Over the past year we have seen bakeries in both Oregon and Colorado thrown onto the national stage as they were sued for refusing to make a cake in honor of a same-sex wedding. The courts determined that both companies illegally discriminated against the same-sex couples to whom service was denied. In fact, the Oregon baker was ordered to pay the same-sex couple $135,000 for the emotional and mental damage that resulted from denial of service.
While there is much to say about this, my intention is not to focus upon the government’s infringement of religious liberty, because much has already been said regarding this issue. My intention, however, is to look at this situation from a different angle and to consider the question: Can a Christian in good-conscience bake a cake for a same-sex wedding? I’m not proposing that these bakeries are wrong by any means, as I am a proponent of religious liberty. A reasonable person should not be forced to violate his/her conscience. As Martin Luther said during his trial in April 1521, “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”
With that said, I believe that the owners of these bakeries had every right to deny service, because to do the opposite would violate conscience, which, as we see in Scripture, is not safe. Romans 14:23 teaches us that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Simply put, to act against conscience is sin; however, is baking a cake for a same-sex wedding always sin? Is this a black and white issue, or is there liberty here? If baking a cake gives affirmation and approval to sin, then there is no liberty here in Christ. The only reasonable response would be to deny service for a same-sex wedding; but should denial actually be our response? If a Christian bakes a cake for a same-sex wedding, does this undertaking always give approval to the uniting of two men or of two women?
One year ago, my response to that question would have been a resounding yes, but now I’m not so convinced that this is a black and white issue. Recently, I read The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield, and my thoughts on homosexuality are being flipped upside down. My convictions regarding same-sex marriage have not changed in the least, but my lenses have been adjusted to see the great divide that we, as Christians, have created between “us” and “them.” I use this language to further demonstrate the great divide. For some reason we have both created and widened this gap rather than rubbing shoulders with those who we disagree with. Too often we are the unloving ones, as we view anyone in a same-sex relationship with disdain and hatred. Too often we end the conversation before it ever begins, and that is why I bring up the issue of baking cakes. The cakes here are the hypothetical issue (at least in my case, because I do not own a bakery or intend to own a bakery) that represents a bigger problem. When we turn down service are we burning a bridge before it’s even built, or are we truly acting out of conviction? When we refuse someone service is it because we are disgusted, or is it because we truly love the person and are concerned for their soul? When we refuse service are we treating this individual as a second-class citizen, or are we still affirming that this individual is created in the image and likeness of God?
It all comes down to this: Does providing a service affirm that of which we disapprove? If yes, then we must say no. But does it really? Can we bake that cake in affirmation that these are two image-bearers of God, yet at the same time reject the lifestyle and hold it up as sin against a Holy God?
I can’t help but wonder whether or not we are too quick to burn bridges before we ever actually have meaningful discourse about God’s great love toward sinners. Aren’t you glad that someone loved you enough to proclaim the love of God, which has been poured out to sinners through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death upon a cross? Aren’t you glad that someone called you to trust in Jesus Christ in the midst of your sin and rebellion? Why do you think that one particular sin is beyond redemption when God saved you from a whole host of sins?
Whether we would bake the cake or not, let us attempt to repair this strained, if not non-existent, relationship. By no means am I advocating an affirmation of sin, but I am advocating an affirmation of human beings who have been created in the image and likeness of God. Let us love one another and do everything possible to be at peace with one another (Romans 12:18). If hostility and rejection do come, let us continue to pray for people’s souls and to trust in Christ and appeal to Him alone. After all, He promised us that in this world we will have trouble but that we should take heart, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33).