Last week was pretty interesting. Indiana and my adopted state of Arkansas each passed laws with the intent of protecting religious freedom as it related to private individuals and businesses. Having reviewed the legislation and the recent modifications as it related to Arkansas, it appears the legislation attempts to clarify existing federal law signed by President Bill Clinton. Somehow, and I don’t know how, this legislation was no longer about religious freedom and its protection, but it morphed into another battle about LGBT issues.
Both sides were very passionate about their positions. Let’s be honest, there is a passion residing in people for the ability to practice and speak their religious views just as equally as there are persons about the cultural acceptance of their sexual orientation. It is the reality in which we now live. It is a growing aspect of the culture in the South that is gaining acceptance.
At the same time, I honestly grew weary of groups mischaracterizing the name and mission of Jesus Christ. I get it. All of humanity recoils at the reality that some Jewish poor guy was actually God incarnate. It is much more palatable and much more accepting to have a Jesus who led a nonprofit grassroots organization in the 1st Century that welcomed all people and they sang “Kumbaya,” all day. It made me wonder though if persons that advanced that argument actually believed this in their own lives. So, Jesus was mischaracterized and then this completely ahistorical Jesus was used to denigrate other people as “bigots,” or “You want to Arkansas back to the fifties and sixties.”
I love that last line.
I love that line because it sets up a false narrative. It attempts to equate those who disagree with the behavior of the LGBT community as men and women who are intellectual and ideological descendants of Bull Connor, George Wallace, or Hazel Massery. I have always contended that the LGBT of today is in no way an extension of the Civil Right Movement of the fifties and sixties. I have written elsewhere that this movement today has no origins in the local church as the Civil Rights Movement did. Lastly and most importantly, the LGBT community has not had to suffer under the old thought that they are not human beings. Negroes, Blacks, African Americans were considered less than human, actually property.
This can get me a little fired up so I digress.
How now should faith inform business?
It is intellectually disingenuous to contend that a person’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, has no bearing on how one conducts his or her affairs. I understand where we believe this is supposed to happen. Our dualistic approach of Western living has us wrongly believe that we can separate aspects of our lives into segments. But if you would be honest, if you have a bad morning in your marriage, don’t you take it to work, school, or the gym? You do understand that Steve Jobs worldview completely influences Apple? A President’s worldview shapes his policies. In this context we must consider business and Christian I want to speak directly to you about your vocation as a believer.
Jesus offers us the best instruction to navigate the current waters. Jesus instructs his listeners if someone forces you to go one mile then go two (Matthew 5:41). In the context Jesus deals with retaliation. More specifically, Roman soldiers could by law compel a person under Roman jurisdiction into service. If at some point in your business you are forced to supply a service because of the law, I would call upon you to double that service. Why? This offers you an opportunity to speak the Gospel of grace and disarms the individual of their prejudicial stereotypes about Christians through the activity of love.
Well Phillip, are you not asking me to go against my conscience? No I am not and this is why.
If as a Christian you firmly hold to an interpretation of Scripture that if you were to do otherwise would violate your conscience and lead you to sin. If as a Christian you are firm in that position and not obeying human law would cost your livelihood, your business, and such, then for the sake of Christ, hold fast to your conscience. Or as that great song says,
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
How now should faith inform business? Faith should inform our businesses in such a way that Arkansas sees a Christianity that displays a radical grace and a willingness to lose earthly comforts all for the sake of Christ. For some of us it will mean in full faith going that extra mile to serve in love those who see our position as bigoted. For others it will mean losing our earthly goods in love. On whatever side you may fall, God’s truth, incarnate in Christ, and made powerful by the Holy Spirit leads us to a kingdom that will not end.
America will end because there exist a better and more glorious country. Our strife over legislation that divides us will one day give way to a truly righteous government. All the words we use to beat one another over the head with will be turned into instruments of peace.
America will end one day but his kingdom is forever.