Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Lately I have observed an increase in what I call “morality wars” around our nation, and what I have observed bothers me.
Most of what I see of late centers around homosexuality, and particularly gay marriage. Although I believe the state has the right to set its constitutional parameters on the issue of marriage, and that people of faith have a right to share what they believe about how to have a relationship with God, we also have an obligation to live out our lives in a way that is consistent; not only with our faith, but in ways by which we treat others consistently regarding ethics and morality.
I am referring to the ways we see people of faith treating gay people, individuals or couples, under the guise of religious conscience.
I believe that you and I have every right to live out our religious convictions. I do not believe anyone should force you to condone that which you believe is morally or ethically wrong.
Traditionally, we have honored people’s beliefs when it comes to forcing them to fight in the military, or receiving blood transfusions, even if that’s the only way to save their life. We allow people to withdraw their children from public education for a variety of reasons, including on religious grounds. This is all thoughtful and proper in our dealings with people, while at the same time respecting their beliefs or lifestyle.
But lately we have seen an increase in businesses across America refusing services to gay people or couples, because they are “in sin.” As a pastor of an evangelical, biblically-based church, I am as concerned about sin in the lives of people as anyone. But I do not see in the Bible anything that would indicate that business people, Christian or otherwise, should refuse to do business with someone based on their sin.
How many bakeries turn people away because they suspect, or even know, that the couple ordering the cake is living together, engaged in fornication? How many bakeries or restaurants refuse service to people they suspect of adultery? In fact, if that were the case, the baker would not ethically or legitimately be able to bake a cake for himself, or anyone else, because the Bible makes clear that we are all guilty of sin, ongoingly, and to deny that you would be a liar, and guilty of another sin!
Paul was a godly man, filled with the Holy Spirit, yet there is no indication that while he functioned in his “day job” as a tentmaker, or tent repairer, that he only worked for “non-sinners.” If he had such an inclination, he could not have worked in Corinth, which was a very sexually perverse city, or in any other city, for that matter, as unmarried people might be “sleeping together” in those tents.
How is it that so many people of faith choose a particular sin by which to judge, or to not associate with others? Jesus ministered to, and gave of His gifts to anyone.
Some people choose the sin of abortion as the line you cross, beyond which they will not deal with you. For others it may be prostitution. But whichever sin you choose, I fear you fall into the category that Jesus was referring to in John 7:23-24, when he was pointing to the blind spot of the Pharisees, when they said one kind of work was allowable on the Sabbath, but the healing of a person was not. He rebuked them for their “unrighteous judgment.”
Sin is sin, and every sin put Jesus on the cross, not just certain sins. Clearly God does not tell us to cease from dealing with people, just because they are sinners.
Should a drug store or pharmacy refuse to sell a single woman a pregnancy test, even if they know it is for her? Should a store manager refuse to sell condoms to a man, just because he suspects, or even knows, that the man is not married? Are we called to be the moral police, or are we called to love people with the love of Christ, and pray that God will convict their hearts of sin?
In the case of the baker, he didn’t have to provide the gay couple a cake-figurine he didn’t carry. His problem was simply refusing to serve them because of a specific sin in their life. I believe such actions to be biblically unjustifiable.
I know people will tell me that we are to judge sin. But when the New Testament tells us to judge sin, it is referring to the sins of professing believers. Also, when God tells us not to associate with those in sin, He makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 that He is not talking about unbelievers, but rather those who profess to be believers, yet insist on living in open sin!
Certainly there is a moral struggle going on in our nation today. But we will not win the day if we succumb to the ways of bitterness, or false-righteous indignation. We are called to respect all people, not just respectable people. We are called to love all people, not just lovable ones.
Too quickly God’s people seem to forget: “But for the Grace of God, there go I.”
McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.