The Gayest Wedding Cake, Reprise
A few months ago, I wrote about why making the biggest, gayest wedding cake for the glory of God might not be the best way to love one’s gay neighbors. At the time, I understood that the gay marriage issue was in the home stretch. The writing was on the wall. Gay marriage was going to happen. I was all set to articulate the ways I believed we ought to respond to the change in the status quo. (Like it or not, folks, if you disagree with the SCOTUS decision in any way, shape or form you’ve joined the ranks of bigots, haters, racists, confederate flag fliers, and probably ISIS.) Unfortunately, I got too busy before the ruling and missed my chance. Now everyone is weighing in on the subject and I seriously debated whether I ought to raise my voice in the din. But the topic of love compels me.
Love has always stumped me. Figuring out what love is has been a nearly life-long struggle. This began at the ripe old age of eight when my dad said to me one day, “I love you, Amanda.” Silence from me. “Do you love me?” he asked. In that moment, a terrible panic crept over me. It occurred to me that I didn’t know if I loved my dad. Why should I doubt that I loved my dad? Probably because I didn’t really love him. What kind of girl doesn’t love her dad? A horrible, unnatural girl, that’s who. And what is love, anyway? I agonized over this for weeks, while I’m sure my poor dad wondered what kind of existential mess he had spawned. I wouldn’t allow myself to tell him I loved him, because I didn’t want to lie. Surely it would be worse to lie about love than not love at all. Though I laugh at myself now, I can assure you the struggle was real. But I am no longer completely in the dark. I still have much to learn about love, but I now know a few things I think might be of use to my fellow Christians as we all try to love those who think quite badly of us when we decide not to make the proverbial wedding cake.
At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge those Christians who have decided they can and should “make the wedding cake.” They personally believe that homosexuality is wrong, but also believe that refusing to support the SCOTUS ruling would be to deny all Americans equal rights. I disagree, but if that’s you, I get where you’re coming from.1 You should seriously consider the questions posed if you haven’t already, and then reaffirm your decision or change it, remembering that you will stand before God and give account someday. Let every one of you be convinced in your own minds. Recollecting that I will stand before God someday has brought me to an opposite conclusion, and so I continue by speaking to those who have also come to this conclusion.
Back to the topic of love… First, there are not different kinds of love. There is only love, though it acts in different ways according to the nature of the relationship in question. Love calls me to act in one way toward my parents, another way toward my spouse, and another way toward my child. But it is the same love that drives those actions. A few days ago, I read something by J. I. Packer, which is probably the most clear and biblical definition of love I have ever seen. “The measure and test of love to God is wholehearted and unqualified obedience…the measure and test of love to our neighbors is laying down our lives for them…This sacrificial love involves giving, spending, and impoverishing ourselves up to the limit for their well-being.”2 This is truly one of the most liberating concepts I’ve ever studied, because there are no limits to this love. I can do this for my parent, my spouse, my child, my enemy, my friend, and my lesbian neighbor who thinks I hate her. And why is that? Because God is love. He isn’t just loving. He equals love. He is the source where all my love comes from, and since my source is infinite, I’ll never run out.
What does all this have to do with not “making the cake?” First of all, it is inevitable that we will soon arrive at ethical dilemmas. We’ve been told that our religious freedoms will be protected, but do you honestly think they will be favored over the new civil rights? Here’s what’s going to happen: In the next twenty years, a lot of us will be asked to assent to certain propositions about sexual identity/orientation or lose our jobs. A few of us will refuse to perform gay marriages and get sued for large amounts of money we can’t possibly pay. A few of us may have our children taken away because we “teach them to hate.” A few of us will spend time in jail. We will either confess that Caesar is Lord or get thrown to the lions. Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing. Did you know that the church always thrives when its religious liberties are being crimped? Did you know that being called a bigot, a hater, and experiencing social ostracism is actually really good for you? Have you realized that in the next twenty years, you’re going to have more opportunities to love unconditionally than you’ve ever had before?
Love is willing to be called names, to be misunderstood, and to suffer for the good of another without defending itself. That is what Love did on a cross for us. And here is where love diverges from that hateful truth-telling I see so often on social media. There’s a lot of truth going around, a lot of Scripture being quoted, a lot of quips about Adam and Steve, but very little willingness to be, as Packer articulated, spent and impoverished to the limit for the good of another.
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” (I Peter 2:21-23, KJV)
Many people will not understand you. Our culture is incapable of grasping the fact that we can honor, approve of, and love a human being without honoring, approving of, and loving what he does. If we do not approve of certain behavior and show that disapproval in any way, there will be a backlash. Be ready to turn the other cheek, go two miles out of your way, give up your cloak and your coat, and follow the example Christ set before you.
1 On that topic, here’s an article I think you should read.
2 Packer, J I. Concise Theology. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1991.
Image courtesy of David Whiting.