Gay Marriage and the ‘Friend Zone’

on November 13, 2015

Now that same-sex marriage is being treated as the law of the land, Christians find themselves in precarious friendship scenarios – and I’m not just talking about deciding whether or not to attend a gay friend’s wedding reception. The challenges are costly.

One of the many problems with mass legalized same-sex marriage is that Christians are struggling to love our gay neighbors and simultaneously uphold God’s Word when it comes to sacrament of marriage. The end result doesn’t play out well. Many Christians are faced with a choice between pleasing our gay friends or honoring Christ.

These two things are not mutually exclusive, and yet, it has been hard for some, especially Christians in the small business world, to maintain both friendships and convictions. However, Baronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, proves it can be done. Just not the way you might expect.

Recently, The Seattle Times published dueling opinion editorials by Stutzman and her former friend and client Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed. In Ingersoll and Freed’s op-ed, “Why We Sued Our Favorite Florist: Marriage Equality Must Be Truly Equal,” the couple did what most of us mere mortals do in friendships: focused solely on themselves.

The two men explain how they harbor hurt feelings. From their perspective, they were made to feel “categorized, depersonalized, labeled,” so they decided to sue a 70-something grandmother for declining to service their same-sex wedding ceremony.

“We were shocked when the shop’s owner refused to sell us an arrangement for our ceremony,” wrote Ingersoll and Freed. “We weren’t asking for her blessing, only an elegant display that would complement the beachy theme we wanted for our wedding.”

The same-sex couple wrote a lot about their sexual orientation and how it sets them apart from other clients. But not once did they mention Stutzman’s religion and how Christianity set her apart from other florists.

While Ingersoll’s op-ed depersonalized the grandma florist as merely “the shop’s owner,” Stutzman offers the background story of good friendship in her converse op-ed, “Why a Friend is Suing Me: the Arlene’s Flowers Story.”

“I knew [Rob Ingersoll] was in a relationship with a man and he knew I was a Christian,” wrote Stutzman. “But that never clouded the friendship for either of us or threatened our shared creativity – until he asked me to design something special to celebrate his upcoming wedding.”

Friendship is an integral part of our Christian faith. True, our friendships with non-believers encompass different dynamics than the accountability and support we find with other Believers. Nonetheless, it is through our friendships that we can demonstrate the goodness and mercy of Jesus. The hard part is not falling into the trap of appeasing sin for the sake of our non-Believer friends.

It was through Stutzman’s passionate defense of her faith-based convictions that we also saw her words showing compassion for a friend, even amid a tense legal battle. And with it, Stutzman testifies to the love and truth offered by Jesus Christ.

“Most people, seeing that headline, might think: ‘Shouldn’t it be “My Ex-Friend Is Suing Me?’” Stutzman continues, “But Rob Ingersoll will always be my friend. Recent events have complicated — but not changed — that fact for me.”

Stutzman hits on something here.

Christians are called first and foremost to love and obey God. For this reason Stutzman declined to participate in creating an arrangement that would celebrate a same-sex union. But after God, Christ instructed us to love our friends and neighbors as we would love ourselves, even despite their sexual orientation and despite how we might feel hurt or betrayed. (Matthew 22: 37-38) As I’ve written previously, Christians must work (I say “work” because love doesn’t come naturally when your livelihood is threatened and your reputation is disparaged) to love others the way a parent loves their child. We must be genuinely burdened for the sin with which our neighbors are struggling and never abandon them. This kind of love and friendship comes from a devotion to Christ, not the world.

Baronelle remains faithful to her convictions. She also remains Rob’s friend. Should Rob need her for prayer, counsel, or just a pretty floral arrangement for any occasion besides a wedding ceremony, Baronnelle is ready to be counted on – an inspiring example for all of us.

  1. Comment by Alex Soderberg on November 13, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Lots of us Christians were reasonably comfortable having gay acquaintances in “Don’t ask, don’t tell” situations, and it worked just fine. It’s pretty obvious that one of the goals of the gay movement is to up the level of drama by turning every interaction into a Big Confrontation – “You either accept me as I am, or I’ll call you a BIGOT!” In other words, emotional blackmail. It worked really well in academia and in the leftist churches (although they have paid the price for wimping out on morality – look at those empty pews). Now many of the evangelicals, especially the younger ones, are also wimping out. All a Christian can do is keep repeating “Disapproval is not hate,” because it’s true, and some of our gay friends will get huffy, brush us off – and we’ll survive that, and in doing so will see yet more evidence that the real intolerance is not from the Christians but from the haters of religion.

  2. Comment by weshlovrcm on November 19, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Disapproval is not “emotional blackmail.” As a Christian gay man, I take great exception with your implication that we are “either Christian or gay.” I am both and God loves me every bit as much as He loves you. . You aren’t anything special, because you sleep with the opposite sex and if your sin of homophobia is more important to you than friendship, that’s on you. You can explain that to Jesus on Judgement Day. Good luck!

  3. Comment by MarcoPolo on November 16, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Granted, there will always be people who resort to legal avenues to resolve civil disagreements. Oh, wait! That IS one of the legitimate ways to resolve civil disputes!
    So, if our collective laws attempt to make an institution like Marriage an equal right, shouldn’t we then accommodate the Law?

    I too, have convictions that cause me to question some people’s intentions, but since it has been reasonably clear that Gay and Lesbian people are not a treat to anyone (or their religion), that revelation should assuage any fears of those who wish to deny our brothers and sisters their respective Rights.

    I’ve made numerous accommodations when I have to work for extreme Right-wing clients, but that doesn’t mean I am beholding to their ideological stance on things that I feel are injurious to our society.

    And if ever there was a need to sue, at least it would be on the grounds of an established law.

  4. Comment by AndrewDowling on November 16, 2015 at 9:52 am

    This is a direct quote from your post:

    “Gay and Lesbian people are not a treat to anyone.”


  5. Comment by MarcoPolo on November 16, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I stand corrected…THREAT was my intended word, and I have since edited my error. But thanks for revealing your lack of compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters.
    Henceforth, I’ll try to proof-read my posts, better.

  6. Comment by weshlovrcm on November 19, 2015 at 12:39 am

    More “tolerance” from the stalinist “You will say Merry Christmas or you hate Christians” side.

  7. Comment by DavidPHart on November 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    “Why we sued our favorite florist” – because we talk about love and inclusion and tolerance, but we have NO intention of practicing them.

  8. Comment by weshlovrcm on November 19, 2015 at 12:44 am

    This from the side trying to emotionally blackmail/bully/silence any business which supports pro-equality Americans and use deceitful bathroom scare tactics to take away the right of gay people to work. I suggest you look up Kevin Swanson, Steve Anderson, Theodore Shoebat and James Manning, members of your “tolerant” side, all of whom call for the execution of law-abiding, taxpaying, gay Americans.

  9. Comment by jjgrndisland on November 19, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Judging from the frequent TV news stories about homosexuals getting arrested in public restrooms and parks, I’d say “law-abiding” is hardly the right word. Decent people don’t meet for sex in a privy, it’s not only illegal but disgusting. In our most recent local story, one of the offenders who grabbed a plainclothesman’s groin was an Episcopal priest. Real class.

  10. Comment by Glenn Barkan on November 20, 2015 at 5:38 am

    Why don’t they just go to prostitutes like decent, classy straight people!

  11. Comment by weshlovrcm on November 19, 2015 at 12:28 am

    “Friends” don’t use you as an excuse to disobey the Golden Rule and then flaunt their open rebellion to Jesus. Perhaps the headline should have read: “Why We Sued Our ‘Tolerant’ Florist Who Is On The ‘Loving’ Side Trying To Bully/Silence Chase, Wells Fargo, Doritos, Campbell’s, Starbuck’s, Disney, Etc.”

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