The uproar over the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” being passed in Indiana has been pretty ridiculous. It’s crazy that something as seemingly benign as a law that more or less confirms what should already be considered the law of the land (we are after all the self-proclaimed land of the free and home of the brave) could spark so much outrage. However, in this day and age we all know that standing up for any person of faith’s right to exercise this most basic freedom can’t be tolerated if it means that a Christian might discriminate against a Gay person.
When it comes down to it, that’s all anyone getting all worked up over this bill really cares about. Forget that they might find reason some day to want freedom of religion (or perhaps more generically, freedom of morality and conscience) for themselves. What about an adamantly pro-choice T-shirt designer being asked to provide a shipment of T-shirts for a pro-life rally? I suppose she would have no right to refuse such service; since any service that is available to the public cannot be denied to anyone, right? I suppose that a Jewish photographer being asked to take pictures at a Saturday wedding, even though it is the Sabbath, would have no right to refuse such service.
No, nobody really cares about those scenarios; all that anyone seems to care about is that a Christian baker must provide his services to bake a cake for a Gay wedding; he apparently has no choice in the matter. I was having a conversation recently about this very issue and the response was, “I mean, common, it’s just a cake!” I feel that is sentiment shared across social media. The outrage over the perceived “Discrimination Law” (even though the word discrimination never appeared once in it) was filled with a complete lack of understanding why a Christian would not want to provide a service for a Gay wedding. They are shocked, completely shocked, at the prospect that a Christian baker would actually have a crisis of conscience over it. After all, it is only just a cake, isn’t it?
First of all, a wedding cake is by no means just a cake. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you go a buy one this weekend “just because” you want some cake. After you recover from your aneurism over the downright criminal price tag you’ll realize that people wouldn’t pay that kind of money for “just a cake”. No, the wedding cake is symbolic of the union that is taking place at the wedding. At my own wedding the cake was put front-and-center right by the dance floor so that everyone could see it before it was time to cut. It is a very integral part of our culture’s ritual of marriage. It is a key component of the wedding celebration, and the baker who provides the wedding cake really is participating, in a very real way, in the wedding itself.
Still, even if people would acknowledge that, there is still a complete lack of understanding as to why that would be an issue for a Christian. In all of the back and forth, on both sides of the issue, I haven’t seen anyone stand up and actually explain why it is such a big deal for a Christian to participate in a Gay wedding; even if it is “just” providing the wedding cake. Why is it such an offense to the Christian conscience to participate in that act?
Of course no one on the left asks this question because they think they know the answer. Christians hate Gays because their “God” is an intolerant homophobe, and that just can’t be tolerated in this day and age (of tolerance). I mean, common, its 2015 for goodness sake!
The reality though, is so much more complex. Christians do not hate Gays. We are not homophobes (well some may be, but it’s not because of their faith). To really understand why this is a big deal, you need to understand what the Christian, Biblical, view of marriage is. It is so much more than just a man and woman living together for life. Consider the following passage from Ephesians 5:22-32 (NASB):
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
A lot of people, especially feminists, don’t make it past the first statement. They are revolted at the idea of a woman “submitting” to her husband. Never mind that they really don’t understand what this is talking about, that submission is not implying inferiority or indentured servitude. Never mind, that the husband is given the very simple task of being Jesus Christ to his bride (no pressure, really). But if we can look past the controversial opening, the really important part is at the end of this passage, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” This is probably the most significant statement about marriage in the whole of scripture.
God created marriage with a specific purpose: to be a picture for the relationship between Christ and the Church. It is true that marriage fulfills several purposes, but this is the ultimate one. Since the beginning of creation God has been writing a love story about Him and His creation, which reaches its ultimate fulfillment in the relationship between Christ and the Church.
The bond between Christ and His church is so strong that there is a true union between the two. He is the head, the Lord over His people, and the Church is His body. This union is truly mysterious to us. It is a spiritual truth that can be difficult for us, as mere mortals, to wrap our finite brains around. But, it is such a crucial reality that God wanted us to understand it. So He created the covenant of marriage to paint us a picture of this higher spiritual reality in a way that we can understand.
He created man, the husband, to show us the image of Christ, who loves his wife with such self-sacrifice that he nurtures her, protects her, provides for her, and if need be would die for her. He created woman, the wife, to show us the image of the Church, who submits to her husband’s Godly leadership, respects him, and serves him out of an unreserved love for him.
And it goes so much farther than just two people who love each other. The union between Christ and the Church is so powerful that, with Christ as the head and the Church as the body, though they are two entities, together they become one with each other. This is why God created sex, so that marriage could also mirror this oneness. When a husband and wife consummate their marriage through sex, something marvelous happens. Two separate bodies, that by themselves are incomplete, “become one flesh”, and together they form one complete whole. They share in a oneness that is akin to the oneness shared between Christ and the Church.
This is why marriage and sex to go hand-in-hand. It’s not just because God is a prude, and he wants to stifle our fun by putting unrealistic limitations on sex. Marriage and sex go hand-in-hand because they were both created for the same purpose; so that through each other they can provide humanity with a glimpse of the transcendent union between Christ and His Church, which is the greatest expression of love ever seen in the history of the universe. This is not an exaggeration. God was separated from His creation, His bride, who had sinned against Him. Being fully just He could not simply let the sin go unpunished, but His love for his creation was so great that he actually came in flesh as a man so that he could take the just punishment due to mankind upon himself. He sacrificed himself so that we, His Church, might live. There is no greater act of love in the history of creation; and this ultimate act of love is the greatest expression of God’s character.
Did you catch that? Marriage is fundamentally meant to be a symbolic representation of the relationship which is the ultimate expression of God’s character. That’s why God is adamant when he says that he “Hate’s Divorce” (Malachi 2:16). That’s why adultery is considered such a vile sin; listed in the 10 commandments right next to “Thou shall not kill.” Think about it, if marriage is meant to be an image of the relationship between Christ and the Church, then divorce implies that Christ and His Church can be separated (which they can’t). If a man cheats on his wife it implies that Christ could be unfaithful to His Church (which he won’t). Both of them are a betrayal of the truth about God and His undying love for His people. They are lies; images of the unbreakable being broken. They are an assault on the very essence of God, and that is something that a truly holy God simply cannot tolerate.
So what are we to make of Gay marriage? God makes it painfully clear in the Bible that the act of homosexuality is sinful (Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9), and based on what I’ve just described; it’s not really difficult to see why. Sex and marriage was specifically created by God to be expressed between a man and a woman, to symbolize the oneness between Christ and the Church. Homosexuality takes this picture and turns it on its head. What are two men supposed to represent? Two Christ’s with no Church? What are two women supposed to represent? Two Churches with no Christ? Both pictures separate Christ from His Church, which is supposed to be the entire point. The oneness shared between two men in sex, or two women in sex, is no oneness at all. Simple biology can tell you that a man and woman’s bodies are specifically made to join together, and no amount of screaming for “equality” from liberals can change that biological fact.
So why are Christians so adamant that they won’t, or can’t, participate in a Gay wedding? For the same reason they should be opposed to divorce or adultery: because it is a perversion of what is supposed to represent the most ultimate expression of God’s character. It’s not just that we think “Gay sex is gross, I don’t like it!” It’s not that we are simply being “homophobic” and hateful against what we don’t understand. No, we understand it all too well. We can’t participate in it because to participate in it is to insult the very essence of God. It takes His ultimate expression of love towards us, and throws it back in His face with a giant middle finger. No true Christian could stomach doing that to God.
This is definitely not “just cake” to us. To say that is like a man who takes an image of the cross, defecates on in, pours gasoline all over it and then turns to the Christian and asks for a match. Then, when refused, cries, “It’s just a match! You’re discriminating against me because I poop!”
It’s not about the cake, it’s about what you are doing with the cake and what the cake represents. It is a defilement of God’s character, which is everything that a Christian holds sacred.
What is really the greater offense? A couple getting their feelings hurt because their love isn’t being openly applauded, or the man forced to participate in the defilement of that which he holds to be most precious? And who faces the more dire consequences? The couple who has to find another baker to provide their wedding cake, or the man whose lively-hood has been destroyed by a lawsuit because he couldn’t betray His God?
I realize in a democratic society that if the majority want to say that Gay marriage is okay there is little that Christians can do about it, and we will have to accept that. But can you at least respect the fact that we don’t want to be a part of it? You may not believe in God, and you may think that everything I just said above is a bunch of fairy-tale, voodoo nonsense. But can you at least respect the fact that Christians believe this with their whole heart, and that it is a very serious deal to us? We don’t want to hurt feelings, but the sanctity of our God trumps everything.
I know a lot of my words will likely be interpreted as hateful. Please believe me, I’m not speaking with hate against Gays. Jesus was very clear about how we are to love everyone. He was often found in the company of thieves, prostitutes, and tax collectors; but even He lashed out with a righteous anger when he came across the money changers who were defiling God’s Holy Temple. There is no reason why a Christian should not serve a Gay man at their restaurant, convenience store, or even bakery. There is no reason why a Christian should not hang out with, or be friends with Gay people. But if you ask us to approvingly serve a Gay wedding; that we just can’t do. It’s so much more than just cake; it is everything we hold sacred. You don’t have to agree with it, but could you please show a little bit of that tolerance that we’ve been told so much about?