State Legislatures and Pharisees: A Call to Consistency

Last week, I asked the question, “What do people see when they see us?” What witness are we bearing to the world by our words and actions? As Christians, when people watch us what are they learning about Jesus?

Then Arizona goes and provides an example of what I was trying to talk about. (Kansas also attempted something similar, yet the bill did not stick.)*

Why do I think the Arizona bill is a bad idea? At the very least, it is inconsistent. Let me explain.

For the sake of this post, we will assume the traditional teaching on homosexual behavior is correct—that is, it is sinful. Even if we acknowledge the Bible says nothing about orientation, there are some passages (in the New Testament, not just the Leviticus one) that seem to indicate a man sleeping with a man as he would a woman is not acceptable.

If that is the case, Christians who accept that teaching may feel the practice of their faith is being negatively affected if they serve gay and lesbian couples. If a Christian owns a family restaurant and they believe “family” is male and female partner with or without children, serving a male and male partner would be uncomfortable at the least; sinful at the worst.

But here is where the inconsistency comes into play.

That particular owner knows very little, or even nothing, about the private lives of his or her patrons. If the law is going to be written that allows a Christian business owner to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples on the basis of religious belief, will we also write a law that allows Christian business owners to refuse service to people who have cheated on their taxes? Or lied by eating the cookies and drinking the milk left out for Santa Claus? What about the single parents who are single because they were the ones to violate the marriage covenant by having an affair?

Do you know the name for a group of people who exclude others because they are sinful or not holy enough? Pharisees. That group of people so focused on religious right-ness Jesus called them whitewashed tombs full of dead people’s bones. In other words: they were doing everything right, but had become entirely useless.

If we are going to be a witness for Christ in this world, we need to be welcoming and inviting the world into our midst. If we are going to create community, then we must actually create community.

If you own a business and someone comes in who is living a life of sin, what should you do?

You should serve them.

You should love them.

You should set an example for them.

But do not shut the door on them. Unless, of course, you are willing to shut the door on everyone else; yourself included.

So what’s going to happen to Arizona? Social media will blow up with people on both sides. Tourist revenue will drop dramatically. The NFL will threaten to move Super Bowl XLIX to another city.

And a group of people that is marginalized and victimized will feel even more alienated from the very people who were called to love God and love people.

What does the world see when they see those who claim the name of Christ?

I hope they see Jesus.


*Although these are actions of state legislatures, mainstream evangelical churches have allowed themselves to be co-opted by conservative political groups so much that the perception is the two are one and the same. Whether true or not, perception is often stronger than reality.

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