An Open Letter to Christian Bakers in Indiana
You have been getting a lot of attention recently, especially since the new law passed that would likely allow you to refuse to make cakes for gay weddings. It’s certainly worth asking how to interpret the First Amendment on this issue, but perhaps first we should ask what the gospels say.
As you may remember, Jesus’s first miracle was at a wedding party. He provided wine for a bunch of people who were already drunk. Not exactly where you’d expect a Messiah begin, but His mom told him to, and it’s not wise to argue with a Jewish mother.
Did Jesus grow out of this partygoing phase? By all accounts, no. At every stage in the gospels we find him with prostitutes, tax collectors, Roman soldiers, and anarchists. I know what you’re thinking—Jesus didn’t approve of their lifestyles. And you’re right. But that didn’t stop Him from spending time with them and caring for them. Jesus never let the fact that people are sinners keep Him from meeting them where they are, sharing food with them, laughing and crying with them. His “No” to people’s self-destructive behaviors and the lies they trapped themselves in always came from within a full-blooded “Yes” to their identity as beloved children of God. It’s one note of condemnation within a grand symphony of compassion.
If we see it this way, Jesus’s bringing the booze to the wedding party fits in perfectly with the rest of His life. This is the same Jesus who taught us to give our cloaks to those who steal our tunics. The same Jesus who healed the ear of one of his captors. The same Jesus who got down on his knees and washed Judas’s feet the night He was betrayed.
God doesn’t have to approve of our lifestyles in order to go out of His way to serve us. That’s not just a footnote in the gospels—it’s the whole good news. And I am thankful for it every day because God does not fully approve of my lifestyle—my pride, my apathy, my hardheartedness—but He stays with me. He supports me. And He loves me. We have a God who wanders with those who are wandering… and parties with those who are partying.
So what about gay people asking you to make their wedding cake? I’m not saying you have to condone their behavior, nor that you have to pretend to. But you have to serve them with the same messy, humble, all-forgiving love that Jesus shows you. My advice: regardless of the laws, bake the cake. Bake the biggest, tastiest, gayest cake you can, and do it for the glory of God. Because Jesus’s first miracle was at a wedding, and according to Revelation 19, His last miracle will be at a wedding too. He will look at a mess of sinners like us and once again say, “It is good.” As we live between those two weddings, we should take every opportunity to celebrate. We can rejoice with those who rejoice, because we know God is bringing new wine to the reception.
Russell Johnson is a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago. He holds a M.Div. from Duke Divinity School and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.