It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; …”
You see, we can’t expect unbelievers in the gay community to comprehend the spiritual implications of sexual sins. That would be like trying to convince Colonel Sanders that killing chickens is an abomination before the Lord. The bottom line is this: taking a stand on sins in the church is a higher priority, according to God’s word, than taking a stand on sins outside the church. This does not mean we should not push back against sin in our secular society. I wholeheartedly support the right of Christian business owners to push back against sin based on their religious conscience. But sin in the church is our first concern. Before a Christian bakery owner refuses to provide a cake at a gay wedding he might want to think about confronting the unmarried worship leader in his church who sleeps with someone in the congregation. I’m just saying.
Recently, Phil Roberson, of the popular Duck Dynasty TV show, gave an interview with GQ magazine (which made me wonder if GQ plans to feature camo attire for hipster men). The GQ interviewer asked Phil a question about homosexuality. Phil’s answer included his opinion on same-sex sex (from a heterosexual male perspective) as well as a reference to same-sex sex that is included in a list of several sins within the Bible. Since the interview, Phil has been demonized by the gay community and progressives as Satan incarnate.
Some of Phil’s comments were likely an attempt at humor. He is, after all, a purveyor of humor on Duck Dynasty. But Phil does not veil his Christian faith or his personal preferences. He draws his faith beliefs from the Bible. If you don’t believe the Bible is God’s word to humanity or if you don’t believe in a moral and loving God who sets safe boundaries for human behavior, what difference does it make to you what Phil Robertson believes? Nevertheless, enlightened progressives & representatives from the gay community called Phil a homophobic bigot and hater. They claim such bigotry is born of ignorance. That’s a two-way street. In other words, one could say the same of some in the gay community and their beliefs about Christianity.
Here’s the truth: real Christians (I’m assuming Phil is a real Christian) feel sad and empathetic when they see people hurt themselves by engaging in sins. That includes ALL sins, not just those that aren’t fashionable at the moment. For instance, greed is not currently in vogue so a great number of folks consider it socially acceptable to demonize the greedy. If Phil is indeed a genuine Christian, then his comments about sins, as described in the Bible, are not an attempt to hurt people or make them feel bad about themselves. It’s just the opposite. It is a straightforward (no pun intended) effort to encourage people to stop self-destructive behavior and draw closer to God. After all, anybody who knows Phil’s personal story knows that he has experienced first-hand the devastating effects of sin and poor choices.
I’m fairly confident Phil knows that people can’t be forced to stop making bad choices. People will ultimately do what they want, not necessarily what is best for them. Some people will even claim to be enlightened when they are actually living in darkness. But Phil’s conscience dictates that he speak truth as he understands it. Every American should take note of this and rediscover the sacred value of free speech and how necessary it is for the survival of the human spirit. Without free speech we will unavoidably become slaves to someone else’s tyranny. And free speech is not a commodity for a select few. If everybody doesn’t have free speech, nobody has it.
Real bigots are not concerned with helping the objects of their loathing. Haters are not concerned with helping the objects of their hatred. Homophobes are not concerned with helping the objects of their fear. Is Phil Roberson any of these ugly things? I don’t know for certain, but I doubt it. (Anyhow, I wonder if any gay duck hunters feel conflicted by Phil’s statements, though perhaps they have not yet come out . . . of the duck blind.)
I recently watched a video where random people were being interviewed on the street. The questions focused on personal vices and sins. The responses of one young woman caught my attention. When asked if she had ever lied she replied, “Yes, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.” When asked if she had ever stolen she replied, “Yes, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.” When asked if she had ever lusted she replied, “Yes, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.”
We all have a tendency to look the truth in the eye and deny it. We also have a natural tendency to grade ourselves on a moral curve. We whisper to our innermost selves: “I’m basically a good person. Other people have done worse things.” The sobering truth is that God is not swayed by our comparisons to others.
Tragically, many people get seduced into a false sense of moral health when compared to everyone else. (I compare myself to Simon Cowell when I need to feel better about me.) But comparing ourselves to others obscures the accuracy of our inward gaze. In the Beatitude of Matthew 5:3, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This Beatitude about poverty in spirit is another way of describing the epiphany we have when we finally see ourselves as we really are—morally bankrupt and unable to avoid judgment despite the fact that there are many people in the world who are more reprehensible than us. It is that “aha!” moment when we realize that God does not grade on a cosmic curve when judging our life. It is the first step towards redemption and comes after we gaze inward, without rationalizations or comparisons to others, at our sins and shortcomings.
Ironically, we move further from God when we insist on maintaining the illusion that we are not a bad person. As soon as we admit the truth about ourselves, the heart of God melts and we can move closer to him. I’m not suggesting that we need to toss our value and self-esteem out the window. I am, however, suggesting that the best self-esteem and understanding of our value comes from God’s love and mercy expressed through Christ rather than from our perception of our self-worth compared to others.