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If You Knew 'They' Were Coming Would You Bake A Cake?
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Some years ago, I worked at a financial institution in the South-East of England. One of the lead software developers there realised that his colleagues would be more likely to read his work-related, round-robin emails if he used an attractive title. He chose “Cakes!” to persuade others to open and read his messages. What none of us foresaw at the time was how topical his choice of title might one day become.
I will spare you the hand-wringing which often accompanies the list of Christian bakers, florists, and photographers forced by the courts either to close their businesses, or to pay heavy fines and offer for sale a product which violates their consciences, their property rights and their historic political liberties in a neat package which may very well be tied up with a bow.
Naturally, the Christ-haters are delighted by all this – and so is their spiritual father. Christians can’t offer a credible gospel message in word or deed from a position of fear, division, and doubt. And if Christians retreat from the public arena, then the West’s Bible-derived message of limited, accountable government will go with them. So, how might Bible-believing Christians deal with both the specific question of wedding paraphernalia, and the wider question of rebuilding an effective Christian public witness?
Pray – First of all, pray. I don’t just mean you should tell God all about how upset you feel. I mean, pray: use the time not just to talk at God, but to draw near to him. Seek his presence. Open up your Bible, and ask the Holy Spirit to speak back to you as you do. This is the most powerful means I know of to quieten my own fears, and to receive the Lord’s wisdom about any subject I raise with him, or that he raises with me.
Remember, we serve the Maker, Sustainer, Saviour, and Lord of the heavens, the earth, and everything in them. If he could calm the Sea of Galilee with a brief command, he can certainly still our anxious hearts. If he could save Esther and the Jewish people from State approved mass extermination under the Persians, how much more can he rescue his people today from some uppity judges, rent-a-mob activists, and journalists?
Look to the example of Jesus – I can just imagine the more literal-minded thinking (or even saying) “but Jesus was a carpenter, not a baker”. Before he became a rabbi, yes he was. But Jesus spent a lot of time dealing with people who asked hostile questions designed to get him into trouble with the Jewish and Roman authorities of his day. Why did it take his enemies so long to arrest and kill him? Was it not because Jesus often made his point in a manner for which he could not be arrested? And Jesus urges his followers to be both as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.
So, how might this apply to Christian bakers, for example? One option might be to stop selling wedding cakes as such, and instead to offer for sale a range of cakes which customers decorate for themselves with their own customized messages. In turn, this might allow bakers to sell cheaper cakes, but teach customers how to set up their own cakes, and sell them local cake decorating classes too. If this is done well, I suggest this approach will not only silence the activists and the judges. It may also strengthen customer loyalty in the all-important after-sales context, which could mean better repeat business later.
Build alliances – As you may have noticed by now, people are not necessarily consistent in their thinking and conduct. But one trait we all have in common is that we are more likely to work with and stand up for known individuals and their preferred ways of life. So for instance, a lot of libertarians are atheists or agnostics, but I know many of them agree with the statement I made above about the link between Jesus’ moral teachings and the historic Western public ideals of limited, accountable government. Even many anarchists agree that a smaller, less intrusive State would be desirable.
On the other hand, some of my other friends love their tax-funded subsidies for an ever-growing range of public services, and approve of things like taxpayer-funded, State-controlled public education and health care. They may even be party members. But even they get uneasy when they see a small family business fined thousands just for refusing to sell somebody a cake or some flowers. They may be comfortable with the thought of a State which offers voters more of what they want, but even they are not willing to see the State misused as a tool for bullying people who literally just want to mind their own business.
© 2015 by Christopher Bevis. A Licensed Lay Minister in the Church of England, a Christian for many years, and an avid reader for even longer, Christopher is a UK-based writer who has long-standing friends and contacts in the USA. Christopher is available to research and write for hire on Christian matters via the Faithwriters.com website.
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