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Bakery skirmish won, but bigger battle still needs to be fought

In 2014, British LGBT activist Gareth Lee ordered a cake from a Belfast bakery, requesting a picture of Sesame Street characters Ernie and Bert, and the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.” His order was taken and the cake paid for, but a few days later Ashers Bakery called him to explain they couldn’t make the cake because of the slogan, and that his money would be refunded. He took them to court for discrimination, and won initially before losing in UK’s Supreme Court, which said it was the message and not the man, that was at issue, and Ashers Bakery had the right not to create messages they disagreed with.

Lee then took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, but in January the bakers won again, though on a technicality that leaves the door open for Lee to file further appeals. So it’s good news, for now.

Also good was the support the bakery got from an unexpected source. Another LGBT activist, Peter Tatchell, pointed out that:

“If the judgement had gone the other way, a gay baker could have been forced by law to accede to requests to decorate cakes with messages opposing LGBT+ equality.”

Though he might not know it, what Tatchell is riffing off here is Jesus speaking in Matthew 7:1-2 where He warns against judging others by standards we wouldn’t want applied to ourselves. That might even be the message a Christian should get cake-printed from the nearest gay bakery: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

But there’s more than just irony here. A prominent UK conservative Christian group, the Evangelical Alliance celebrated that the bakery owners, Amy and Daniel McArthur, have had their “human rights… affirmed.” Their director said “this case was about freedom of conscience, speech and belief, and whether someone could be forced to create a message they profoundly disagreed with.” It is all that – this was about the right to not be compelled to lie.

But we can’t forget, there is still more. What wasn’t highlighted, and really needed to be, was how this affirmed the McArthurs’ right not to harm others. In emphasizing the free speech aspect, what was been lost is the offensive gospel part: that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle that separates someone from their Savior, which is devastating because apart from Him we will be damned to hell. That’s why Christians don’t want to promote gay marriage: because we don’t want to harm Gareth Lee or any other homosexuals! Closer to home, that same message was largely lost in Canada’s Bill C-4 conversion therapy ban debate, which was also fought as a general free speech battle, rather than Christians defending the freedom homosexuals should have to get the help they need which is found in God’s Word.

Free speech is the far easier front to defend – even a gay activist may well, in his own self-interest, defend Christians’ right to free speech. But what only we can defend, what only we will speak, is God’s Truth that gay marriage is harmful, and that homosexuals need to repent and turn to their Creator. That’s a message that needs to be heard more often, and more clearly. But that’s also a message that’ll require more courage.

Up Next

Culture Clashes

What’s the best response to a wedding cake request?

What do you say to a homosexual couple who asks you to bake a cake for their wedding a month from now? That was the question that Joel Belz posed in his WORLD magazine column a few years back. A little over a month later, he revealed the difficulty that both he and over 200 readers (including five in prison!) had in answering it – by the end of this second column, Belz was no closer to an answer. What made Belz’s challenge tougher were two of his conditions: it had to be a brief reply, and, like Christ himself was prone to do, the couple’s request had to be answered with a question. What further complicates the situation is the fact that we don’t know the couple’s motivations. Are they simply unaware of our Christian moral convictions? Or are they trying to cause trouble? That's why any answer to the question needed to challenge the couple to make their intentions clear, so that we need not cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) if they hate the gospel and those who bring it. And our response needs to honor “Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). So if this stymied Belz and his readers, how can we answer it? Well, we can start with what we’ve been given in the first question of our Heidelberg Catechism. Here is my response to, as Belz calls it, “the baker’s challenge”: "I am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian, and I believe that I belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Do you want me to disobey my Savior?" The couple (one or both of them) have three possible responses: “Yes, we do!” in which case, you may still face a human rights tribunal, but you have made the issue clear and exposed their hostility to Christ and Christianity; “No, we don’t, so we withdraw our request!” which may keep you out of legal trouble and still give you a chance to explain your moral stance as an working out of your hope in Christ, rather than as simply an individual issue of conscience; “We don’t understand the problem” which may be the answer we should most hope for since it allows us, with gentleness and respect, explain how our hope in Christ compels us to honor the commands of God. There seems to be an increasing number of situations in which we might be pressed to do something that compromises our Christian convictions: Sunday work, using certain pronouns, shading the truth on a tax return, celebrating a homosexual wedding, etc. What is most important in any response is to love Christ more than even our conscience (because it’s about Him, not us), and to confess, as it says in Lord’s Day 1: “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”...

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