“Standing up for religious liberty is bad for Christian witness. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to turn the other cheek?”
How would you respond if someone said that to you?
Jack Phillips’ story could help us formulate an answer.
Jack owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. In 2012, a same-sex couple came into his shop and asked him to design a custom cake celebrating their upcoming wedding ceremony. Because Jack believes that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman, and he can’t use his artistic talents to celebrate an event in conflict with that belief, he politely declined.
That couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which came after Jack, looking to make an example of him because of his beliefs. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that Jack had to design cakes celebrating same-sex weddings or stop designing wedding cakes altogether. Because Jack couldn’t in good conscience violate his beliefs, he lost a big part of his business and over half of his staff. The commission also ordered Jack to re-educate his staff and teach them that it is wrong for him to run his business consistently with his religious beliefs. One commissioner even called Jack’s religious defense a “despicable piece of rhetoric” and compared Jack to perpetrators of the Holocaust.
So, does turning the other cheek mean Jack has to let the government force him to violate his religious beliefs?
The answer is “no.” Let’s explore a few reasons why.
As the video explores, there are three good reasons that defending religious liberty isn’t in conflict with our Christian witness:
- Religious liberty is given to us by God, not the government.
- The Christian Church has long taught and supported the importance of religious liberty.
- Standing up for religious liberty benefits everyone.
And that brings us back to Jack. Did his stand for religious liberty ultimately hurt his Christian witness?
Again, the clear answer is “no.”
In fact, the opposite is true.
Jack still gladly serves everyone at Masterpiece Cakeshop. Jack has struck up a friendship with a homeless man and a man from an Alcoholics Anonymous group over coffee and cookies. Jack is the type of person who lends out his best car to those in need. And Jack loves and serves everyone that walks through the doors of Masterpiece Cakeshop. He just can’t celebrate every event or express every message that is asked of him—particularly when it contradicts his faith.
Through all of the legal turmoil that Jack has endured over the past eight years, including being the target of a third lawsuit, Jack’s quiet faithfulness has continued to inspire others and point them to Christ.
In fact, because of Jack’s stand, his nephew Sean accepted Christ.
When the state first went after Jack, Sean didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. But he did know his Uncle Jack. And though he didn’t fully grasp why Jack was willing to take such a stand, he knew all the hate being aimed at Jack didn’t make any sense.
Sean describes Jack as one of the most genuine, kind, and generous people he knows.
And Sean watched as Jack lost employees and business, his sense of safety and security, and his good name in the media. Yet, Jack didn’t meet it with anger or bitterness.
Sean didn’t understand it. He dug into the Bible to understand the comfort that Jack had in Christ and how he could withstand such hardship with grace and peace. And eventually, Sean decided to put his faith in Jesus Christ.
Sean’s not the only one. Jack and his family have been blessed to hear from countless other Christians who were encouraged and strengthened by Jack’s stand.
In the words of Jack’s daughter, Lisa: “Watching my dad’s trials undertaken for the sake of Christ has only made me want to know Christ more.”
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