Some Thoughts About The Freedom Of Religion Debate

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Recently there has been much talk on the cable news networks about the state of Indiana and the Freedom of Religion Act.  Some have argued that gays should be allowed to enter restaurants owned by Christians without reprisal, and that refusal to serve gays is similar to blacks being denied service in the 1950s.  Some Christians have countered that Christian bakers and photographers should not be forced to render their services for same sex union ceremonies because doing so violates Christian convictions.  Where should a Christian stand on these issues?  Answers do not come easily in a morally eroding society, but I would like to offer a few simple guidelines.

First, Christians should not completely remove themselves from those whose sexual practices violate Scriptural principles.  Paul, for example, said that the admonition to refuse company with fornicators is not applicable to all the fornicators of this world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).  Such a standard is impossible to keep.  Therefore, I would suggest that any venue open to the general public should be open to those who practice homosexual activity.  Our church, for example, is having a financial seminar in a few weeks and a homosexual couple has requested to attend.  We will allow them to attend, share with them the love of Christ, and hopefully have a positive impact on them for good and for God.  The Lord has called us to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16).  It is difficult for us to be such if we completely remove ourselves from the sinners of this world.  Therefore, if I owned a restaurant as a Christian, and a homosexual couple entered, I would allow them to be seated and served.  I feel this reception in no way compromises my religious convictions.  We are allowed to eat with any unregenerate person (1 Corinthians 10:27).  Jesus and His disciples do eat with sinners (Luke 5:30-32).

The problem gets stickier, however, when our activity is perceived as an endorsement of a lifestyle that the Bible labels abominable.  For example, should I as a Christian landlord rent to a homosexual couple when they will practice their sin on my property?  Does my catering of a homosexual union ceremony equal an endorsement of this lifestyle?  Is it legitimate for me to be involved in a celebration of something that the Bible calls sinful?  This is where society should allow for the expression of religious liberty.  Our constitution guarantees “the free exercise” of my religious convictions.  Therefore, if my religious conscience is violated by a particular activity, no government should make it illegal for me to abstain from that activity.

The Christian community has not historically viewed homosexuality as a civil rights issue but a moral issue.  To the Bible believing Christian, therefore, homosexuality is not on the par with being a person of color or a person of disability.  Christians have historically believed, with Biblical substantiation in both the Old and New Testaments, that homosexuality is immorality.  Therefore, to be forced into a situation where such activity must be condoned or celebrated is a breach of religious conviction.  Society is free to disagree with this conviction, but it is not free to force a capitulation of thought or practice with regard to it.

Recently, for example, I was asked to do a wedding ceremony for a heterosexual couple that had been divorced and were seeking remarriage.  I graciously explained to this couple that the solemnizing of this ceremony violated my religious convictions.  They graciously understood and are seeking another avenue to have this ceremony performed.  It never entered their mind to sue me for discrimination because they knew the decision was not based on malice toward them but on a religious conviction concerning what the Bible teaches concerning marriage laws.  This freedom of expression has to be upheld for people of faith, lest religious freedom cease to have any meaning.  I was not asking this couple to agree with my interpretation.  I was asking the couple to accept my freedom to have an individual soul liberty of religious expression.

This appears to be the intent of recent freedom of religion initiatives.  Such legislation is cropping up now because Christians in particular are sensing that their religious freedom of expression is eroding rapidly.  This is very alarming to the evangelical community.

If these freedoms continue to erode at this rate, it will not be long before Christians will be fined and/or jailed because of religious expression.  Lamentably, I perceive that this may happen in my own lifetime.  Christians must return to the Bible, develop solid convictions, and remain true to the sacred text of Scripture regardless of societal ramifications.  Dark days may be ahead.  In light of this, may we be politically active to support and elect politicians who are convinced that religious liberty is worthy of protection.

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