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Nothing has so clearly shown the unbiblical commitment of liberal faith as the current firestorm about the legal requirement to facilitate homosexual behavior. People professing Christian faith have identified two reasons why followers of Christ should bake cakes for homosexual weddings: 1) Jesus would bake the cake, and 2) we should obey the law of the state.
It seems that many focus on the threat to religious freedom, which of course is important, but the all important question is the first, the claim that Christian love should move us to provide a service which contributes to sinful behavior. Although it can only be speculation, it does seem likely that few people who make the claim that Jesus would bake a cake, take a photograph, provide artificial insemination, or otherwise contribute to the sexual side of a homosexual relationship truly believe it is sinful. They more likely regard active homosexuals as victims, and the belief that sodomy is sinful as an oppressive belief of pre-enlightenment religion. In considering the issue, I will assume that the Scriptures really do teach that sodomy is sinful (which is not seriously deniable, although many have tried), and ask whether Scripture shows that Jesus, with his love and compassion for sinners, showed himself indulgent of sexual sin, even dismissing it, in favor of a ministry of justice, peace, and healing.
While advocates of liberationist views may often feel they have to get past the public’s spontaneous orientation to traditional readings of the Bible, the general public is right with them on Jesus’ anti-Pharisee polemic. Whenever sin is condemned, the man in the street is quick to respond with the words “hypocrite” and “judge not.” Matthew 23 gives Jesus’ final public address in that gospel, denouncing the scribes and Pharisees who bind heavy burdens for other people. What people fail to notice is that Jesus commended the Pharisaical idea of holiness; he denounced only the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:2-3; 23). We are not to neglect holiness in a concern for love of our neighbor.
The first reference by Jesus to sexual sin is arguably the most severe, in it Jesus declares that a lustful look is adultery in the heart and worthy of hell (Matt. 5:27-30). This is immediately followed by the stricture against divorce (Matt. 5:31-32), which, however precisely interpreted, establishes a far more restrictive regime for divorce than previous Jewish practice or the contemporary no-fault rule. The same formula of cutting off a body part (eye or hand) to avoid sin and hell is found in Matt. 18:6-9, which is particularly focused on causing believing children to “stumble” (clearly meaning to sin), but also has a more general reference (18:7; “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes” (NASB), also see a similar statement in Luke 17:1-2). Here again there is a reference to sin and hellfire, clearly indicating that to be the cause of sin is itself a sin worthy of hell. Matt. 19:4-12 declares the divine order of marriage, again prohibits divorce short of sexual immorality, and commends celibacy as superior to marriage. Mark 10:2-12 prohibits divorce with no qualification, Luke 16:18 does the same, John 4:4-26 relates the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, with Jesus mentioning the woman’s five past husbands and present cohabitation, the disputed John 8:1-11 relates Jesus saving the woman taken in adultery, admonishing her to sin no more.
There are no references in the Bible in which Jesus appears to loosen sexual strictures; he instead appears to tighten them. Even the woman taken in adultery is admonished not to sin again, while the woman at the well is implicitly rebuked. If anyone doubts that it is a respectful rebuke, note that it begins with an encounter about water satisfying thirst (a common metaphor for sexual satisfaction, even in the Bible (Prov. 5:15-20)). Jesus counsels her to turn to his water instead. The woman’s attempt to avoid the issue by citing Jesus’ different religion is met with Jesus saying that she does not know God, but she should worship him in spirit and truth (clearly implying that that is what she is not now doing).
Too often Jesus’ condemnation of hypocrisy is taken as a rejection of God’s moral law. The law itself is understood to be oppressive, and people are hypocrites because they cannot live by it (although requiring it of other people). The Biblical explanation of hypocrisy is far different than the popular (and liberationist) understanding. Jesus says that human beings are “evil” (Matt. 7:11), and identifies the source of evil as the human heart, which leads to “evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, lewdness, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness” (Mk. 7:21-22; also similarly Matt. 15:19). If we take Jesus’ moral condemnations seriously as his disciples, then the straight-laced morality of the past is not essentially wrong. If Christians at times have been too strict to the point of being unbiblical and cruel, that is a matter of detail. The old morality was right in its spirit, the hip culture of lewd language, sexual immorality, and general focus on gratification clearly is not. Could conservatives have a blind spot (as far as Jesus’ teachings are concerned) in considering the evils of capitalism? Perhaps, but they are not wrong, in fact they are indisputably right, that Jesus required a strict sexual morality, nowhere showing any dissent from that given in the Old Testament.
Didn’t Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners, and weren’t the religious people thereby scandalized? Indeed, but that is far different than contributing to their sinful activity. (We take it for granted here that sodomy is indeed gross sin, and thus a homosexual ceremony is gross sin. The observation, repeated ad nauseum, that Jesus didn’t mention sodomy is essentially a lame grasping at straws; Jesus didn’t mention rape, bestiality, or incest either, it is impossible to think he thereby approved those practices). The important point in the present controversy is that to contribute to sin is itself sinful, as Jesus said in saying we must not cause another to stumble, and, as a matter of justice, doing so is worthy of hell. Whether a Christian is ever in danger of hell is a point of controversy among Christians; sacramental Christians generally think so, Evangelicals tend to think not. But as children of God we do not want to offend God, that is indeed a sign of our salvation.
And so it is not the case that Jesus would have baked a cake to be used in a homosexual celebration. Rather his words in the New Testament clearly show that such an act is a sin, worthy of hellfire. Nor would Jesus, or the apostles, have obeyed a requirement of the civil authorities to commit such a sin, because Jesus was without sin (Jn. 8:46, II Cor. 5:21, Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 2:22), and the apostles clearly resisted the authorities when they commanded disobedience to God (Acts 5:29). What is presently required by antidiscrimination law in many jurisdictions is thus a human rule that disciples of Christ certainly cannot obey, rather they must take the penalty if they in fact are in a situation where such a law requires sinful action of them. They are not imposing their views on others, rather, they are being victimized for the sake of others’ hurt feelings.
Isn’t it the case that over the course of the last 60 years, Christians have learned to accommodate many other sinful things besides homosexuality? Yes, it is the case that the homosexual liberation movement has a real claim to discrimination here. To work at a movie theatre one would need to know that its presentations are not so contrary to Biblical morality as to be sinful (which is often not the case), one could even question serving at a public library (as the present writer did earlier in life) in view of its literature purveying sexual and occult material. Judges in civil courts are required to apply the state’s no fault (or other unbiblical criteria) to divorce suits, so faithful Christians cannot hold those positions. What about baking a wedding cake for a man and a woman who cannot marry by Biblical standards (i.e., one partner divorced his/her spouse for reasons other than adultery)? It would be rare if this is actually known, but if it is, the cake should be refused. To provide the cake is to contribute to sin.
The coming years may well see increasing pressure to accommodate things the Bible calls sin, especially the sin of sodomy. This may well be both by government coercion and social pressure, with the position of faithful Christians made more difficult as churches themselves accommodate sin, as even the Catholic Church is being pressured to do on a global scale. But the Word of God is clear. Jesus is indeed a gracious savior, whom we are to imitate. But he was a savior forgiving sin, healing the sick, and casting out demons, to those who came to him in faith and repentance. Outside of that, there is only the wrath of God.