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Christian's livelihoods under threat
In our post-modern age, Christians are increasingly finding themselves in situations of having to choose between holding fast to the dictates of conscience and the need to earn a living. Christian Guest House operators and employees in the public sector are at the forefront of increasing pressures from the political, media and legal establishment to conform to the spirit of our times.
MY telephone rang some time back and the caller was in a bit of a flap. He was a Christian businessman who had just opened an upmarket hotel: the venture had cost him much time and money. His problem, and here I refer to his reason for calling, was that a couple from whom he had accepted a booking some time previously, were due to arrive in the next few hours and the flustered hotelier had just discovered that the persons concerned were in a same sex relationship.
We had a discussion about the ins and outs of the case from a moral and legal perspective. I also gave some signposting to other expert sources of advice on this particular issue. Needless to say that while the telephone conversation was very focussed, it couldn’t go on for too long, as the couple were due to arrive very shortly. So we rang off.
I do not know what decision that hotelier took or whether he is still in the catering business, but his problem was very real and is becoming increasingly prevalent.
Same-sex couples (irrespective of gender) are increasingly testing the scope and boundaries of new legislation; and their focus is on Christians. Christians, in an increasingly hostile climate, are a soft target. After all, disciples of Christ are meant to be both loving and law-abiding, are they not?
The Christian response
However the above situation, which is now increasingly common, does raise the question of how Christians should respond in matters relating to the law(s) of the land. We have situations in the Bible of followers of Christ which alternatively speak of upholding the law (Romans 13:1 – 6; Titus 3:1) and possibly breaking the law (Acts 5:25). (I say ‘possibly’ because while Peter and his friends may have been disobeying the religious Jewish leaders they would not necessarily have been contravening the legislation of the Roman authorities. However one situation whereby Christians are almost certainly breaking the law is in smuggling Bibles into countries where the Word of God is forbidden. Should they be so doing?)
But back to Christian hoteliers and guest house owners. Bed and Breakfast operators may put up the defence that they should be able to decide who can and can’t come into their home, but is this a legitimate plea?
Christians offering accommodation are, at one level, just business people, and are therefore obliged to live within the laws that govern anti-discriminatory business practices. Indeed the situation facing B&B operators could also apply to Christian printers, book shops and a host of other commercial ventures. What we can be fairly sure of is that an aggressive anti-Christian ethos which is being increasingly supported by new legislation and a liberal establishment élite – in politics, the media and the law courts – will use every opportunity to inflict their beliefs (and/or lack of them) on the principled Christian believer.
Persection to be expected
But whether we like it or not, the Bible teaches that persecution is what the believer should expect (Matt 13:21; Acts 11:19; Acts 13:50; 1 Thess 3:4; Heb 10:33; Rev 2:10). Jesus did say: ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’ (Matt 5:11-12). ‘When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say’ (Luke 12:11-12).
Writing to Timothy, his young co-worker, Paul stated that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Tim. 3:12).
Tertullian famously stated that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ and one Communist leader once observed: ‘religion is like a nail: the harder you hit it the more you drive it in.’ The old adage states: ‘There is nothing wrong with the church that a little bit of persecution wouldn’t cure’. Indeed it is a fact that the church is growing most strongly around the world in the countries where the persecution is the most severe.
Leaving aside the more fanciful (though not necessarily unfounded) interpretations from Biblical end-time projections about believers being unable to buy or sell (i.e. make a living) we are perhaps rapidly moving towards the time when many Christians in the UK – the hotelier at the start of this piece being an example – will have to make very important decisions on matters of Christian conscience and earning a living. And it's not easy. But there again, Jesus never said it would be.
Ed footnote: One doesn’t have to look beyond the Highlands and Islands to see the effect of the above. Christians are having to wrestle with the strictures of the operating environment and new laws, and the issues of conscience – even at the cost of their livelihood, whether in employment or running a business.