September 3, 2015 Leave a comment
Does one have a religious obligation to refuse service to anyone whose behaviour one deems to be “ungodly”?
This week extensive media coverage has been given to the case of a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple claiming she was acting “under God’s authority.”
The argument presented is similar to that made a few weeks ago when a Colorado baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
This line of argument opens the door to much broader application. Is a Christian also required to refuse service to those who are envious, deceitful, gossips and slanderers? These are included in the same list as same-sex couples in Romans 1:26-31. Should a Christian refuse to have anything to do with anyone who is judged to be conceited, greedy, proud, arrogant, etc.? II Timothy 3:2-5 clearly instructs one to “avoid such people.”
I am frankly mystified by the number of people who seem to think that their faithfulness to Christ requires them to refuse to interact with those who follow an ‘objectionable’ lifestyle.
That was certainly not Jesus’ teaching. It was the teaching of the Pharisees. The word Pharisee literally means “one who is separate.” The Pharisees separated themselves from all those who did not live up to their rigorous standards of religious conduct and purity. Anyone who did not measure up was labeled a “sinner,” and Pharisees would not associate with sinners in any way.
Jesus may have been a rabbi, but he was certainly not one of the Pharisees. The Gospels record him staying in the homes of reputed ‘sinners.’ He ate and drank with them. He even had polite, respectful theological discussions with some (Luke 19; John 4).
What would Jesus do in our present circumstances? It’s a question well worth asking.
I do not believe he would refuse the company of today’s social ‘outcasts’ any more than he did those who were discriminated against in his own time. When he said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28), he made no exceptions. Can we imagine that he would refuse to serve anyone today? How can Christians in good faith believe that refusing to serve anyone honours Christ?
Jesus preached a message of love, compassion, service and support for others. The only ones he judged and condemned were the self-righteous Pharisees who judged, condemned, and excluded others. Maybe we should follow Jesus’ example. He was pretty vocal in his condemnation of the Pharisees in his day. Maybe we should get the message out loud and clear: those who discriminate against others do not honor Christ. They do not follow him or his teachings.
Those who neglect or refuse to help others have no place in God’s kingdom. Matt. 25:41-45 describes their fate all too well. Jesus was pretty clear on this. Maybe we should be too.