The gay wedding cake debate is old news, except that it is not (it’s in the news again here). I anticipate that similar stories will continue to crop up and, indeed, they already have in the likes of gay wedding flowers. I had resisted in the past to share my views on this due to the heated nature of the topic and the cacophony of voices swirling around it. However, it’s back again and, to be frank, it is aggravating that this stand-off is still occurring. Christians, please bake the cake. Jesus said, “if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:40-41). I know, I know, “What about our religious rights?” Jesus did not state any exceptions for his religious audience who were being oppressed.
In verse 41, Jesus was referencing when a Roman soldier legally demanded you to carry their equipment for a mile. Jesus said, in that situation, walk an extra mile. This teaching of Jesus prefaces his teaching on loving your enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). To go beyond what you are demanded to do is to love. Don’t do what you have to do – do what you don’t have to do. I can see Jesus’ immediate audience, the Jews who had been oppressed by those awful Romans, retorting at Jesus when he said to walk an extra mile for a Roman soldier: “What will people think if they see me with a Roman? They might think I am supporting him or Rome! What about his sin and the sin of the empire? This soldier probably has raped women and killed innocent people. Guarantee you he has stolen property. Do you know what they do in their temples? And you want me to not only walk an extra mile but also give him my tunic and cloak?! I can’t condone their lifestyle.”
Jesus’ words still stand: “Give them your cloak. Walk the extra mile.” We like to think of love as looking out for the other’s best interest (and there is some truth to that). However, Jesus states here that it means that we serve those we disagree with and even those who wish us harm. If this is what Jesus said to a people violently and horrifically oppressed by a perverse pagan empire, what would he say to a Christian baker or florist today. If someone asks you to bake them a cake…
The logic of withholding a product or service on the grounds of not supporting the customer’s lifestyle is problematic. Are we really willing to live consistently upon this principle. Should a grocer withhold food from a gay couple? Should a car mechanic refuse service to a mother who had a child with the man she’s living with but is unmarried? Should an internet service provider refuse access to costumers who might look at pornography? Should a convenience store clerk refuse beer to some college students because they’re heading to a party where there will be debauchery and inappropriate behavior?
What about purchasing products from “sinners”? What of the greed and hedonism of wealthy business owners? What about a store owner who committed adultery and has left his family? What about a shop owner who goes home every night and drinks himself to sleep? What of the plumber who looks at pornography every night? If we are going to follow this logic to its end, then how could we allow our dollars to support those people’s lifestyles? There are stands to be made and lines not to be crossed. Refusing to bake a cake for someone in a lifestyle you deem inappropriate is not a stand God called us to make. The stand we make is serving those who don’t agree with us. Providing goods and services does not equal moral approval. It does mean being a good neighbor. The homosexual community is not your enemy. Stop acting like they are and start loving them.
This teaching was not unique to Jesus in Scripture. We find in Daniel perhaps the ideal case study for a Christian living within a hostile environment (truthfully, our’s is not hostile but we like to hype it as such). Daniel, being a devout Jew, finds himself under the complete subjection of the Babylonians. They teach him the Babylonian language, they give him a Babylonian name, and they give him access to Babylonian food and perks. Daniel retains his Hebrew name and refuses the Babylonian food. He never bends his knee to the pagan gods or compromises to the pagan practices. He also becomes the best and most faithful servant of multiple regimes whom absolutely oppose everything Daniel stood for. We remember Daniel. We remember that Babylon has fallen. Today, we have forgetten how to live as Daniel.
Jesus taught the religious right to love and serve the pagan Romans, dine with the dirty sinners, stand with the adulterous, and wash Judas’ feet. If we are going to refuse business over something we deem as sinful, then we must also refuse to do business with anything we associate with sin, such as greed, adultery, oppression, idolatry, and general immorality. That would pretty much rule out everything. We are called to be in the world, to engage with it. And that means we do business. Jesus taught us to bake the cake, go all out, make it the best cake you have ever made, and to even bake a second one for free…and do it with a smile. If someone sues us for a cake, we don’t just give to them the cake, we give them an extra one. If they ask us for some flowers, we also provide a vase.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Fine Print: This post makes no statement of legality or of what government should or should not do. This is not a commentary on whether or not the government should force business owners to sell products to everyone. Neither did I debate the nature of homosexuality and the church.