Lefty counters

A friend–we’ll call him “Lefty”–sent me an email related to my previous post and a prior  discussion of that post over lunch. I thought his email was fairly representative of those who would advocate the baking of a wedding cake for an LGBT ceremony. With his permission, here is a portion of his email:

You know, Jesus taught the people that if they were told to carry a burden one mile, they were to offer to carry it two. We know that the origin of this was that a Roman soldier could require a non-Roman citizen to carry his kit at least one mile. For Jesus to tell Jews this was unconscionable. I wonder, though, how many Roman soldiers were led to Christ simply by the example of some Jewish boy offering to carry his load an extra mile and subsequently asking him why. We may never know.

Imagine the Christian baker who gets the order for a birthday cake for a gay wedding, who takes a moment with both “spouses” and says, “Look. I don’t mean to be unkind, please don’t take this that I am being hateful, but I am a Christian. I believe that what you are doing is wrong, it is sinful. I could never condone such a lifestyle. However…as a Christian, I am also led by the greatest commandment, to love my neighbor as I love myself. Therefore, not only will I bake your wedding cake, I will do it for half price, and it will be the most beautiful cake you could imagine. Furthermore, though I might personally wish for you both to ‘repent’, short of that, I wish you a long and happy life together.”

I appreciate Lefty taking my thoughts seriously enough to offer a considerate response. My reply would consist of the following:

  1. The “not one but two” analogy (Mat 5:41) is attractive but it falls flat. The analogy runs afoul of the the “apples & oranges” criteria since being coerced into carrying luggage, while humiliating, was in no way at odds with biblical morality. Now if the Jew were being put upon to carry a toddler for a child sacrifice then we might have something to work with.
  2. The “not one but two” analogy misses the biblical context. Going two miles serves to illustrate Jesus’ point three verses earlier: “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person . . .” (Mat 5:38-39a). The point is that Jesus’ followers should be willing to suffer–unjustly–insult or injury without demanding restitution. The passage has nothing to do with acquiescing to any & all requests made of you. Take, for example, the verse following the “two mile” illustration. Jesus said “Give to him who asks of you. . .” (Mat 5:42a). Surely no one would contend that this teaching is impervious to mitigating circumstances. If a Roman demanded your virgin daughter for his sexual pleasure, would Jesus have you give your daughter (or two!) because we “do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you”?
  3. We are losing the language (and meaning) of “love your neighbor.” Disagreement over Mat 5:38ff notwithstanding, I would challenge the notion that “love” will always give what is asked for. As a father, I refuse many requests from my pleading children precisely because I love them. If, in practice, “love your neighbor” means “satisfy your neighbor” then I think our Christian witness is in more trouble than either of us realize.

Any feedback, whether from Lefty or Hoi Polloi, is welcome.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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