Freedom VS Equality
The legal and ethical conflict that has consumed the American landscape for the past few days is happening close to where my son and daughter-in-law live, Elkhart, Indiana. This doesn't involve them of course, but my daughter-in-law is a photographer and I asked her once if she would shoot (take pictures of) a gay wedding. Her answer surprised me. As a devout believer in Jesus and one who holds the Word of God in high regard, and believes in the sanctity of marriage I would expect her to say no. On the contrary she said she would provide the service, and that she would do it with excellence. Books have been written on this subject, but let me provide a frame work for a Christian response.
So what is the correct answer for followers of Jesus? First we need to understand the issue.
LGBT’s desire to have equal rights under the law. They want to be recognized as a protected group and reap the legal benefits thereof. That means that they cannot be discriminated against by those who engage in commerce. They want to get married with all the accompanying accouterments.
Business owners of Faith (particularly Christians) want to exercise their right of religious expression under the law to extend and envelop their business activities. They want to be able to refuse business to people who marry in a way that is outside the dictates of their faith, i.e., Homosexual weddings.
As a legal matter the conflict is not between gays and Christians, but against conflicting rights. The right of the individual to do commerce without discrimination, and the right of the person of faith not to be compelled by the government to act beyond its dictates. Both are constitutionally held rights.
Regardless how one believes the bible did or did not influence the framing of the constitution, the reality is that today we live in a secular society. As a result court decisions will largely lean to upholding the right of the individual over that of business, regardless of faith conflicts.
Churches, expressly religious organizations, and faith based schools are exempt on the basis of the establishment clause of the constitution. These organizations’ rights will over ride that of the individual, but only because they are not organizations of commerce.
For the Christian there are two ways to respond under a constitutional form of government.
1. As citizens of the United States we have an obligation to take part in our government. We don’t lay our faith aside when we do so. In fact it guides us in who we vote for and the causes we ask them to take up. Christians have a voice in formulating legislation, and should speak up when they feel that their rights under the constitution are violated. Our motivations should be righteousness and our attitude should be love.
There will be push back in a civil society as those of opposing ideologies work to shape culture to fit their worldview. The Scriptural principle in this is,
27 "But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. 32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
2. The second response is based on the above Scripture and Matthew 5:41, “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Once a law is put into place believers are under its dictates. We can either stand against it suffering the consequences gladly or we can submit to it honoring the authority over us. Our conscience will dictate which is the best course of action.
The second response is not constitutional, it is a gospel response. Everything is filtered through the lens of building the kingdom of God. Since Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world our fight is not to build worldly kingdoms but heavenly ones. As a photographer how does my work glorify God? How does my interaction with the world give me opportunity to share the gospel? How is my suffering under the dictates of a secular government give me an inroad to lost lives? Providing a service isn’t tacit acceptance of those served.
I understand the issue of marriage. It is a sacred bond between a man and woman that symbolizes the bond between Christ and the Church. But gay marriages don’t diminish the sacredness of the union any more than unequally yoked marriages, or multiple marriages, or marriages between two unbelievers. They are all stained with sin and mar the image of Christ and his bride. If the business of faith really held the sacredness of the marriage institution in such high regard then there should be background checks and interviews of all who request their services for weddings. Pastors do this all the time. Homosexual marriages are just more obvious, the easiest, and safest to point out.
If I were a baker, photographer, florist, or even a pizza parlor owner I would provide the service as I would any other patron. I would have a standard contract outlining my beliefs on the subject and assure the customer that the quality of my work would be commensurate with that which would honor my God. I would do it with excellence and be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within me. I would use the opportunity to witness the gospel to the point they might wish they had asked someone else. If anything should be offensive it is the gospel, not the taste of my frosting. I’m just saying.