Posts Tagged ‘same-sex marriage’

We’ve all seen signs posted in restaurants and shops announcing that management “reserves the right to refuse service.” It’s one of those commonly used legal phrases that most people have a vague understanding of without really knowing what it means. Can a business really refuse service? Who can they refuse it to? More importantly, who can’t they refuse to serve?

Over the last several decades, the civil rights movement in the United States has led to important legal changes guaranteeing the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination based on sex, gender, race, religion, and a number of other factors. The Americans with Disabilities Act also prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, making it illegal to refuse service to individuals who are disabled or handicapped.

Whether you post a sign or not, businesses never have the right to refuse or turn away customers simply because of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, nationality or religion.

When Can You Refuse Service?

While the right to refuse service is not a get out of jail free card allowing businesses to turn away people they don’t want to serve, there are some valid reasons for asking customers to leave. Individuals or groups who are causing trouble or being disruptive may be asked to leave, while restaurants or other businesses with a capacity limit can turn away customers to prevent this limit from being exceeded.

There are various other examples, but the key thing to note is that declining to serve someone has to be reasonable and justifiable. For example, if there are safety concerns, or someone is harassing your staff members, then a business can refuse service. Likewise, if the way a person is dressed violates health codes, you cannot legally serve them.

In recent months we have seen one particular conflict played out more and more frequently: the clash between businesses’ “right to refuse service,” the religious freedoms of business owners, and anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and lesbian couples.

As same-sex marriage and civil unions have become legal in several states, and recognized by the federal government, several businesses have refused service to homosexuals on the grounds that they don’t agree with or support same-sex marriage.

On one side, business owners claim the right to practice their religion in good conscience. On the other, same-sex couples are protected from discrimination in public accommodations. Liberty of conscience is protected by the First Amendment, but freedom from discrimination is protected by the Civil Rights Act. Like many areas of the law, the issue of discrimination and freedoms is constantly evolving, but the first few decisions in cases involving same-sex couples have found that businesses do not have the right to refuse service to gay or lesbian customers any more than they do to those of certain races or nationalities.

In the end, while individuals might have their own beliefs, places of public accommodation must be open to all patrons who follow reasonable rules. (regarding behavior and dress, for example) But using sexual orientation as a factor in refusing service is simply too arbitrary in today’s world.

For a free society to function, a wide range of speech and behavior has to be tolerated, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to approve of it. For example, I don’t go to nightclubs and bars, but I have many friends who do. While I think that much of today’s rap music is appalling and degrading of women, I cannot stop those who enjoy listening to it. (Except in my home or car)

What would Jesus do?

We have all read the horror stories of Christians being fined or losing their businesses because their “religious beliefs” would not allow them to render services to gay couples.

Unfortunately, when it comes to gay marriage, we have people who seem to be unable to tell the difference between tolerance and approval.

Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

Jesus was saying that we should not make our beliefs a law to everyone else. We must judge ourselves and our own acts and not pass judgment upon someone rashly. Because we all have secret sins that we protect from the public eye. It’s all matter of perspective. A small speck, when held up close to our eye, becomes a like a log to us, and prevents us from seeing around it. It’s the same speck, just a different perspective.

There were men outside of Jesus’ circle that judged him, calling him a drunkard and a glutton. Others judged him because he was a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors. (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:36-50) They too, could only see the speck in Jesus’ eye but could not remove the log in their own eye.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Did you get that? What do we have to do with those we believe are outside the Church? Does refusing to render service from a public business to someone we believe is outside the Church showing the love of Christ? Is refusing to bake a wedding cake or preparing a flower arrangement worth withholding the love of God?

The hypocrisy of religious freedom

Reading the stories of Christian businesses refusing services to gay couples I see dangers of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy in the florist who refuses to provide a floral arrangement for a gay couple’s wedding, but has no problem selling a flower arrangement to the same gay man, (who is a long time loyal customer) knowing that that same gay man is most likely buying them for his gay partner.

Hypocrisy in the Christian photographer who refuse to take pictures at a gay wedding, but has no problem photographing a straight wedding, even though during the straight wedding there is drunkenness and lewdness of all kinds.

History—both modern and ancient—is tragically full of examples of times and places where religious discrimination has been the source of persecution, death and destruction. And yet, none of those religions have escaped the sad reality that human beings—given the power to do so—will use God as an excuse to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings.

The First Amendment both prevents the government of the United States from favoring one religion over another and protects each and every one of us—as American citizens—to believe whatever we choose—or choose not—to believe about what God thinks, approves of or blesses.

Bottom line is this: The First Amendment protects your rights as an American to the free exercise of your religion. It does not protect your right to use your religion to discriminate against others!

A biblical compromise

Suppose instead of the bakery owner refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, they went ahead and took the order and after doing an excellent job, placed a well written note with the receipt about their love of God and how they came to believe in Jesus?

Suppose instead of the florist or the photographer refusing to render their services for a gay wedding, they agreed to do the wedding and while they were there, they lovingly shared the love of Jesus with the other guests? Who knows what spiritual seeds could be planted by just loving others the way Jesus loves them.

Jesus gravitated to the dregs of society and spent significant time with those who were considered on the fringe of his culture. Jesus did not place a standard on the kinds of people he would love and care for. In fact, if he did have bias, it was towards those who were ignored, discarded, or undervalued.

While it may be nice to tell others about our hearts for compassion via social platforms like Twitter or Facebook, it’s ultimately our actions that show our love for God. 

Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners. They called him this because it was true. Jesus himself said that he didn’t come for the spiritually healthy, but for the sick. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31–32) If Jesus was a friend of sinners, we should be too.

Casting Crowns – Jesus, Friend of Sinners

It would appear to be indisputable that same-sex marriage and the open celebration of homosexuality is quickly becoming a part of the global cultural agenda—and responding to the rise of the homosexual agenda is a teaching that is permeating even the Christian world, claiming that since Jesus never mentions homosexuality nor does He specifically condemn it, homosexuality must be legitimate in Jesus’ eyes.

This is not a judgment against those who maintain a homosexual lifestyle. I have always maintained that we are not to judge those outside the Church, but we are told to judge those inside the Church—those who claim to be followers of Christ but live a life not consistent with God’s Word. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

This is a very important issue for the Church. For if there is no accountability to God, then the secular worldview would have us to believe that homosexual marriage is a completely legitimate issue. Pedophilia and bestiality would not be out of the question either, should the prevailing secular worldview deem these lifestyles to be acceptable and the “new norm.” The biblical worldview, however, is grounded in the unchanging tenets of the Word of God. This is where the loudest cultural clash occurs and the two worlds collide.

So, did Jesus condemn, speak of, or even mention homosexuality? As it turns out, yes, he did. As a matter of fact, he spoke very clearly and directly about the issue. Let me begin with Matthew 19:4. Here Jesus is answering a question from the Pharisees regarding divorce. However, his answer is very telling concerning the entire issue of sexuality, marriage and the proper form of marriage. Here are the words of Jesus:

“And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4)

Here Jesus upholds male and female procreation as a part of male and female marriages, and the sanctity of male and female sexual relationships within male and female marriages. His answer tells us that since creation anything outside God’s standard for sexuality and marriage is a perversion. This truth cannot be legitimately explained away. And yet many pastors and religious leaders are teaching just the opposite! In the words of Billy Sunday, “What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today!”

We read in Galatians 5:19-21, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) We would expect, therefore, that while the Son of God was on earth, he taught much regarding sin. Indeed he did, and we would profit from a humble reflection on some of the sayings of Jesus about sin.

Some of the Lord’s remarks about sin have been misapplied. For example, when a woman was taken in the act of adultery, she was brought to Jesus for judgment. He dispersed the multitude by stating, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) The verse is loved by many who hope that its recitation at just the right moment, will free them from judging or being judged.

Note the following: First, Christians should judge one another (1 Corinthians 5:12-13; John 7:24). Second, the Lord did not condone this woman’s sin. He commanded her to “go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.” (John 8:11) Third, Jesus revealed the hypocrisy of the accusers who were more interested in ensnaring the Lord than preserving holiness in their community. (cf. Mark 7:1-13) And where was the MAN who also was caught in the act of adultery? (cf. Leviticus 20:10) Fourth, Jesus respected the Mosaic law that prohibited adultery and the punishment that the law prescribed. He also regarded the laws of accusation and testimony, which may not have been satisfied in this case. And lastly, the response to this situation by Jesus was not designed to insulate wicked and unrepentant individuals from rebuke or discipline in the Christian Age.

Other sayings of Jesus teach us regarding the nature of sin itself. Sin is a master to whom we become enslaved to. (John 8:34) Sin is blinding. (John 9:39-41) Only the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

By joining with the secular worldview on sin we have become spiritually blind. Only complete submission and sincere obedience to Jesus Christ and God’s Word will remedy our spiritual blindness.

When the Lord was criticized for eating with sinners, he revealed the purpose of his coming by responding, “They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

But if there is no unrighteousness and no need for repentance, then there was no reason for Jesus to come and his death and resurrection was meaningless.

One of the most memorable sayings of Jesus on sin is found in Matthew 26:28. It reminds us of the purpose for which Jesus was born, suffered, died and was risen from the dead. Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins.”

This ought to enlighten us regarding what Jesus taught about sin. Sin is so horrible that only the spotless blood of Jesus can atone for it. His love for the sinner is so deep, he was willing to pour it out for them. Thanks be to our Lord for teaching us the truth about sin and providing the ransom.