There's a piece of legislation working its way through the Indiana chambers that's getting a bit of attention, as it should. The bill is known as the "Religious Freedom" bill and basically, it protects the rights of Christian business owners to refuse service to anyone based on the owners' religious beliefs. The criticism, of course, is that such a bill will lead toward discrimination, and it will.
What's exciting, though, is that it also paves a way for love. For real love. For Christians to start showing what it really means to be a Christian...
...by serving people anyway.
It's all politics. It's all backlash against the gay rights movement. Stories are coming out in the midst of all of this about bakeries that refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples. About employers who refuse to recognize gay partners in benefits agreements. About photographers who won't take gay family photos. This bill is meant to protect those who don't want to be forced to be a part of something they don't agree with. But here's the thing: it's really hard to listen to some of these business owners talk.
First of all, let's say this - if you only want your business to serve people who are living "right," you're going to go out of business pretty fast. We're all sinners. We're all doing it wrong. Even those of us who agonize over doing it right...are doing it wrong. I'm probably doing it wrong right now. Maybe you are, too. Welcome to the club. And I dislike the idea that I have to live up to someone else's standard in order to partake of their services. Imagine if every business did this. Imagine if Wal-Mart finally bought into the idea that yoga pants and house slippers are not proper shopping attire and refused service to those who do not meet their dress code, based on a "strong conviction" about the matter. When we do stuff like this, we're making ourselves gods and breaking the world down into temples. We're dividing the world by its beliefs and creating all these cliques and subsets and mini-societies within the whole. We're pitting ourselves against each other based on our own judgments.
But what's even more disturbing is how easily we say we're doing it out of love. We're doing it out of love for God and our desire to keep His commandments. We're doing it to keep this world pure in His sight. We're doing it to take a stand for what God stands for, to put our feet on our faith and to stand tall on something.
Time for some hard truth.
If how you relate to someone else depends on your feelings about how they are living their life, you don't have ground to stand on.
If you want to refuse service to someone because they don't live up to your standards, it's not because you love Jesus so much. If you're withholding your love from someone who isn't keeping God's commandments, you're not keeping them, either. If you're trying to keep God's word pure, it is only in the act of loving that you can do so; never in the withholding of love. If you want to take a stand for what God stands for, put your faith on your feet and walk in this world the way that He did. Then you've got ground to stand on. If you can't love someone because you don't agree with them, you've got love wrong. And if you've got love wrong, you've got God wrong. Period.
Jesus never says, "Go out and judge your neighbor." He says to love them. He never says to police the world for His glory; He says to live in this world for His glory. He never says it's our job to defend Him; He always says it is our job to love one another.
All this gets a little bit trickier in the church, which I'll talk about tomorrow. But today, we're not talking about the church. We're talking about the world. We're talking about the streets that we all walk every day, the people we come into contact with, the way we interact with those around us. If you're not loving them, no matter what your reason, you're doing it wrong. If you're not extending your hand to them, you're doing it wrong. If you're drawing lines in the sand, you're doing it wrong. Only Jesus draws in the sand. And then He stands up and forgives the sinner.
So there's this religious freedom bill working its way through Indiana's legislature, and it's getting a lot of talk. As it should. Sadly, it will lead to discrimination. It will lead to so-called Christian business owners turning people away in the name of the God who welcomed everyone in. And that's sad. It's heartbreaking.
But there's a chance here for love, too. There's a chance for Christians to stand up and say, I love you anyway. I love you not because the law says I have to but because Love Himself demands it. I love you because you're my brother, you're my sister, and even though I think you're getting it wrong, I wasn't put in this world to judge; I was put here to love. So I love you, brother. I love you, sister. Here's your pastry.