Are you tired of talking about gay wedding cakes? I am too, actually. But do you know what I’m more tired of? People putting words in Jesus’ mouth. A lot of probably well-intentioned people are going around telling Christians that they need to act more like Jesus and bake some gay wedding cakes. I would really like to dispel some of the fog that hangs over their arguments like the San Francisco smug cloud.
First, let’s start with the fact that Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax-gatherers, and other sin-filled outcasts. That’s quite true. But I would like to point out a few things about this. One, homosexuals are probably not happy that you are comparing them to prostitutes, tax-gatherers, and other sin-filled outcasts. Either homosexuality is not sin, and Christians should accept it as an alternative righteous path. Or homosexuality is sin (like fornication and usury), and, like Jesus, we should compassionately call homosexuals to repentance.
Some people point to Jesus and the woman caught in adultery as a sign that Jesus “didn’t judge.” But he did judge, even in this case. He judged that the Pharisees were not properly following the law: they did not bring forward two witnesses to the adultery who were innocent of the adultery (as the law required) and they had also failed to bring the man caught in adultery. In other words, they were not following the judicial law of Israel. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He sent the adulteress away with these words, “Go and sin no more.” How close-minded of Jesus.
The prostitutes and tax-gatherers that Jesus ministered to were sinners Jesus had come to heal. He said so much in response to the Pharisees’ criticisms. Just read the account in Mark 2:15–17:
And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Notice from this passage that Jesus fell directly between the perspectives of his day. He didn’t agree with the Pharisees that even great sinners should be outcasts from society. He treated them with dignity, empathy, and love. But he also didn’t just accept sinners as they were. He didn’t come to sinners to leave them as they were. He came to them to fundamentally transform them. He wanted to leave them ex-tax gatherers (like Zaccheus) and ex-prostitutes (like Mary Magdalene). That’s an important point. Christians need to be like Jesus in compassion and understanding. But it is not Christ-like to tolerate sin in one’s friends. It is Christ-like to seek healing for the sins of your friends.
Self-congratulatory, “open-minded” Jesus appropriators indicate that Christians should accept homosexuals because Jesus accepted sinners. That’s not exactly the case. Jesus loved sinners. He still does. But his love for them would not allow him to leave them as he found them.
So what does that mean for Christians and homosexuals? For one, it’s quite a stretch to say that the only way to love homosexuals is to do for them whatever they ask, no matter how much it goes against what you believe is right. Forget baking cakes for a moment. What if one of your good friends, a practicing homosexual, asked you to be in his gay wedding? Would you be his “groomsman”? I think it is more helpful to think about this in those terms.
Because Jesus wasn’t dealing with strangers at his table. He was dealing with his friends. To say that baking a cake for a stranger is the same as dining with your fault-filled friends is quite the stretch. To say the least. And it continues to smack of the very self-righteousness that Jesus condemned, and of which so-called “homophobes” are continuously accused.
So, what if Christian bakers were to try this tack instead: A homosexual comes into their store and asks for a gay wedding cake. The baker says, “I don’t believe gay marriage is right or good, and I don’t feel comfortable being party to a gay wedding ceremony. But I don’t have anything against you as a person, and I would love to get to know you and find out more about where you are coming from. Would you and your boyfriend/girlfriend like to come to my house for dinner? I’ll even bake a cake.”
Maybe we could bridge some of the animosity that keeps growing between orthodox Christians and homosexuals. And maybe the gospel would actually be forwarded. Either way, it seems like something Jesus would do.