a Third Way in the bake a cake discussion

About a year ago to the day, while the discussion was still going on  in the new dilemma whether or not Christians should bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, I weighed in with a post which hit some of the spot for that time (yes, bake the wedding cake). Surely much more needed to be said then, and we’ve moved past that part to some extent.

Scot Mcknight in his recent book, A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together (see current Kindle price, a bargain) advocates a Third Way, even as he acknowledges that both conservatives/ traditionalists and progressives argue strongly that there are only two ways.

The Third Way he suggests in a nutshell goes something like this. We all live together in the community of the church with all of our differences, of course, and fundamental to this discussion with our brokenness. And in doing so, as the church, we help each other go on in the path of holiness as those living in God’s grace and ongoing forgiveness in and through Jesus. We don’t want anyone to leave the church, just because they’re in a struggle and perhaps over a sin issue they can’t overcome.

This reminds me of Pope Francis’s recent Exhortation to the Roman Catholic Church, which I think actually is a good word to the church at large: how the church pastorally needs to think through how it can be present for everyone. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the church is to slough off concern over sin, but rather to be present in Jesus for the salvation and healing of sinners, which really includes us all.

Back to Scot McKnight’s thought: Many who experience same sex attraction, in spite of their desire to follow Christ, and regardless of how long and hard they’ve prayed, find that this attraction remains, while they are not attracted at all to the opposite sex. Scot shares something of the story of Wesley Hill, an evangelical New Testament professor, along with some most helpful words born out of this struggle.

Like many, Hill has found that the change for him apparently isn’t to come in this life. But what change he is experiencing is to begin to see his same sex attraction as something in a way to be embraced as a cross, as he takes the way of the cross in living faithfully to God’s call in Jesus according to scripture, by abstaining from same sex relations, and doing so with others of us who need to do the same thing for different issues, all on the road to holiness together. And that he looks forward to the day when the Lord will crown his self-denial with the Lord’s praise.

But on to the wedding cake issue. Love might mean that we can bake the cake, and attend the wedding, even though we’re not in agreement, so that we can actually have some sort of relationship with those people. For a Christian business to simply cut them off may send the message loud and clear that same sex activity and union is not accepted as God’s will. But it essentially closes the door to any relationship with them, and can send a message of antagonism and opposition to them as people.

Instead we need to think of ways that we can be present to them, even as we need the same presence from each other. A presence not based on how well we’ve done, persisting in spite of a number of shortcomings, which is going to be the case in any relationships worthy of the name relationship. A friendship not based on any good we see in another, or with the idea that they’ll become, or may become a Christian someday. But simply because they are who they are, period. End of thought.

Of course we want all to find and enter into the same good news that is central in our lives, for sure, and out of love. But love knows no bounds, the Father is waiting and ready to run with arms outstretched to any who may be coming his way. Something we are all desperately in need of. Something for each of us, and for everyone else in the world in and through Jesus.

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