Plodding through the news this week has been an attempt in both Arizona and Kansas to pass laws that specifically protect business owners from being forced to sell their services to celebrate gay “marriage” ceremonies.
Some Christians have quickly distanced themselves from these laws (Andy Stanley, Jonathan Merritt, Kirsten Powers), while the media has shown that, as a general rule, it lacks even a rudimentary understanding of what is at stake here. The net result is that anyone who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the Bible’s teaching about this issue is being swept up in the tide of public opinion. So swift is the tide that even the senators who voted for the law in Arizona a few weeks ago are now publically renouncing their “yes” vote and asking the governor to veto it.
There are really three practical questions for Christians to wrestle through here:
1. Should Christians in any business decline to serve homosexual customers? The answer is obviously “no,” and even more telling is that I’m not aware of any case where that has happened. I don’t know of a single example where a Christian McDonald’s manager has refused to serve homosexuals, or a Christian car dealer has declined to sell cars to the LGBT community. In all the coverage of these bills there has not been one reported either. This is telling, especially when it is contrasted with people (like Merritt or Powers) who make it seem like Christians are really just looking for ways to close their doors to immoral customers.
2. Should Christian business owners use their business to celebrate or advance gay marriage ceremonies? The answer here is likewise “no.” And that is where the current debate comes in. When a wedding photographer in New Mexico refused to shoot a gay marriage, she was sued, and lost. When an Oregon baker refused to make personalized wedding cake for a same-sex marriage, the state ordered the business to close.
But I also grant that there is a lot of gray area here. The biblical principle in play is that believers should not “approve” of gay marriage (Rom 1:32). But what is “approving” of a wedding? Certainly attending one is approving of it. But what if you own a light business, and they want to rent lights from you? Is that approving? It seems clear cut if you are photographer or pastor or DJ—those are three people whose participation requires celebratory conduct—that selling your services to a ceremony would require celebrating it. But what if you are just renting out chairs?
This is why those decisions are best left to individual conscience. If you are a believer, don’t violate your conscience. It really is that simple.
3. Should Christians push for laws granting us the right to refuse to sell services to gay weddings? Well, it would be nice for those laws to exist (and even nicer if they were unnecessary to begin with). But I honestly can’t see how they would make any difference to anyone’s actions. Christians should not violate their conscience by going against God’s word—and it doesn’t really matter if its legal or not. I also can’t help but lament the legal fool-hardiness of these laws. If one of them does become law—which is looking very unlikely—it would obviously be struck down by a court in a matter of weeks. This past summer the US Supreme Court ruled that marriage should be defined by the states, and only a few months later federal judges began striking down state marriage laws. In New Mexico, the Supreme Court there granted that the laws protecting religious freedom and laws banning discrimination against homosexuals were contradictory, but they then ruled that where they contradict that the anti-discrimination laws should be followed. Nobody can really think that this new legislation would last at all. People are showing an alarming naiveté in thinking that these laws would last.
But that’s not really the point. The point is that as this culture continues to attack God’s word, it will turn on God’s people. And when that happens, persecution comes. When persecution comes, it will not do any good to look for laws to justify your conduct. If you are not rooted on God’s word, then you will be swept away with the tides of public opinion.