The fan certainly has been coming into contact with a lot of stuff regarding homosexuality and marriage lately. This is because, if I may understate the problem, sin is messy. Our laws have failed to reflect God’s laws for some time and so our politicians, having redefined “up” as “down” and vice versa, find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to reengineer all our helicopters and airplanes.
Christians who are genuinely trying to understand the true gravity of the situation are finding it very difficult to avoid getting turned all topsy-turvy. There are a lot of questions about specifically what should and should not be legal, as well as questions regarding what is and is not moral. This is especially the case for people who make money on weddings, but even some people running businesses that have nothing to do with marriage, say thrift stores, can become confused. Before we get started talking about those issues, we should briefly define the difference between things that are immoral and things that should be illegal.
Legality and Morality
It’s often been said that we shouldn’t try to legislate morality. Of course, this is a silly statement on one level. All legislation makes moral statements and operates from a moral position; this is unavoidable. However, there are some forms of morality we simply cannot enforce and shouldn’t try. We are taught by God’s Law not to covet, but the state has no capacity to know when someone is doing that, how strongly they’re doing it, or what would be an appropriate punishment.
Thankfully, God did not leave us alone. Old Covenant Law contains laws simply stating that a thing is wrong, as well as laws commanding the people (specifically the government) to do certain things to people who commit certain sins. The Christian starts with the assumption that these laws are good and just (Psalm 19:9; Hebrews 2:2), so he starts there when seeking to understand what is immoral and what should be illegal.
Much more could be said (and has been said) on this topic, but suffice it to say for now that not everything that’s immoral should be illegal, although everything that’s illegal should be immoral. When the government oversteps its bounds by making the wrong things illegal, regardless of how immoral those things are, the government is guilty of immorality itself. God has given civil authorities the sword and instructions on how to use it. Those who use the sword in the wrong way will be held accountable on judgment day.
Immorality Surrounding Homosexuality
I’m not going to bother making the case here that homosexual acts are wrong. This can be proven from Old Covenant Law (which actually says that they should be illegal) and from a few places in the New Testament. Homosexual acts themselves are condemned by Scripture, which makes the very notion of an homosexual marriage quite wrong as well, but there’s something more going on here.
If I wanted to start a nonprofit organization, there are certain standards my organization would need to meet—most notably that of not making a profit. I certainly could start a commercial organization and call it a nonprofit, but I would be lying or using the word wrong. The same is true of marriage. It is simply not possible for a homosexual marriage to exist; it isn’t a thing. God created marriage and defined it as the covenantal union of a man and woman before Him. You can no more have a homosexual marriage than you can have a nonprofit organization that makes a profit.
A homosexual mirage (as Doug Wilson is fond of calling it) is sinful on two fronts. First, it seeks to provide a place for men and women to commit sinful acts that is honored by society. Secondly, and most related to the discussion at hand, it seeks to abolish God’s established lawful union and replace it with an unlawful human union, taking something that is God’s and putting man’s seal of ownership on it—which in the long run accomplishes nothing.
It’s important, though, that we point out a couple of things. Having a tendency toward homosexual desires is not sinful in and of itself—just like having a tendency toward heterosexual desires isn’t. The difficulty comes when this tendency is nurtured and comes to fruition in lust or sexual acts. There is one lawful place for sexual activity and that is between a man and his wife. As Christians, we need to draw this distinction in order to avoid condemning the innocent or making light of the sins that heterosexual people commit.
Doing Business with Homosexual Persons
We now turn to the question of how Christians ought to relate to persons with homosexual tendencies in the marketplace, which is where so much discussion is today taking place. But here we need to make yet one more distinction. You see, people who commit homosexual acts are sinners—and so are you and I. If we were to attempt to do avoid doing business with sinners, we would quickly find ourselves out of vendors and customers. Besides that, we’d be setting a standard higher than Jesus who was willing to eat with tax collectors and prostitutes.
So if you’re the owner of a small thrift store and a man comes in, fresh out of the closet, wanting to buy some hangers, you should sell them to him. You also shouldn’t refuse to buy hangers from a gay cashier; he likely knows quite a bit more about them than you, anyway. Both of you are sinners and although his sin might be more open than yours, you should show him the same grace God showed you—He makes the rain to fall on the just as well as the unjust (Matt 5:45). Again, the only people who wanted Jesus to separate Himself from sinners were the Pharisees and I don’t think anyone wants to nominate them as our new role models.
Bakers, Florists, and Photographers
Just about everyone needs hangers and the use of them is not unlawful. The situation gets more complicated in the case of people who offer their services in weddings. How should a Christian photographer like myself respond when asked to photograph a homosexual wedding?
There are two ways to get married. You can grab one witness and a pastor and do the whole thing real quiet and under the radar. This is an unadorned and uncelebrated wedding. God created marriage as something to be rejoiced in, though, which is one reason why such a wedding is unappealing to us. This low-key wedding is not what Sarah and I did last year. We wanted our family and friends to be there celebrating and rejoicing with us in God’s glorious gift. We made it as fancy as we could reasonably afford. We had photographers, cake, flowers, and the rest of it.
These services and adornments serve to glorify the wedding, which is already glorious. You can make a wedding as fancy as you’d like and it still won’t be more glorious than God’s gift of marriage. The adornments serve to show that. By being as glorious as they can possibly be, they show how much more glorious God’s gift of marriage must be. This is why kings have such glorious halls and thrones, to illustrate the glory of the king and his kingdom. The same is true in weddings.
A wedding ceremony between two homosexual persons vowing to commit sinful acts with each other for the rest of their lives is emphatically not a glorious gift of God. The vows are sinful and the entire ceremony is an act of high rebellion against God. For the homosexual couple, the adornments are quite necessary, not to illustrate glory but rather to hide shame.
A Christian must not participate in this. We must refuse to call glorious what God declares shameful. But lets keep something in mind. We are not refusing to serve because the people are sinful; the Son of Man came to serve sinners and we should be willing to give our lives up for homosexuals (Mark 10:45). What we are refusing to do is adorn and glorify sin. Christians who do not refuse are sinning and need to do exactly what the homosexual couple does—repent and believe the gospel.
The Government’s Role
As I noted before, there is sometimes a major difference between what is immoral and what should be illegal. I mentioned above that someone who refuses to do business of any kind with homosexual persons is (probably) self-righteous Pharisee, but I maintain at the same time that the law should allow him make that decision. Let me put this as clearly as I can.
An atheist should be allowed to refuse to photograph a baptism ceremony and a Christian should be allowed to refuse to photograph a wedding. A Baptist baker should be allowed to refuse to make a cake for my future childrens’ baptisms—though I may write a less-than-stellar review on his Yelp page. Moreover, a republican owner of a small-town shop should be allowed to refuse to sell frisbees to students from a local liberal university—though I maintain he’s a varsity level jerk.
Nowhere in Scripture is the government given authority to coerce individuals or businesses to do engage in business with people they don’t agree with or like. That’s not what they were given the sword for and they should stop swinging it around so carelessly before they hurt someone. God will judge on the last day and in the meantime, you can find another florist.
The government doesn’t exist to make everyone good people, but rather to restrain the evil that is going to happen anyway. The government can’t fix men’s hearts and it wasn’t given that task. The civil authorities will have a hard enough time enforcing all the laws God did institute; we don’t need to muddle things up by adding more to the list.
There are quite a lot of jerks out there, you and I included. There are a lot of bigots and there are a lot of sexually immoral. God has but one solution for sinners. It’s not the government making everyone play nice. Rather, that solution is a person, the man Jesus Christ. There is no king but Jesus who can ultimately fix the problem of jerks, so the government needs to stop trying.
There is hope for jerks and hope for homosexuals. He eats with sinners and converts Pharisees by knocking them to the ground and blinding them. He saves sinners through His proclaimed Word, building His church as if the gates of hell were hardly there. That’s why it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in the government (Psalm 118:8, and Psalm 146:3).