Christians, Businesses, and the Brave New World

There have been several stories in the news lately about Christian business owners who are being sued for refusing to provide their services for same-sex weddings. A handful of Christians have lost their businesses as a result of their stance. On Sunday, I read an article about how Christians in business should act towards the LGBT community. “Mission, Ministry, and Same-Sex Ceremonies” was written by an unnamed PCA pastor who believes that it is unbiblical for Christians to refuse goods and services, like flowers or a cake, for same-sex ceremonies:

Namely, this florist—and many other Christians involved in providing the trappings of  the American wedding industry—are incorrect regarding the biblical principles for providing their goods or services for a same-sex ceremony. I believe they are in error due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, due to a conflating of a personal “ick” factor with biblical morality, and due to an unhealthy fixation on the individual rights of Christians versus the corporate calling of the Church.

The author writes that by refusing to provide goods and services Christians are failing to show love to their homosexual neighbors and are hurting the mission and work of the church to spread the gospel:

I understand the well-intentioned efforts of Christians to honor God with their work, and I applaud them for it. However, when Christians misunderstand the nature of their work by loading it with all sorts of ministerial freight that it just does not have, they don’t serve the mission of the gospel. When we serve certain sinners but not others because we’ve baptized our “ick” factor as a biblical standard, we are not being the salt and light we think we are. When we slip into asserting our rights instead of living as those “bought with a price,” we do not serve the good news of Jesus Christ.

I believe that the author is completely and utterly wrong. I believe that he has misunderstood and misrepresented the beliefs and motivations of these Christian business owners. I’ll explain why I disagree with each of his points, but first, I think it’s worth noting that the pastor is clear that he would not perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. I’m glad that we agree there. I do wonder what the author’s stance is on attending a same-sex wedding. I agree with those who have argued that we shouldn’t attend, because it’s a sign of support and approval of the ceremony and what it stands for.

The author’s first point is that the refusal to provide services for these ceremonies is a misunderstanding of the “priesthood of believers.” While all work is ultimately to God’s glory, he writes that there is a difference between the role a minister plays in the wedding ceremony and the role business owners play in providing flowers, music, cakes, etc. He believes that only the minister represents God’s authority. Therefore, according to the author, there is no “religious” reason for Christians to refuse.

While it is certainly true that flowers and cake and music and decorations are merely “trappings of the American wedding industry,” it’s not necessarily true that Christians who refuse are doing so based on a misunderstanding of their role. Is it not possible that these Christians hold personal convictions that providing services for same-sex ceremonies would be participating in a celebration of sin?

You don’t have to believe that flowers and cake are somehow redemptive to believe that your participation in a same-sex ceremony would be an approval of the ceremony itself. If these Christians believe that their participation is sinful because it would appear to be giving approval, then should we force them to act against their consciences? Isn’t that contrary to what Romans 14:23 teaches?

The author’s second point is that Christians who refuse services for same-sex ceremonies are conflating their personal “ick” factor with biblical morality. His argument is a combination of two common objections: we’re just grossed out by homosexuality and we’re singling out this particular sin to object to. The author wonders whether these business owners are making sure they aren’t participating in other types of sins when providing their services. As an example, the author writes that since pride, gluttony, and not caring for the poor are sins, are business owners refusing services to most of the middle class and all the upper class in America?

I have three points in response here. First, we should be concerned about all sin. If we aren’t as concerned about adultery, abortion, hatred, gossip, etc. as we are about homosexuality, then we should work to root out sin in all facets of our own lives. The answer is not that we should therefore be lax on homosexuality.

Second, it isn’t wrong to be repulsed by sin. Heaven help us, all to often we are completely at ease with sin. That said, many of the Christian businesses in question have gladly and willingly provided general services to their homosexual neighbors. They have cultivated relationships and friendships. They have shown no indication that they find their neighbors to be “icky.” They have simply refused to participate in a ceremony that celebrates sin and mocks the biblical origin and purpose of marriage.

Third, the author is concerned that Christians aren’t investigating whether or not their services might be used in to promote sin. I believe that 1 Corinthians 10:25-29 addresses the issue here:

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? (1 Corinthians 10:25-29 ESV)

We should go about our business dealings doing our best to honor God in all we do. We do not need to investigate the background or purposes for every transaction. However, if someone comes to us and says they want our services for something sinful, we should refuse, gently and with humility, but we must refuse.

As an example in the beginning of his article, the author poses a question from a medical professional about needing to provide services to any and all with very few exceptions. However, would that medical professional provide an abortifacient to a pregnant woman? I hope not.

Unlike the example in 1 Corinthians (eating meat or not), homosexual behavior is not adiaphora. Scripture clearly condemns it in many places. This is not a matter of Christian liberty, or an area where Christians can simply agree to disagree. Christians should interact with sinners, but we shouldn’t participate in their pagan ceremonies. And it is a pagan ceremony, what god is honored in a same-sex ceremony?

The author’s last point is that refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding is an “unhealthy fixation on individual rights” vs. the “corporate calling of the church.” He writes that American Christians are too focused on individual rights. As slaves to Christ, we must be willing to set aside our rights for the good of the church and the advancement of the gospel. According to the author, we should be focused on the power of the gospel for the salvation of sinners and not on our boycotts.

My question is what gospel are we proclaiming if we cater to sin and promote it through our actions? If we show our approval of same-sex marriages by providing our services, are we truly loving our neighbors? This is the major issue of our day. Our stance on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and related topics matters very much. We are to be kind and at peace with others to the best of our abilities, but when we are asked to participate in sin, we must refuse.

The first century Christians were asked to offer a pinch of incense on the altar to the Emperor. Many refused. They were deemed intolerant and unloving. Why didn’t they offer the incense so that they could continue to spread the gospel? Because it was a sin.

I believe Christians are right to refuse to participate in these ceremonies. They are acting on their convictions that same-sex weddings are inherently sinful and that participating would be approving of and promoting sin. We should be supporting and encouraging these believers instead of binding their consciences by telling them to participate in something they believe is sinful. The mission of the church is not harmed by their refusal. These Christians are standing firm on the issue of our day. We must do the same while offering the hope we have that we are all sinners and that Christ is our only salvation.

If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point. — Elizabeth Rundle Charles

6 thoughts on “Christians, Businesses, and the Brave New World

  1. Timothy says:

    Sad that this PCA pastor refused to stand up for these beliefs he wrote. Here we have ordinary Christians willing to stand up for their beliefs to the point that they lose their jobs, and a PCA pastor not willing to stand up for what he believes about them doing so. Ironic.

  2. Karen Gosche says:

    I am clapping for your very complete and sensible reply. I too was troubled by this article by this unnamed PCA pastor and that Aquila printed it without name. I sent the article on to the elders and pastor of my church. One question I had of course if he stands by his opinion why not name himself. If his church family came to him for advice would he not counsel them the same as in this article. Why hide? Good job it was many of the things I thought of but more!

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Well, that’s a sticky issue isn’t it. There are legitimate reasons for second marriages. Without digging into the details, it would be impossible to know one way or the other. If the caterer knows the people in question and knows that the marriage is based on adultery, that would be one thing. But as I said in the post, I don’t think it’s our role to quiz everyone we meet as to whether or not there might be sin involved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s