Should I engage in commerce with openly homosexual people?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: I’m a committed Christian — and I don’t want to go down the wrong path here... but the laws of the land have changed so that it’s now illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. But how about me as an individual Christian consumer? Is it sinful to buy products from a bakery owned and run by a male homosexual married couple?

Answer: No — that’s not a sinful activity in itself... but we need to be a little careful here. It could become sinful if you put the sinfulness into it... and you can do this in two ways: by either by causing your brother to stumble... or by teaching that sin is okay… but you can’t do it by purchasing a croissant from a homosexual baker.

Let me get the uncomfortable part of the way first... because God did not mince words when talking about this sin and its penalty. God calls homosexuality detestable, and he assigns the death penalty for those who practice it… 

“‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:13, NIV)

… but he also says the same thing about eating pork or shellfish, charging interest on loans… and a whole bunch of other restrictions that were a part of the Law of Moses. But revelation has continued, and now we have the law of Jesus. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it, and Paul taught that our righteousness now lies in the belief that Jesus did just that.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17, NIV)

 “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
(Romans 10:4, NIV)

What this means is we believers no longer live in peril of the law (Romans 8:1) — and why not? Because we’ve experienced the freedom of grace! (John 8:36). As such, we should be gracious to others — including a homosexual baker. Christians often miss two huge things when discussing this issue. First, God was gracious to us... so, we should take a knee. Second, no sin is better or worse than any other sin.

You see, it is so easy for a heterosexual Christian to loathe the homosexuality of an unbeliever… which is okay to a point… because God loathes sin, too. It’s just that God doesn’t loathe a homosexual’s sins any more than he loathes a heterosexual’s sins… and I will remind you that the churches are packed with people who are involved in fornication, adultery, lying, slandering, stealing, etc.… none of which is “better” in the eyes of God than homosexual sodomy.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. We Christians should respect the law because we are still bound by the law… but only as a rule and a guide for life, not as the source of imminent condemnation. What we have then is an opportunity to behave graciously to sinners every day… and that’s what I’m talking about. We should still stand up for truth and speak against sin… but while being mature in our methodology — and an aspect of maturity is understanding what ground the enemy has already taken… and then changing operations to accommodate this fresh intelligence.

You see, the culture has already won here. It has taken the last generation’s idea of normal and has homogenized that with the new idea that homosexuality is also normal… and there’s little anyone can do about that now. Social and religious conservatives fought that fight for decades — and they lost. They will never retake that ground.

So, since we cannot un-homogenize society, and since homosexuality’s acceptability is on the rise, it is no longer reasonable to place the onus of avoiding them on Christian people… although, it’s still the individual’s choice. If anyone wants to drive an extra five miles to buy an apple turnover, that’s on them. But life will soon become unlivable if we spend all our time dodging the new normal.

I understand that this is not a biblical solution; it’s a practical one… but we Americans are a practical people. This is why I suggest that Christians just get on with their lives... but with balance. We may have lost that fight, but God did not put us in the world to hide. Indeed, we are still disciples of Christ, and we should be proclaimers of his resurrection. But we can’t do this in a closet. We are called to be salt and light… a city that is not hidden under a bushel… and this is why we must mix — to engage. But when we do, we are called to do it with grace.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

I need to cover one more issue: the gray areas of sin and how they affect the weaker brother — and how your response to this issue might affect your pastor and your church. You see, this issue is a “disputable matter.” What you believe about it doesn’t affect your salvation... but it affects many other things. No Christian man is an island. Everything affects everyone somehow.

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:13–23, NIV, emphasis mine)

I recommend reading all of Romans chapter 14, but this second half carries the point. Now, Paul is talking about disputes over whether certain foods are unclean in this passage, but I am using it as analogous to how a believer should handle himself in the church concerning the homosexual baker.

In the underlined section near the top, Paul speaks to the subjectivity of sin. Not all sin is subjective, however. We should not murder, lie or steal. But this is not that. This is about how you feel about the issue as it relates to God... and what you do about your preferences as it relates to the other brethren.

I’m not sure if you are involved in a Christian fellowship, but do you have a pastor that has already weighed in on the subject? Or are there other people in your congregation who feel strongly one way or the other about this? I’m too socially progressive for most Christian’s tastes... and you should be a little careful with what I said in the opening sections. But I feel very strongly that the issue is precisely analogous to the food in this section of Romans. This is not a matter where sin is crisply defined. It is a matter of conscience — it’s about how you work with God as you work through the issue… and it is often a matter of your laying down your life for others as they work through their issues.

Back in a time when the LGBT community was on the ascent — although nowhere near the heights of recent years — a Christian woman friend of mine had a gay hairstylist who ran a multi-chair salon. He was a great stylist, too — and she adored him… and why not! He was a personable guy who chatted amicably with customers and with the other stylists. Unfortunately, that chat often included his gay escapades. 

Now, this was out of my friend’s comfort zone, but she hung in with him… because you can’t replace a stylist so easily… not one of this level, anyway. But his offensive shop-talk increased with her subsequent visits, and it was growing increasingly graphic. Sitting at home one day it just came to her that the stylist was not being personable; he was being evangelistic… and the moment she realized that was the moment she decided not to go back.

If my friend did go back to that stylist after her spiritual epiphany, I believe it would have been a sin for her. (Just understand that no one knows another person’s heart.) But as to your question, the same activity that might not be sin for another person — and was previously not sin for her — would have become sin for her. But this can also work the other way. When a puritanical believer “loosens up” under the constraints of knowledge and conscience, what was previously a sin to him would no longer be one.

Are the bakers in your question just guys going about their business — who happen to be gay — and people know this about them? Or are they evangelistic gays — out there spreading the good news of alternative lifestyles? I would still go to the baker under the first condition… and I would probably not go under the second… but no choice made in good conscience would be a sin.

I pray all this helps more than it has hurt. God bless you.

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