“Have you ever counted how many times Jesus answered questions with questions?”
Gordon H. Clark
Two college girls asked my advice in the same week on the same topic. One asked how to respond to a blog that went viral, If I Have Gay Children: four promises from a Christian pastor. The girls in the dorm of the large Christian University that she supervised were showing a surprising level of agreement with the pastor’s unorthodox position. The other asked how to respond to a virulently anti-gay preacher on her secular college campus. Each was afraid that they would be put on the defensive, having to support the positions they have taken on homosexuality in a hostile environment.
They were wise to do so. Our opportunities to practice Jesus’ methods for responding to politically driven attacks are about to multiply exponentially. In light of this the founder of World Magazine, Joel Belz, has issued what he calls The Baker’s Challenge. Imagine a homosexual couple has entered your bakery and asked you to provide a cake for their wedding a month from now. Keeping in mind Jesus’ method of answering a question with a question, along with his teaching on giving someone your cloak when they’ve sued you for your tunic and going the second mile when forced to go the first, (See Matt. 5:38-42) how would you respond?
Here’s my best shot at part one, answering a question with a question.
“Thank you so much for bringing your business to our door. We really appreciate it. It tells us that you respect the values we’ve built into the business. Now, in order to best serve you, I need to ask a question: Do you believe marriage is something that came to us from God, or is it a man-made institution?”
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that our customer answers, “From God.” We might then respond with:
“If it’s from God, what is the pattern for marriage that Jesus taught?” (See Matthew 19:1-6).
These questions follow Jesus’ pattern when the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders challenged his authority in Mark 11:27-30. First, his response revealed their world view, “John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!” If they answered, “from heaven” Jesus could rightly challenge: “then why didn’t you believe him?” If they answered, “from men,” then their public approval rating would plummet.
Our question re-frames the argument. It is not a matter of “will I bake a cake for you,” but “what is marriage, to whom does it belong?”
Jesus’ question to his opponents also revealed their hypocrisy. Just as the chief priests weren’t questioning Jesus in order to discover truth, but to find cause to arrest him, at this stage in the PR game same sex couples that enter Christian-owned bake-shops aren’t there to buy a cake but to provoke a legal battle that will stifle and oppress anyone who refuses to celebrate the LGBT agenda.
Assuming our customers still insist that we bake the cake, here’s part two, or how I would go the extra mile.
“There are three other cake shops in town. We often refer our friends to them when we are overbooked. I believe they can do a better job for you than I can. However, if that does not satisfy you, I will be happy to pay for all of the ingredients that go into the cake, and you can have anyone you want bake it.”
That’s as far as I would take Jesus’ teaching on going the extra mile. The reason is that our obligations as 21st century American Christians extend to a third command of Christ that applies to us differently than it applied to Jewish subjects of 1st century Rome.
“Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s,” applies differently in a representative democracy than it did in a dictatorship. In our context we the people are Caesar. We make the laws via our elected representatives. When we believe the laws and rulings coming from the legislatures, the judiciary, and or the executive are unjust and destructive to the body politic, contrary to what is best for our neighbors, and oppressive to our consciences it is our duty to oppose them, peaceably, within the democratic process, but resolutely.
By the way, it would behoove Christian bakers and everyone else who wants to apply this logic in their businesses to apply it just as rigorously to heterosexuals engaging in adulterous marriages. Then we would not be open to the charge of hypocrisy. If we’re going to insist on biblical ethics in one sphere of our businesses we better be prepared to insist on it everywhere.