The Latin phrase, suum cuique (pronounced soo-oom′ kwee′-kweh), means “to each his own.” It’s a phrase that denotes the need for people to respect the rights and choices of others, allowing them the range of freedoms and experiences we so often claim to treasure. I’ve found that the Church seriously needs to rediscover the theological significance of this phrase because the socio-political track we’re on is contrary to everything Scripture teaches us about how we’re to relate to others regarding our beliefs.

Christians who are politically active make a huge mistake when they justify political positions with religious beliefs. This is a most common error made by Christian conservatives, who oppose things they consider immoral, including things like gambling, abortion, same-sex rights (marriage, adoption, etc.), pornography, prostitution, polygamy, and others. Now, I agree that most (but not all) of the things listed are immoral; but morality isn’t the issue. It’s a problem of imposing our beliefs onto others—something Scripture quite adamantly opposes.

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. [11] For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” [12] So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. [13] Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”
Romans 14:10-13

In this passage, Paul expresses concern that the Christians in Rome are judging other believers who don’t share their doctrinal beliefs. It’s evident that doctrine is the source of the problem if you read the entire chapter. Specifically, Paul identifies the source of their judgment as food choices (vs. 2-3, 6b, 14-15, 20-21) and the day one honors (vs. 5-6a). These are doctrinal issues related to the early Christian dilemma of how much of the Mosaic Law to consider applicable (as in various foods being considered unclean, or certain days needing to be honored, e.g. the Sabbath).

Paul dedicated a substantial amount of space in his epistle to dealing with this problem of how we relate to those with different doctrinal views than ourselves. Apparently, it was an important issue to address, considering that over a chapter was dedicated to this issue in Romans (all of chapter 14 and into chapter 15), and half of Chapter 9 in 1Corinthians (vs. 1Co. 9:19-27).

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. [20] To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; [21] to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. [23] I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
1Corinthians 9:19-23

Here, Paul expressed the importance that those we hope to minister the gospel to are able to relate to us, because in that, they stand a much better chance of receiving and believing the gospel—the single-most important part of Christian ministry (think Great Commission). In order to accomplish this, Paul ignored the finer points of doctrine in preference to being relevant to his audience. Although he realized the theological error of living under the Law, he chose to subject himself to elements of it when ministering to those who consider themselves under the Law. Apparently, reaching the lost is more important than “being right” on this issue or that.

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. [2] For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. [3] I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.”
1Corinthians 2:1-3

As far as Paul was concerned, the fineries of doctrine had too much potential to get in the way of his evangelistic ministry; therefore, he determined that when he was out fishing (think “fishers of men”), he’d leave doctrine at home, knowing nothing except the person of Jesus Christ, and the gospel of His death, burial and resurrection. Seeing as the gospel is the only power unto salvation (Ro. 1:16), he rightly figured that all the other issues (valid though they may be) were not an appropriate part of evangelistic ministry.

Evangelism is about sharing the gospel with those who are lost in the hopeful expectation that they will receive that good news and give their lives to Jesus, thereby being saved. The power of salvation is contingent on the work of Jesus in dying for our sins and being resurrected again from the dead, and upon our faith in that wonderful fact. No other consideration is relevant to the evangelistic ministry. That’s why Paul said that he didn’t bother about doctrinal matters when his only purpose was getting people born again.

The problem for the modern Church is that that we’ve completely lost Paul’s perspective on evangelistic ministry. True biblical evangelism has taken a back seat to religious tyranny. Somewhere along the way, we decided that it was more important to bring people under the banner of “morality,” than under the banner of Christ. We’ve actively engaged in an ongoing campaign to lord our religious values over society—a society that includes unbelievers. In so doing, we’ve presented Christianity to the unbelieving world as a tyrannical faith full of self-righteous hypocrites who care more about appearances than people.

Of course, Christians guilty of this unbiblical approach to their faith (a group largely comprised of what we call “conservative Christians”) would quickly claim that they do care about unbelievers, and that it’s their care and concern that compels them to fight against immorality that would put them at odds with God. For example, if homosexuality is a horrible sin, surely a loving Christian would seek to prevent homosexuality from finding legitimacy or possibly even legality in society in order to keep people from living in that ungodly lifestyle.

My response to such people is simple. What good does it do to prevent homosexuality from finding social acceptance if it doesn’t stop those who identify as homosexual from being homosexual, and from engaging in same-sex intercourse? We can, for example, oppose same-sex marriage on the basis of a belief that homosexuality is an abomination before God, but that’s not going to stop gay people from having sex. It’s not going to stop them from dating, falling in love, and starting a new life with that person. And if it’s true that homosexuality will send people to hell, they’re still going to go there. So, what’s the point?

Without faith in Christ, no one, straight or gay, has any hope of eternal life, which is in and through Christ alone. So, here’s the question: Do efforts to oppose homosexuality in the public square help or hurt our greatest, most important commission, which is to save souls? God did not call us to be cleaners of fish, but to be fishers of men. When we spend our time telling unbelievers how to live, rather than sharing the gospel with them outside of (rather than along with) any other doctrinal or theological consideration, we only increase their chances of rejecting what we have to say… not because of the gospel message itself, but because of their disdain of the messengers!

Why should we hold unbelievers to so-called Christian standards of living when they haven’t accepted Jesus as Lord? Unbelievers are under no obligation to live moral lives, and it’s absolutely antithetical to everything we’re supposed to be in their lives (e.g. a source of light) to try to impose morality. Is this just a liberal philosophy of Christianity that would seek to minimize Christian values and the authority of Scripture? Absolutely not! This is a biblical philosophy.

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; [10] I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. [11] But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one. [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? [13] But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.”
1Corinthians 5:9-13

Paul confirms that the only concern we should have for unbelievers from a religious perspective is getting them saved. We ought not concern ourselves with their morality, their values, or their lifestyles. They are, according to Paul, the providence of God. We’re just to concern ourselves with how those who call themselves Christians are living.

Consequently, people who attempt to impose their religious values on society through legislation or other activities in the public square are sinning by doing so. How pathetically ironic. The actions are supposedly motivated out of a righteous desire for Christian values, yet they’re violating principles associated with the highest command we’re given by God—to make disciples.

So then, what should the Christian response to sin be? How do we deal with the immorality of unbelievers. According to Scripture, we’re to consider it irrelevant. We’re called to be “tolerant” of their sin, seeing as no effort to change them will prevent them from going to Hell anyway. Our only concern should be to save them from eternal destruction, something that the gospel alone (not legislation or social activism) is able to do.

Our Great Commission requires a suum cuique philosophy. We must leave people to live their own lives. We must “tolerate” their sins because they’re under no obligation to live according to Christian standards. It is, in fact, our openness and humility that can help prepare their hearts to be receptive to the glorious message of the gospel we’re commissioned to share with them.

Of course, hearing that we should not concern ourselves with how unbelievers live, the conservative Christian’s need to control somebody will be redirected toward gay Christians. “Well,” they’d say, “it may be wrong to tell unbelievers how to live, but we can sure as hell tell you gay Christians that you’re in sin!” My response: Yes and no. The Christian Church is not a single entity, despite the fact that spiritually, we’re the single body of Christ. There are numerous denominations, numerous organizations, numerous ministries, and numerous local congregations. How dare someone presume to tell people who aren’t a part of their church, aren’t a part of their ministry, aren’t even a part of their denomination how to live. We can’t agree on whether to worship on Saturday or Sunday, whether to use one cup or many during communion, whether women can serve in leadership, etc. So, how can we take it upon ourselves to force the issue when it comes to homosexuality?

Here’s the thing. If you believe that homosexuality is a sin, fine. Preach that message in your home, in your local church, and in your denomination. But outside of that, close your mouth. Romans 14, which I mentioned at the start of this article, clearly demonstrates that we should not judge our brothers and sisters in Christ regarding doctrinal differences. Just take a deep breath and let go of the need to force others to live by your beliefs.

OBJECTION PRECLUDED: Some will, undoubtedly, claim that by my logic, things like murder, child abuse, rape, etc. should be legal, since we’re not supposed to impose our religious values on society. Let me preclude this objection by stating that civil law is not the place to impose religious beliefs; however, it is the place to impose laws necessary for the maintaining of public security and order. Murder, child abuse, rape, etc. violate the rights of others to live without their person or property being under threat of harm. While Christian virtue certainly offers commentary against such things, the laws of a free society must not be contingent upon, or even related to such beliefs.

In relation to the mission of this website, I have yet to see a single legitimate social argument against homosexuality that would justify outlawing, opposing, or discouraging homosexuality or same-sex marriage. If you can think of one—a legitimate one, not some silly procreation or “nuclear family” argument—feel free to offer it in your comments below.