I understand a blog post has gone viral around the Internet called “Bake for them Two”. The blogger suggests that, when asked to bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage, Christians should not just bake one; they should bake two, even if they believe gay marriage is wrong. The basis for the blog article is this statement in the Sermon on the Mount: if someone forces you to walk a mile with them, walk with them two. (Matthew 5:41)
The back drop to the short parable is that Roman law required people to carry a Roman soldier’s equipment up to a mile if demanded. Such a request of a Jew in that time of Roman occupation of the Promised Land would have been anathema. It would have been a difficult thing for the religious Jews of Judea to stomach – to help their occupiers by carrying their equipment. The suggestion by Jesus that one should be willing to go two miles if required to carry the equipment for one mile was a radical idea (like turning the other cheek, praying for your persecutors and loving your enemies, which are also part of the Sermon on the Mount).
The Bake for Them Two blogger suggests that the same principle should be applied to the current controversy over wedding cakes for gay marriage. Even if a person believes that gay marriage is immoral, if asked to bake one wedding cake for a gay marriage, we should bake two!
Before I even read the first blog, I came across a video blog (Stand to Reason) in which the blogger questions the idea that baking two wedding cakes is the proper response of the Christian who believes that the union of same sex couples is sin/immoral. The speaker poses these questions: if someone asks you to steal a man’s cloak, should you steal two? If someone asks you to make one pornographic movie, should you make two? Going back to Jesus, who was a carpenter: if someone asked him to make one idol, should Jesus make two?
The video blogger obviously concludes that the Christian should not bake one wedding cake for the gay couple, let alone two. The argument might seem compelling to the Christian who wants to do the right thing and not endorse what is believed to be an immoral act. But does the argument logically follow? Is that what Jesus would really say?
In the case of a Roman soldier demanding that his equipment be carried, carrying the equipment is not, in itself, an immoral act. Some might argue that giving aid to oppressive occupiers is immoral, or that aiding the ungodly occupiers of God’s Promised Land is wrong, but carrying equipment is not an immoral act in itself.
The same cannot be said for stealing a cloak, making a pornographic movie or making an idol. Those things are immoral in and of themselves. So what about baking a cake for a gay marriage?
Is baking a cake more like carrying a Roman soldier’s equipment? Or is it more like stealing a cloak , making a pornographic movie or forging an idol? Baking a cake is not an immoral act. That makes the answer pretty clear: baking a cake is more like carrying a Roman soldier’s equipment.
Knowing that it will be used in a gay wedding ceremony would probably make a person uncomfortable who believes that homosexual marriage is not sanctioned by God, but it is not much different than aiding the Romans in the oppressive occupation of the Promised Land.
Knowing that the help being given by carrying the equipment is aiding in the oppressive occupation of fellow Jews would certainly have given a Jew pause in the First Century. The zealots in the crowd would have considered carrying a Roman soldier’s equipment a moral issue. These same people were hoping that Jesus, the Messiah, had come to set the Jews free from that Roman occupation. Some of Jesus’s followers were zealots.
When Jesus tells his followers to go two miles, and not just one, Jesus was not endorsing the Roman occupation. In the context of the whole Sermon on the Mount, He is urging his followers to take a different view of their world. He is calling them to see things as God sees them who causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45) In effect, Jesus was saying, even if you believe the Romans are evil and unrighteous, do it for them anyway. That instruction was as radical in that day as baking two cakes for a gay wedding ceremony may seem today.
I will give you another example. What about collecting the taxes that the Romans imposed? We know that tax collectors were not well likedby First Century Judeans. They were considered sell outs to the Roman Empire. One accusation leveled at Jesus was that he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. Tax collectors were considered on the same moral ground as the prostitutes. The accusation implied that Jesus was a sinner because he hung out with sinners. In fact, Jesus hung out with sinners because He was God in the flesh who came to seek and save the lost. (“‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'” (Luke 5;31-32))
Carrying a Roman soldier’s equipment was similar to paying taxes to the Roman government. When Jesus says, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”, He was not instructing people on the morality of paying taxes. If you think through the implications from that statement, you have to conclude that believer’s in God owe allegiance to God alone; and, if that is the case, we owe Caesar nothing. (Render Unto Caesar: A Most Misunderstood New Testament Passage) At the same time, Jesus was not instructing people to refuse to pay taxes.
In the end, we all need to be led by our consciences and respond to what we believe God is saying to each of us. Our allegiance is to God, but God has a larger view of the world than we do. Paying taxes and carrying a Roman soldier’s equipment does not mean that our allegiance is to Caesar. If we do those things, we should be doing them for God’s purpose. In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was clearly trying to get his followers to “think outside of the box”. Right and wrong are important, but do not lose sight of the summation of all right and wrong (the Law): love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:40)
We are all “wrong” in that we are all sinners. (Romans 3:23) God desires for all of us who are sick (sinful) to be made well (forgiven and brought into right relationship with God the Father). The do’s and don’ts (the Law) are not the goal; knowing and being known by God is the goal for us and for the world. We do not make ourselves right and then approach God. We come to God humbly in our sinful condition, and God makes us right. When we approach in faith, God counts it to us as righteousness. (Romans Romans 4:5)
Paul addresses these same issues in the context of food and days of religious observance, which were big issues for the newly converted First Century Christians (former Jews). Read Romans 14. Many First Century Christians stumbled over the issues of food and religious days, while others, like Paul, came to understand that food and days, in themselves, are not what is important; the important thing is faith and proper response and relationship to God.
For many believers, there is no grey area when it comes to the question of homosexual acts or the joining of same sex couples in marriage. The Bible is pretty clear on those things. On the other hand, how a believer should respond to a request to bake a cake for a gay marriage is not so clear. If you think it is sin, maybe you should not do it (like the person who thinks eating the wrong food is sin); but I think Jesus points us to a better way. If carrying a Roman soldier’s equipment, paying taxes and baking a cake is not sin, itself, would not going the second mile with the sinner to express the love of God by the better thing to do?
In the end, when the action itself is not sinful, it boils down to faith. What we do is not as important as why we do it. To bake or not to bake a cake comes down to faith and love. If you feel that you are sinning by baking a cake, then you should not bake the cake. There is a better way, though. If you feel that baking two cakes is an expression of faith and God’s love, you should bake the cakes. Baking the cakes is not sinful, in itself; baking the cakes is not endorsing the sin; baking the cakes is loving the sinner.
But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)