Can We Please Stop With The “Complicit In Their Sin” Nonsense?

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The internet is an exhausting place.

The insular and incestual nature of social media allows absurd logic to be transformed into divine revelation without a second thought.

This is, perhaps, no more true than in the recent debate over the now vetoed Arizona law that would have allowed businesses to deny service to people when doing so was against their sincerely held beliefs.

At the heart of this debate, at least in Christian circles, is the notion that doing business with or serving someone thought to be a sinner makes the (sinless?) person complicit in their customer’s life of sin.

I know I’m not the only one here, but I’m beyond tired of the absurd argument that making a cake for someone makes you complicit in their unrepentant life of sin.

Look, if you’re going to follow this ethic, you need to do so consistently and stop doing anything for anyone because everyone is a sinner and you have no idea whether or not they have repented for that day or any day’s sins. Which means if you do anything that helps them live or thrive and thus be able to continue on in their sin, then you are complicit in their life of sin. And if that is true, then anything he ever sold as a carpenter or miracle or act of kindness Jesus ever did for anybody, made him “complicit in their life of sin.”

So, unless you’re willing to also affirm the ridiculous idea that Jesus’ ministry was really about enabling people to sin and empowering them to do so, then stop with the equally ridiculous complicity nonsense.

Serving others a piece of cake isn’t an act of complicity.

It’s an act of service, maybe even love.

Or it’s just business.

But it most certainly is not complicity in sin.


Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt


  • Matt Orth

    Thanks Zack. Needed and to the point. And just to be clear, when Zack says “complicit” he means you are not affirming their behavior. To love/serve/do business with someone is not to say you agree with everything they do on a moral level. Stop the madness. (I think a case could be made for the opposite too: Where you spend a dollar as a christian doesn’t mean you support everything that business does with that dollar…but that would really upset the apple cart.)

    • ZackHunt

      “And just to be clear, when Zack says “complicit” he means you are not affirming their behavior.”

      Yes!! Great point!!

  • Todd Williams


  • Eric Fry

    Amen, indeed, Zack!

    This topic came up in Bible study last night with a few people. Just made me so sad. Wrote about claiming God’s grace to cover our own sins while refusing to extend that grace to others.

  • DirkPitts

    I’ve flipped on the issue in recent days.. mostly out of the weird contempt I’ve seen for bakers recently (“It’s only cake!”).

    People should be free to choose which jobs they take.. they should be able to refuse service for any reasonable or inane reason they wish.

    Pro-baker, pro-choice.

    • ZackHunt

      Who decides what’s reasonable?

      50 years ago denying service to black folks was deemed reasonable.

      • DirkPitts

        The individual, as much as possible. I see nothing wrong with bigots losing business.

        • ZackHunt

          What if that individual is the CEO of Wal-Mart? Or Bank of America? Or every the owner of every restaurant or bank in town bans minorities? Are they just out of luck?

          In other words, if we can trust individuals/the free market to effectively solve problems like discrimination not only why don’t we? but what is the purpose and function of law?

          • DirkPitts

            I can see how a bigoted baker might be able to scrape by, but there’s no way a Walmart or BOA could survive with a bigoted business plan.

          • DirkPitts

            However, I would like to point out my “as much as possible” caveat… in cases of ‘every restaurant’ which (I don’t see being an issue with AZ) I do agree that government involvement would be needed.

          • Eric Boersma

            in cases of ‘every restaurant’ which (I don’t see being an issue with AZ) I do agree that government involvement would be needed.

            For point of reference, the reason that these laws were upheld in the first place was because “every restaurant in town” actually was banning black folks from eating at their counter. There were real and documented problems for traveling black families finding a place to stay and places to eat during their travels. An argument that allows discrimination with the hope that maybe it won’t be as bad this time is…not a good argument.

  • Anthony

    I think you and some of the people making the complicity argument are talking about two different things.

    If I feed a sinner, it doesn’t make me complicit in all of their future sins. Just like Jesus wasn’t complicit in all of the sins of the people for whom he made stuff out of wood. That’s why the Arizona law is absurd. But that’s not the only argument being made by the progressive side of this debate.

    The argument being made by some (such as Rachel Evans, unfortunately), is that Jesus calls us to help others even if the act of helping supports (or is complicit in or condones or whatever you want to call it) the person’s sinful behavior – that we are called to help no matter what – and I just don’t believe that’s true. That line of reasoning opens the door to Christian complicity in all kinds of horrible things, and many making the complicity argument are refuting this one.

    In the case of the AZ law, there is no connection between the act of serving and the sins of the sinner. The AZ baker, however, did believe that making a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage amounted to there being a link between their service and the sin.

    Would Jesus make someone a wooden figure knowing the person planned to worship it? Of course not. Is making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding the same thing? Probably not. But that’s the argument that should be made rather than the argument that Christians must serve no matter what and that anyone refusing service for any reason is un-Christian.

    • Matt Orth

      Should the Christian car salesperson refuse to sell a car to a same sex couple because they are going to use it to drive to the wedding? What about airlines, should they refuse to sell tickets to same sex couples going on a honeymoon? Should banks refuse their money because it’s used to support their marriage? That ethic gets out of control rather quickly…especially when it operates on the “we will not offer this service because it directly contributes to them committing this sin” principle. What about the greedy people you serve? Or the gluttons? Will you withhold services from them that they would directly “use” to commit their sins?

      Not attacking you personally Anthony, but I see the distinction you (and many others) make but I don’t think it’s really a distinction. And if it is truly a distinction, it is not remotely practiced with consistency and is only being carted out in regards to dealing with folks who are openly GLBT.

      • Anthony

        “That ethic gets out of control rather quickly…”

        I agree, but so does the ethic that says the other extreme is true – that I must, as a Christian, serve anyone in any way no matter what.

        That’s really the false dichotomy here. Do I really have to choose between (1) serving others no matter what, even if doing so is directly complicit in unrepentant sin, and (2) serving no one because everyone is a sinner?

        I don’t think I do. I don’t anyone actually lives that way. What really happens is people make judgments about where to draw the line between those extremes.

        That’s the heart of the debate. Where to draw the line. Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage just draw the line in a different place. And yet people on both sides of the issue are accusing each other of disregarding God’s law.

        Well, there’s contradiction (apparent, at least) in God’s law. It’s hard to figure out where Jesus himself would draw that line between loving your neighbor and condoning sin.

        I wish Mr. Hunt and others would frame the debate that way – as an issue with which Christians should struggle and grapple – because I think it would push the discussion forward instead of creating a divisive atmosphere in which we all point fingers and yell.

      • D Lowrey

        Everyone is concerned about only the LGBT angle. What about selling a car to someone who’s using it to have an affair or driving drunk and killing someone? How about the couple who are going to join the “Mile High Club” while flying?

        I swear…the people…especially the “Xtian’s” one who fixate on LGBT’s…need to get out of their closets soon.

      • NavVet

        A car sale is not a Holy sacrament…

    • Eric Boersma

      Would Jesus make someone a wooden figure knowing the person planned to worship it?

      This is deeply ironic considering the near-worship reverence that medieval churches held purported (but not actually) fragments of Jesus’s cross. See also: things like the Shroud of Turin.

      • Anthony

        I agree here, too. And if Jesus knew a wooden cross he was going to make (note that I recognize how absurd that notion is) was going to be worshiped, I wonder if he’d make it.

    • Eric Boersma

      That line of reasoning opens the door to Christian complicity in all kinds of horrible things, and many making the complicity argument are refuting this one.

      “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8

      There are two questions that one should ask themselves when someone asks them to do something. “Is this thing just? Is this thing merciful?” If the answer to either of those questions is “no”, you shouldn’t do that thing. But if the answer to both of those questions is yes, you should perform the task. Unless you can come up with a convincing argument that doesn’t involve mental gymnastics about going to Hell that says that baking a cake for a gay marriage is unjust or unmerciful, you should bake the cake.

      So in other words, you should bake the cake. Regardless of your beliefs.

    • Joe Watkins

      The problem with this logic that I see this article calling to task is the fact that we don’t have evidence of anything like Jesus being asked to build something where he said, “No, actually I won’t do that because you’re going to make it into an idol.” (In fact there’s good historical grounds to believe that Jesus and Joseph would have worked in nearby towns on construction projects for things like homes and maybe even temples without regard for the final purpose of that building).

      We do, however, have evidence of Jesus offering help and healing without regard for what would come of his actions. The most obvious, as it relates to the AZ law, is the wedding at Cana. There’s at least some scriptural grounds to stand against drunkenness and many Christians don’t drink at all for fear of being “a stumbling block” or being seen a complicit in the sins of others, and yet here’s Jesus, making more (and better wine) for a wedding in which people are already inebriated and only going to get more so because they have more wine.

      • Anthony

        If you’re going to limit your understanding of what is okay and not okay for Christian living according to what Jesus explicitly prohibited, you’re leaving out a whole lot of sinful behavior that the Bible as a whole clearly prohibits. I don’t believe Jesus would condone helping an adulterous friend conceal his indiscretions, but he didn’t explicitly say so. Am I to assume, then, that that’s okay?

        As I stated elsewhere, I don’t think you actually believe it is okay for Christians to participate or be complicit in unrepentant, unapologetic sinful behavior in every form (as the logic you apply above would imply).

        The disagreement is over where to draw the line between loving your neighbor and being complicit in sin. Yet, hardly anyone is framing the issue that way.

  • Pam
  • Tim

    AMEN! We need to stop the insanity.

  • D Lowrey

    I could be wrong…but I thought it said throughout the Bible that you were supposed to use your works to show what your faith is about with no preconditions. For instance…several from my church were talking about giving people money and they taking that money and buying drugs or booze with it. When I mentioned that Jesus was more worried about your motives for helping than what whoever was going to do with that help…thought they would die from strokes or heart attacks.

  • Karen

    Why is it I suspect a law like AZ wanted to put into effect could very easily be turned around and used against Christians? Kind of like the “freedom of religion”guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution has morphed into “freedom from religion” in the public square these days.

    I also think Anthony is onto something in his comment below to Matt Orth. This should be a reasoned discussion about what biblical principles should guide our discernment about where to draw the line. How do we figure out when our actions or decisions (business or otherwise) become complicity in another’s sin? Perhaps the “boundaries” series of books by Cloud and Townsend could help us to better recognize where some of those lines should be drawn.

  • Romeotrash

    Thanks for this. You took the words right out of my mouth. I consider myself theologically conservative when it comes to the issue of homosexuality but I’ve never shied away from saying that the church should not try and limit the rights of other free people. The recent proposed bills in Arizona and Kansas have been an embarrassing black eye (and self inflicted I might add) to evangelicals. It’s got me so irked that I’m tempted to get up and walk away from all of it.

  • wallyfoo

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  • Ed_Cyzewski

    “Same Sex Wedding Cancelled Because of Cake Shortage”… said no newspaper ever.

  • CoryKessler

    If a baker has the make a cake for a homosexual wedding for the sake of serving people, does a Pastor have to officiate the same homosexual wedding? Or do they have the right to refuse?

    • Joe Watkins

      What if churches and pastors relinquished the civic power to be legal officiants? If couples, churches, or pastors want to celebrate and bless a couple they would then be able to celebrate it however they wish, and with whatever parameters, but as they would be services held by a religious group and not a legal matter it would far more difficult to compel them to do anything.

      But the point also assumes that there are homosexual couples out trying to force the church to host their weddings and pastors to marry them. That dynamic seems to be one of the fictive scenarios that have made the culture war so destructive for the church to engage in.

      • CoryKessler

        The same goes for anything though that’s my point. Restaurants turning away gay customers, hotels denying gay customers, airlines, schools, etc. all of those are fictitious scenarios, so why all the fear of discrimination?

        Why force a baker to make your cake? There are other bakers who would gladly make your cake. So why take the one who said “no” to court? If you can win that fight then any part of the wedding “industry” would be subject to the same (including churches and pastors).

        All I’m saying is that marginalizing a person who is afraid they will be forced to take part in a homosexual wedding is ridiculous. They have legitimate fears, and they legitimately feel like providing their services would betray their relationship with God

  • Terry

    I can understand a baker’s concern if required to put two grooms or two brides on a cake.

  • Dillon

    “Look, if you’re going to follow this ethic, you need to do so consistently and stop doing anything for anyone because everyone is a sinner and you have no idea whether or not they have repented for that day or any day’s sins.”

    I’m kind of thinking here: “Hi, I need an oil change.” ” Great. Be with you in just a few minutes.” Oil change guy/girl has no idea of this person other than they are servicing their vehicle.

    “Hi, my partner and I are getting married. We would like you to make our cake.”

    Person involved in the service knows exactly what’s happening and declines to provide service for religious beliefs. I suppose there are million different scenarios we could throw out but this seems to be typical of the knowledge and refusal by the service provider.

    • Herm

      Are you implying that we can exact our own judgement and execution on the openly gays but not on the closeted heterosexual cross dressers that participates in consensual adult safe anal sex just because God didn’t feel it necessary to make us openly knowledgeable of the sinful nature of the heterosexual. Even though neither affected me or mine at home or in our bedrooms am I responsible to react as judge, jury and executioner because my sinning (as we all are) elder told me to react differently to the one he knew and not to the other he knew not when God certainly didn’t speak to my heart and mind regarding either as He is surely capable (both of knowing and sharing)?

  • cori

    You may have already discussed this in a previous post, but this ‘issue’ seems so similar to the battle over slavery 150 years ago. We’ll look back in 100 years and be shocked that this was ever an issue just like we look back on slavery and can’t believe any thinking, loving person could have justified enslaving another human being. Those abolitionists, peace loving citizens and Quakers sure took a lot of flack for ‘harboring and abetting slaves’ back in the day just because they felt people shouldn’t be treated differently because of skin color. I see the exact same thing holding true today with ‘the gay issue’. Why is it even an issue? Why can’t we just love? Why do christians insist on being ‘right’ in such hurtful, destructive, self-righteous ways? I just don’t get it.

    • Anthony

      “Why can’t we just love?”

      Because Jesus and the Bible call on Christians to do more than just love.

      (Note that I do not believe “doing more” means passing laws that discriminate.)

      • Herm

        Anthony, you are so right! Love without mercy is not taught as Christ’s love by Him as the Word.

  • Joe K

    First off, let me begin by stating this bill won’t work b/c across-the-board right to refuse by business shouldn’t be allowed. But, in the case of gay weddings, I believe it should be, and here is where the author is wrong. If you’re a Christian baker/florist/photographer/caterer, you’re serving a celebration of something that you believe to be a sin. If you’re a Christian who believes a gay wedding to be a sin, that just won’t sit right. The argument the author makes about not helping anyone because everyone sins doesn’t hold any water. Yes, everyone sins, but if you’re contrite and ask for forgiveness and confess your sins, you will be forgiven. But if you are taking part in a gay wedding, you’re probably not feeling sorry about it, and not asking for forgiveness, otherwise you wouldn’t be going through with the wedding. So you’re, in effect, living in sin.

  • Joy

    As a cake decorator with a small growing business who is a Christian I have grappled with`this issue that has come up over whether or not baking business who have Christian owners should provide a cake for a gay wedding party. I would not have a problem baking a cake/cupcakes for someone who is gay, nor having someone gay work for/with me, but I may or may not choose to bake a cake for a gay marriage celebration. I am not settled on the issue. But here are some of my thoughts/questions. It would not be the people I was protesting, but the event itself that I may not want to provide service for. Do I not as a business owner have the right to choose whether or not I should provide a cake for a KKK event, or an extremist Islamic party event, or a Wiccan event, or for a bachelor/bachelorette party where a specific anatomy is wanted? I do not all mean to compare anyone who is gay to a KKK member,extreme Islamist, Wiccan, or someone who wants a “novelty” cake, but I would certainly protest and potentially refuse to provide service for any of those events. If any of those individuals in the categories previously listed asked for a cake to celebrate someone’s birthday, retirement, baby shower, etcetera, I would not have so much a problem providing them a cake. I may disagree with someone’s views/practices/behavior, but I could still serve them. But should I have be compelled to provide service to an event that doesn’t just go against my personal convictions, but also negate my business practices? I wouldn’t even provide a cake for some of the shenanigans of the Westboro Baptist Church if I knew that their event specifically was celebrating/denigrating something that goes against my business model/practices. I don’t think that it is or should be considered discrimination to refuse to provide service for the event itself. However, should I be compelled to by law to provide service to aforementioned events, I do not believe that I would be condoning/empowering/enabling certain behavior, life choices, sin, or other religions. I would make their cake, pray that God would use me in my interactions with others (as I do with all my cakes), hope that they are pleased with the presentation and taste, and say, “Let them eat cake!”

  • Johnathan S.

    Following the same logic, those same people would have to stop going to Disney World…. nevermind.

  • Rebecca Erwin


  • Hannah

    Thank you for pointing out the inherent hypocrisy and inconsistency in adopting such a ridiculous position. If a baker can’t handle the idea of how his/her cakes may be hypothetically making him/her complicit in the customer’s hypothetical sin, then said person has too fragile of a conscience for business entirely. Probably too fragile of a conscience for going out of their house at all…

  • Bart Massey

    Yes. Just yes.

  • Anthony

    Mr. Hunt, did you see Roger Olson’s take on the bake-a-cake-for-a-same-sex-wedding issue? It’s worth reading.

  • Justin

    If the KKK were having a racist rally, would we consider it complicity if someone baked a cake for them with a racist slogan?

  • NavVet

    Anyone here actually read the Bible?