I recently received this question:
Our ministry is setting up a retreat center for Christian leaders, and has the opportunity to long-term lease some beautiful facilities on government property. However, their requirement is that the general public also be able to use the facilities, which are currently used for weddings. We may not be able to eliminate weddings, and are concerned because we do not want to host gay weddings, which would violate our convictions. What are your thoughts?
Here are my thoughts in response:
I think this is shaping up to be the single most difficult challenge to the church and countless believers.
On the one hand, we want to offer complete grace and understanding when we disagree with people’s choices. We would never withhold goods and services to a theological heretic, a Mormon, a materialist, a gossip, or anyone else. If you sell greeting cards, do you refuse to sell to a man who abandoned his wife and children? I believe we should have the right to do so, but I don’t think that practically it makes much sense to try to pick and choose which sins will disqualify people from what we have to offer.
On the other hand, I’m one of those who sees a wedding as entirely different than for instance, attending a birthday party for a gay person. We can celebrate someone’s birthday, valuing the life God has given them. To celebrate someone’s birth is not to celebrate their moral choices. If allowing a wedding on property you manage were essentially no different than serving them a meal at your restaurant or selling them chocolates at your candy store, or making them a birthday cake, there would be no problem.
But if you view attending or facilitating a wedding (not only through performing a service, but through making the cake or doing the photography or providing the building or whatever) as a sign of approval, it takes on a very different feel, to me, anyway.
Historically, attending a wedding, or helping to facilitate it, was providing an “Amen” and a blessing, and affirming as a witness that “I will do all I can to help this God-ordained union succeed.” Because I believe this, years ago I chose not to officiate the wedding of a young woman in our church who was marrying an unbeliever. I felt she was violating God’s Word. I also chose not to attend the wedding, because I feel attendance is not just a passive thing, but a form of approval. (If a couple were getting married against counsel and no one agreed to be part of the wedding party or to sing or do a cake or take pictures, obviously it would make a couple think, “Why? Is it possible this marriage really is wrong as others seem to believe?”)
This young woman was very angry at me and her parents were angry. I’m sad to say, five years later she came to me, with a broken life and marriage, and said, “You were right—I should have listened.” I found myself wondering what might have been if her parents and all our church folks who helped her get married out of God’s will had, with humble hearts, said, “We want God’s best for you, but He says this is NOT that. We love you too much to stand with you if you choose to stand against God. We love God’s honor and your wellbeing too much to do that to Him or to you.”
Here is a blog I wrote about being asked to attend a gay wedding (I think it would apply to facilitating it as well). I use the same illustration of the girl marrying the unbeliever to demonstrate it is NOT just gay weddings but any weddings that God says He disapproves of. Many good people disagreed with this blog and this position. As I said, I wish it were clearer how exactly we should respond.
For you, the question is whether it is right to take property you own or, in this case manage (if that’s the right term), over which God has granted you dominion, and consciously grant it to be used in a way you know to displease God. Of course, your situation is somewhat unique with the government owning it, and leasing it to you.
Now, even if you are an owner, you can certainly allow your property to be used by people who MIGHT dishonor God in their hearts and actions. Alcohol can be served, no problem, but some people may get drunk. (Indeed, when Jesus made wine at the wedding in Cana, likely some people got drunk on that; He made the whole world, and sin is everywhere!) That’s their decision, just like some people committing gluttony on your property is their decision. Some people may go in a room and commit adultery, or use cocaine. Someone could pull a gun or knife and murder someone else. You can’t monitor every thought or behavior.
But if you KNEW in advance the purpose of the gathering, the explicit intention, was that a number of people would be using cocaine or committing adultery or that murders would be committed, would you choose to offer them use of your facility? Presumably not, since we’re accountable to use what God has entrusted to our care in such a way that it honors Him.
To me, that’s the problem with the gay wedding. You know from the beginning not that it might, but that it certainly will, dishonor God, and that it is not helpful but hurtful to the people involved in this relationship and hurtful to the families and friends gathered to celebrate it. And while you know good and well that if you didn’t make your place (or in this case the place leased to you) available they would do the same thing somewhere else, what does that matter? If you didn’t deliberately make your place available for adultery and cocaine and murder, people could go elsewhere—that’s self-evident—but the difference is, we can’t control what other people choose to facilitate on their grounds, but we are accountable to God to use what He’s entrusted to our care for His glory.
I realize that the laws are such that anyone who exercises such convictions risks being sued and vilified. But then, in history God’s people have often faced such things and worse. And again, I also realize that that you DON’T own the land, the government does. So does a long-term lease distance you from the other deliberate uses of the facility? Certainly if you were renting a place on a property knowing that other renters of other parts of the property were using their place to facilitate gay weddings, that would seem different.
Maybe part of the question is, does a lease mean that you are the primary people responsible for the management of what happens at the property? Or is the government responsible for that, and does it restrict you to only doing “your thing” in which case you have to decide whether you can coexist with the celebration of sin, which grieves God’s heart, on that property where you are committed to celebrate God and oppose sin, for His glory and people’s good? If it is the government permitting you to do one thing with the property, while permitting you to do your ministry there, it could be argued you simply have no control over policy. But that probably raises the question, “If matters of moral and spiritual concern are not under our dominion, is this the right place for us?” The answer could still be yes, but it might be no.
To live out grace and truth puts us in challenging positions, doesn’t it? I know your heart is to honor God and His Word and reach people and minister to them. I pray He will guide you and give you wisdom. May He do the same for all of us.
Browse more related articles and resources, and see Randy’s book The Grace and Truth Paradox, and his devotional Beautiful and Scandalous: How God's Grace Changes Everything.