LONDON – Being a whole-life disciple in Britain today may come at great cost to Christians, says Nigel Hopper of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity.
The lecturer in contemporary culture said the recent ruling against Christian B&B owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull raised the question of how Christians are to live out their faith in the context of a society where that faith is not shared by everyone.
The Bulls were this week ordered by a court to pay £3,600 (around $5757) to a gay couple they refused to let stay in a double room in their guesthouse.
"It is a reminder, if one is needed, that it's all too easy to talk up the 'adventure,' or the 'journey' of discipleship, and make no mention of the cost of discipleship," said Hopper.
He paid tribute to the Christians who have offered to help the Bulls pay the damages, saying that their generosity is a practical outworking of faith in the Christian community.
However, he added that the ruling alluded to the possibility of a greater cost for Christians of giving up their jobs if they cannot reconcile its legal obligations with the obligations they feel to their faith.
"Of course, we need always to be very certain in any given situation that our faith is genuinely being compromised, and not just disagreed with," he said.
"After all, whatever their line of work – whether paid or unpaid – the vast majority of Christians daily rub shoulders, and must get along, with colleagues and clients who don't share their faith and have made very different life choices as a result."
Hopper spoke of the need to make a stand in circumstances where Christians genuinely believe their faith to be compromised. He encouraged the church to look to the example of the first Christians and their obedience to God rather than people.
He concluded: "As we do so, we might also consider whether the kind of predicament, the B&B owners found themselves in might not be anything less than a regular occurrence among Christians wrestling with what it means to live as whole-life disciples."
The Bulls are considering whether or not to appeal the ruling by the judge who said their policy to allow only heterosexual married couples in their double rooms was unlawful.
The judge said the Equality Act required civil partnerships to be treated in the same way as marriage but admitted that his ruling "does affect the human rights of the defendants to manifest their religion and forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genuinely held beliefs."
The Christian Institute said the ruling was further evidence that the equality laws are "being used as a sword rather than a shield" against Christians.