For the second time in as many years, Fayetteville is being torn apart by a civil rights ordinance that codifies protections for LGBTQ people. If passed, the ordinance will allow for LGBTQ people to be guaranteed the same rights and services that any Fayetteville resident enjoys without fear of discrimination. A landlord will not be able to refuse to rent to a man simply because he’s gay. A trans woman won’t be able to be fired from her job simply because of her gender identity. A lesbian couple will be able to buy a wedding cake from any bakery that serves the public.
Not surprisingly, many Christians in Fayetteville have risen up in opposition to the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance. They have expressed fear that predatory people will use this law to molest women and children in public bathrooms. They have expressed dismay that they may be forced to violate their conscience by aiding someone in an event they believe to be immoral and unbiblical. They have expressed outrage that their religious liberties are being infringed upon by the bullies and enemies in city hall.
Nonetheless, I believe that all Christians in Fayetteville should vote for the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance, even if they believe homosexuality is wrong.
It is my opinion that a Christian can interpret Scripture to believe that same-sex orientation and/or activity is inherently sinful AND STILL support the passage of these protections for the LGBTQ members of our community.
There are three biblical reason why.
1. The gospel teaches us that our rights are to be willingly surrendered.
So many of the arguments I hear from Christians opposed to this ordinance are rooted in their rights as Americans. “I have the right to exercise my religion.” “A Christian business owner has the right to follow the dictates of his conscience.” “Why should the rights of LGBTQ people circumvent my rights?”
Yes, all Americans have Constitutional rights. And I’ve found that many Christians seem most concerned with protecting their own rights. But biblical Christianity teaches that there is something much more precious than our rights – serving other people.
Jesus is the example. In Philippians 2.5-8, Paul lays out the heart of the Christian gospel:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Jesus had every right to be seen, revered, and worshipped as God. He had every right to assert how he should be treated as God. And yet, he willingly set those rights aside so that he could have the opportunity to serve people – people who disagreed with him, misunderstood him, took advantage of him, rejected him, even killed him.
For Jesus, there was something more precious and important at stake than his own rights. It was love expressed in the service of others. And so, he was willing to put the rights – even the misguided rights – of other people ahead of his own.
This has me wondering – if Jesus was willing to give up his rights as God, why aren’t we willing to give up our rights as Americans?
A Christian who believes that homosexuality is wrong could vote in favor of Fayetteville’s Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance as an act of faith, following Jesus in what theologians call his kenosis, and seeking to obey the Bible in having the same mindset and attitude of Jesus – putting the service of others ahead of his or her own rights.
2. Jesus told us exactly what to do when the government forces us to do something we don’t want to do.
One of the main arguments against Fayetteville’s Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance is that it may force a person of faith to violate his or her conscience by providing goods or services in an scenario to which they are morally opposed. It’s the now-classic Cake for Gay Wedding argument: if I believe same sex marriage is wrong, why should I be forced to participate in a gay wedding by making a cake for one?
The policy question here is whether or not a government can force a business owner not to discriminate. My libertarian streak makes me bristle at the thought of government interfering with the operations of a local business. However, when I think of the lunch counter protests of the 1960s, I’m convinced that sometimes government intervention is a necessary evil.
But … I’m more concerned with what the Bible has to say about this conundrum than even examples from American history.
Thankfully, Jesus, in Matthew 5.38-42, very clearly told his followers what they ought to do when the government forces them to do something they don’t want to do:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
One of the scenarios Jesus describes here is of a Roman soldier forcing a first century Jewish person to carry his gear for one mile. As an occupying force in Palestine, Roman soldiers could legally compel a Jewish person to violate his own conscience and even certain Jewish laws by undergoing the humiliation of becoming the Roman soldier’s pack mule.
How does Jesus tell his followers to react in this kind of situation? Fight back? No. Refuse? No. Assert his unalienable rights of conscience and religion? No. Jesus told his followers to willingly and lovingly go – not one – but two miles with the Roman soldier.
Do what you don’t want to do. Be humiliated. Support your enemy. Say yes, not no. Be gracious.
Applied to our own day, this biblical principle may be inviting the Christian baker not just to bake a cake for a lesbian couple, but to bake the best cake he’s ever made – and give it to them for free with a smile on his face!
Christians in Fayetteville who don’t believe in homosexuality should not resist the opportunity to obey Jesus in this way by voting against the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance. They should vote for it and give themselves ample occasions to apply the truth Jesus taught.
3. Jesus told us not to go around being the morality police.
Christians today seem completely obsessed with what everyone else is doing in their lives. So many seem so concerned about the choices and lifestyles of other people. For many, winning the so-called culture war has become the greatest battle of life.
But over and over again, Jesus by his example and his teaching told his followers specifically NOT to be obsessed with what everyone else was doing. He did not want his followers to be like the Pharisees who fashioned themselves as the enforcers of right and wrong for everyone else, whether they wanted it or not.
In fact, the one biblical instance we have of Jesus bringing something to a wedding (John 2.1-11), he doesn’t make any kind of commentary on the morality of the participants or attendees. No doubt after exhausting all the wine, some people at that wedding were drunk, in violation of biblical mandates and morality.
But does Jesus refuse to serve them? Does he limit the recipients of his gracious miracle only to those who have made the right choices? Did Jesus worry that the morality police of his day would accuse him of aiding and abetting the sin of other people? No. He just turns water into really good wine so that the party can keep going on.
What would happen in Fayetteville if more Christians stopped obsessing about the sins of others and started looking for ways to help, serve, and love them instead? What would happen if just for a day – say September 8 – Christians in Fayetteville cared more about the happiness of other people than their own fear that someone might be doing something wrong?
I know that many Christians on September 8 will vote against the Uniform Civil Right Ordinance, thinking that they are doing the “biblical” thing. But maybe, just maybe, the biblical thing is to vote for it.