A few months back, I posted on what our response should be to gays, specifically in the matter of whether or not we should bake a wedding cake for them if we had such a business. Of course on my end it’s quite easy to write such a post since I don’t own any business. Now there is the case (and at least one more pending) of an Oregon couple who have been ordered to pay a lesbian couple $135,000 because of their refusal to bake such a cake.
I don’t agree with such a ruling, although the law was in the books in Oregon. It was a case of a clear violation of law. But it was a law which violated the conscience of this couple on religious grounds. And in the United States of America, such a law seems to me to be a bad law, might we even say, unconstitutional? I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see this case go all the way to the US Supreme Court. Businesses in Oregon are not protected, while churches and faith organizations are. In other words I can’t refuse someone gay, or a gay couple business on the grounds of my religious beliefs.
First of all I would want to commend the couple for staying true to their conscience. I find it more than a stretch, the idea of psychological and emotional damage to the lesbian couple. Such a ruling is tantamount it seems to me to say we live in a new world, the right world, and everyone better measure up according to this new world, or you’ll pay the consequences.
On the other hand, I also believe that in the real world we simply have to learn to live well together with all of our differences. We don’t have to take it personally when many disagree with us, nor do they have to take it personally if we disagree with them. Doing so should be an art for the follower of Jesus. Just how do we disagree? Sometimes civil disobedience as in the case cited above may be necessary. I think of the struggle of Civil Rights when blacks, African/Americans so bravely took their stand in the midst of great opposition and danger.
That is where the new world of God’s kingdom come in Jesus comes to play in my thoughts here. A kingdom come in Jesus in the midst of the old world, and old order of things destined to pass away. But present in the midst of the old order still set in place. So then what are we to do as followers of King Jesus?
As one friend said, and has been said elsewhere, it may be best in this kind of situation, rather than breaking the law, or even if there is no such law on the books, not only to bake the wedding cake, but to bake two wedding cakes.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Jesus’ words here from his Sermon on the Mount were referring to the practice of Roman soldiers forcing Jews to carry their belongings for them for a mile. Jesus said that they should not only comply, but go the extra mile. This was in a context in which the Roman Empire, idolatrous at its core and in power with a heavy hand on its subjects was a source not only of consternation, but outrage. To help a Roman soldier did seem to many Jews in that day contradictory to God’s will. Although the stage had been set in the relatively recent past as we see in the case of Esther and Daniel, the prophet Jeremiah telling God’s people to live for the good of the society they’re in, even though that society would certainly not be in submission to the God of Israel.
And so my thought here is that we do best when we show extravagant love in some way, even when we don’t agree with those we are serving. To bake a wedding cake doesn’t mean the people are agreeing with how that wedding cake is going to be used. It isn’t easy where one might have to draw the line, to be sure. Christian photographers will be sued if they refuse to take pictures for a same sex wedding. And people shouldn’t violate their conscience. There needs to be more discussion on this. I’m only one voice right here at the moment, and we need the church’s collective voice here.
But I think we do well to err on the side of mercy as that which triumphs over judgment. That we don’t participate as in sanctioning what we don’t agree with. But we can participate and even appreciate what is good. Which we all do in some things (I listen to groups like the Beatles, and enjoy their music without agreeing with all the lyrical content in the songs). We want to hold on to our faith and to a good conscience, but we want to do so as followers of Jesus. And as those who want to live in and be a witness to the good news in Jesus of God’s grace and kingdom come in him. Only through that good news in the love and grace of God will the final needed good come for us all.