I just read the post of another Christian blogger today entitled “Bake for Them Two”. She approached the current controversy raging across America (highlighted by the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by their state legislature back on March 26, 2015 and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence) over the issue of freedom of conscience versus the right to non-discrimination based on sexual preference. Most everyone has already heard of this loud, ongoing debate that is raging in our culture, so I won’t restate it here. What I would like to do is offer a different Christian perspective than that which was promulgated by the author of the above referenced blog spot, Jessica Kantrowitz. (See the post at: TENTHOUSANDPLACES.ORG )
The headline caption on this blog post is a pointedly biased paraphrase by the author of Matthew 5:41 where Jesus said, “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Her mis-appropriation and mis-interpretation of this Scripture by paraphrase as it applies to supporting the premise of the argument made in her blog post is: “If someone forces you to bake a cake for a gay wedding, bake for them two.” So let’s see if we can’t break down her premises one at a time in light of what the Bible really says.
But, before we delve into that, let me first take a moment to sort cursorily through the judicial arguments at play here and establish a simple legal hierarchy which to follow. I do this primarily because the blog’s author begins by setting up her position of persuasion from the standpoint of Jesus being under Roman rule and Roman law at the time of His earthly ministry. Since, according to her blog, a Roman soldier could compel you to carry his equipment a mile, that the Christian response Jesus advocated in His Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew Chapters 5-7, was to “go the extra mile” and carry it two. This is a straw man argument!
A key point to make is we are not under Roman law as the Jews were at that time in history. They were conquered people forced to live under the laws of their conquerors, the Romans. Hence Jesus says, “If anyone forces you to go one mile”. Thankfully, because of the founding of this great country of ours by wise and godly men based upon the principles of free religious expression, a Biblical worldview, and upon the heritage of English Common Law, we do not (at present at least) have to be compelled to do something (whether carry a soldiers gun or bake a gay couples cake) that goes against our wishes. You may say, “yes, but if you are open for business to the public then you must give equal protection under the law and not discriminate against those who seek your services.” I agree, as far as that goes. But let’s look a little deeper into the issues.
Herein is the crux of the dispute: Do anti discrimination statutes trump a person’s First Amendment right to “the free exercise thereof” of their religious views guaranteed by the First Amendment? This is part of the legal hierarchy I mentioned where I believe that a law found in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution trumps a state or federal statute against discrimination. And, I would take this a step further up the mentioned hierarchical chain; God’s Moral Law trumps all of our laws, even the U.S. Constitution when it comes to issues of conscience. For example, though abortion has been upheld by the highest court in our land as a protected act, if I believe (rightly) that this practice violates God’s Moral Law then I have a duty to my conscience to oppose this barbaric practice at every turn, and most certainly when it comes down to being forced to be complicit in this practice, even if only passively. I will obey a Higher Law as it trumps the lower laws. So the hierarchy is this: God’s Moral Law (as revealed in His Holy Word), The Bill of Rights (Constitutional rights), then local, state and Federal laws. We are blessed to live in a country under such a system where not only are most of our laws fair and just, but we also have a right to free exercise of our religion, and a God-given right to dissent when these laws violate our understanding of His Moral Law. What a great country we live in!
So, it is reasonable for one to conclude (as I understand the baker in question at the Indiana pizzeria did) that though they would serve any customer who came into their place of business, they could not provide food (cake, pizza, hors d’ oeuvres, photographs) for a ceremony that had significant religious meaning for them without violating their conscience. This I also agree with. I will not here get into why “gay marriage” is a misnomer applied to a Biblical covenant between a man and a woman and is not marriage at all, but rather save that subject for another post on another day. The beauty of our free enterprise economy is that there are other places to take your business if a merchant does not want yours. There are plenty of other butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers who would have no “conscientious objection” to catering a gay event.
This raises another free enterprise question that perhaps the writer of the blog post did not consider. She says that if the law (anti-discrimination law I suppose) says you should bake the cake, then bake two. How would a customer, any customer, react to ordering a cake and then getting two and being charged twice for them? OK, you say. Give them the second at no charge. So now, the baker is not only expected to violate their conscience, but at the same time lose money in the deal? Astounding!
She further goes on to equate a Christian’s living by their dictates of conscience as “digging our heels in and insisting on our right to discriminate”, and as such this attitude and action “sends hundreds and thousands of people fleeing churches and Christianity entirely”. If it is done hatefully, I cannot disagree. But we are called to be winsome in our message of love, though not compromising, as I will discuss now.
So, what does Scripture say to us that might help us know the right way to respond in this situation? Let me first start by agreeing with Jessica about the real point of this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, which is “The Law of Love”. That because God loves all people, the righteous and unrighteous (sinners; and such we were), so we too are to love all men, even those who do not love us and may even be our enemies. That is transformational love. That is God’s supernatural love in action!
However, her conclusion that the right thing for Christians to do is to violate their consciences and their understanding of God’s Moral Law in the hopes of being loving and conciliatory and not hurting and driving people away is wrong-headed and a misunderstanding of the Scriptural principal. Lost people do not need to see capitulation, appeasement and compromise from Christians! It is sadly too often made by those who (she made a point of saying that she does not believe gay marriage is immoral) often use it to try to promote a tolerance that leads to a loss of the distinctiveness of God’s Holiness as expressed in His Moral Law. This is a true disservice that we do to our brothers and sisters, whether gay or straight, I believe.
So, what is the correct Christ-like response? I believe that it can be found in Paul’s admonition to the Ephesian church to grow in Christ-likeness by “speaking the truth in love”. Ephesians 4:14-16 It can also be found in Jesus’ example with the woman at the well in John 4:17-19, as well as in his response to the woman caught in adultery in John 8:10-12 (both of which, by the way, were violations of the religious moral laws and the civil laws of the land).
To the woman at the well he spoke truth (“sir, I perceive you to be a prophet”), and did not dance around her immoral history, but rather met her where she was at through honest and truthful dialogue and in a non-judgmental manner, with the ultimate goal of helping her find her true need met (of which the multiple sexual dalliances had only been her way of seeking to satisfy this true need), which was and is the “Living Water” borne out of a relationship with Christ!
To the woman caught in adultery who was about to be stoned (as the law required), He simply said to her (after the accusers had all left) “neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” He spoke the truth in love and yet held to God’s Moral Law without capitulating to the circumstances of the situation of that person and compromising on moral truth.
This is living by the Law of Love; God’s highest Moral Law. This is what we as believers are called to do; to love God first and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is what Jesus said in Matthew 22:35-40: “One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
As to the rhetorical question in the title of this post, I would say this: We all know Jesus was not a baker, he was actually the bread itself. He is the Bread of Life to all who will come and eat!