Much has been written about whether state laws compel Christian business owners to perform services (e.g. cater, photograph, or bake) for gay weddings and if so whether states should pass new laws providing a faith-based exemption from such obligation. Instead of adding my voice to the thousands who already have expressed a view on this aspect of the controversy, I encourage Christian business owners to consider the following when deciding whether Jesus wants His followers to offer professional services at those weddings.
1] First, let’s remember our primary objective as Christians, especially Evangelicals, is to share the good news of Jesus Christ and His love and resurrection with a lost and broken world. A serious commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission compels believers to identify chances to connect with the lost and dying. For Christian business owners this should translate to pursuing enthusiastically opportunities to do business with those who do not know the Lord. Doing so allows them to demonstrate to customers the love, mercy, kindness, and grace of our Savior – by their behavior and the manner in which they conduct business.
It ought to excite us, then, when nonbelievers want to patronize our businesses because it allows us to establish and nurture long-term relationships with them. Such relationships can eventually lead to conversations about faith, the Bible, and Jesus. What a tremendous opening for the gospel.
Unfortunately, many Christian business owners refuse to capitalize on opportunities to build authentic relationships with nonbelievers, especially those in the LGBT community, simply because they disagree with their lifestyle. In doing so they do the gospel and the Great Commission a serious disservice and miss a prime opportunity to share Jesus’ love and truth with those who need Him. Their refusal to provide professional services at gay weddings also intensifies the animosity the LGBT community has towards Christianity and undermines efforts to reach them with the good news. Is that really what the Lord wants?
2] Second, let’s remember one of the most powerful lessons of Jesus’ ministry. When He joined Matthew the tax collector at his house for a feast attended by numerous sinners, religious leaders were horrified. How could anyone claiming to speak for God surround himself with such despicable reprobates? Didn’t He realize that socializing with such people condoned their sin and celebrated their lifestyles?
Jesus dismissed their concerns and explained that they (the religious leaders) were far from God, not those who invested time building relationships with sinners.
He reminded His followers, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32, NKJV). Sadly, many believers forget that lesson and refuse to associate with anyone whose lifestyle they disapprove of. Such actions directly contradict Jesus’ message. It is an important reminder for Christian business owners, too, who God may have blessed with a company for the express purpose of reaching the spiritually sick, not to make money, achieve success, and infuriate those who have yet to meet the Son of God.
3] Many Christian business owners argue that if they provide professional services for a gay wedding society will wrongly assume they approve of the gay lifestyle. They insist that such a misunderstanding undermines Christian principles and dishonors Jesus’ teaching. Surprisingly, they often fail to express similar concern that their refusal to provide professional services for gay weddings might be misinterpreted as hateful, judgmental, and laced with condemnation. If society’s misperceptions concern some Christian business owners, then society’s view that we’re hatemongers ought to alarm them most, since that represents the antithesis of Jesus and His message. How can believers make inroads with the LGBT community and a skeptical, secular society when they observe frequent acts of self-righteous antagonism instead of acts of humility, service, and compassion? We need to ditch the self-righteousness and redouble our efforts to humbly serve with compassion.
4] If Christian business owners genuinely believe it is inappropriate to provide professional services for any wedding that contravenes Scripture, they should refuse to photograph, bake cakes, or cater many heterosexual weddings as well. Jesus tells us: “Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32, NKJV). Adultery, of course, was proscribed in the Ten Commandments. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that marriage between a man and a divorced woman (and presumably vice versa) violates God’s standard.
Christian business owners who refuse to provide services for gay weddings but happily offer services for heterosexual weddings involving a divorced party are acting inconsistently. Such hypocrisy suggests the refusal to offer services for gay weddings has more to do with their own attitudes and biases than it does with biblical principles. Of course, I’m not suggesting Christian business owners refuse to provide services to weddings involving a divorced party. I’m simply pointing out the hypocrisy demonstrated when they service those weddings but not gay weddings.
In fact, a Christian business owner genuinely committed to following biblical principles in his or her business must extend those principles well beyond the issue of marriage. They also will avoid providing services to any event that celebrates unbiblical lifestyles such as greed, materialism, idolatry, and dishonesty. Such sins are far more widespread in our country and were consistently and unambiguously condemned by Jesus in Scripture. I wonder how many Christian business owners who refuse to serve gay weddings eagerly serve events at greedy hedge-fund offices, high-end car dealerships that promote materialism, marketing firms that celebrate excess, and political consultants where dishonesty is critical to success? Those Christian business owners who do, I would argue, possess a motivation far less noble than upholding the sanctity of God’s Word.
Again, I’m not suggesting Christian business owners decline to serve hedge-fund offices, car dealerships, marketing firms, or political consultants. I’m simply pointing out the inconsistency that exists in how many of them apply their principles.
5] Many Christian business owners who refuse to provide services at gay weddings insist they are not discriminating and do not hate gays. They simply want to defend the traditional view of marriage. But I wonder if any evidence exists to support that claim. Are they involved in reaching out to the gay and lesbian community and developing strong relationships with them? Far too few links exist between the Evangelical and LGBT communities. If these business owners are true to their word, they will prove it by leading the effort to address this deficiency. Otherwise it’s all talk.
6] Finally, we need to remember that people’s lifestyles and behaviors change after they come to Christ, not before. We need to avoid trying to force change in others before salvation. Such transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Though Christians universally embrace this truth in principle, too often we operate as though we expect sinners to change before we share the gospel. That is unbiblical and counter-productive. Let’s remember our role is to love, serve, and minister to the lost and dying, while the Holy Spirit’s role is to change hearts.
I encourage believers, and especially Christian business owners, to reexamine how we fulfill our role as it relates to reaching the LGBT community with the good news of Jesus Christ. Is refusing to provide professional services at gay weddings really the best way? I don’t think so and doubt Jesus does either.