Tuesday, June 2, 2015
WHAT'S A PREACHER TO DO?
The recent London police mishap concerning street preacher, Robert Hughes, as garnered worldwide attention…and rightly so. No, he wasn’t screaming at the top of his lungs about the end of the world. He wasn’t obstructing a street corner. He wasn’t even passing out subversive tracts with the latest conspiracy theories to hit the prophecy clubs. Robert Hughes, age 38, of Essex was accused by a lesbian passer-by of making homophobic statements during his sermon. The incident happened back in February, 2013. Mr. Hughes’ detension in jail lasted eleven hours. Only now did the falsely accused preacher, whose own recorder proved his innocence, receive 2500 pounds in compensation for his wrongful treatment. The large sum of money will go to pay off legal fees that the unwitting street preacher accumulated. You can read the whole story here, at the DAILY MAIL’s homepage. http://www.dailymail.co.uk Let’s be thankful the London police department came to their senses, checked the recorded evidence and let Mr. Hughes go. It was the right and only thing to do, despite the protests from the lesbian accuser. Where there’s no crime, no one needs to do the time. Yet, amid the fear-mongering of activists in our own country, bakery and flower shop owners are publicly deemed guilty of homophobia even before they turn a single gay couple away from their services. When Indiana passed—and reversed, in part—its religious liberty protection act a few weeks ago, entities as diverse as the NCAA to the ACLU, actors and athletes mustered all their energies to stomp out the bill in the name of civil rights and economic freedom—even before any business had the opportunity to serve or reject someone of an alternate lifestyle. The fervor cause Gov. Mike Pence to back down from his ardent support of the bill in view of business boycotts and a threatened loss of money during the NCAA’s men’s basketball final four weekend held in Indianapolis. The fear factor links these two newsworthy stories. Under the shifting social mores in our 21st century society, government and law enforcement personnel live under the constant pressure of answering to the most active citizens, including vocal minorities. The fear of instigating a riot—as in the racial tensions present in Ferguson Missouri or New York City last year keeps law enforcement officers on their toes protecting groups who voice their apparent oppressed status. Rather than simply calling for equality under the law, gay activists, in particular, seek to use the fear factor to establish a new normal—granting their interests more and heightened protection above and beyond the rights of ordinary citizens. What if street preacher, Robert Hughes, had made Biblically-based statements about the Lord’s displeasure and condemnation of homosexuality? If so, the lesbian passer-by might have had some ground to stand on in the eyes of London’s law enforcement community. This does not mean he needed to stop his preaching. He had the recording to prove that his intent was nowhere to harm one person in particular. But, would he have the freedom of speech to voice his religious descent against a lifestyle? The predicament brings on what conservative commentator and president of Southern Baptist Seminary, Al Mohler, calls the conflict between civic liberty and moral liberty. In the United States, at least on paper, the first amendment to the Constitution resolves this tension in its establishment and free exercise clauses. Yet, even here, freedom of religion has morphed into a freedom of worship. Religion, to many, is good as long as adherents keep moral strictures to themselves. The Christian response takes into account a genuine respect for governing authorities and the desire to honor the Lord whose moral law remains in effect. Christians recognize the authority vested in governing officials, teachers and parents. (Rom. 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13ff) Yet, even governments established by God can and do err in judgment. Hence, when the Christian comes before a court or other governing body, he follows the psalmist’s example of telling God’s statutes before kings without being put to shame. (Ps. 119:46) Willing to obey God rather than man in situations where moral concerns trump contemporaneous social constructs. (Acts 5:29) Always seeking to be prepared to make a defense of our hope in Jesus Christ, we Christians have no need to hide Scripture’s plain moral teaching—whether it concern homosexuality, abortion, adultery, etc. Whether testifying on behalf of someone else or pleading our case, we desire our words to leave no doubt that we would rather face any measure of punishment and/or persecution than to hand over our trust in our perfect, living Lord and Savior who has bought us back from sin’s control with the price of His shed blood. For with that blood, our Lord has sprinkled His Church clean, a bride adorned for her husband. (Eph. 5:25-27) Bought by the price of Jesus’ blood, we take heart in upholding moral and ethical standards which accord with God’s will. Using rational thought and natural law, we can explain how male and female lifelong monogamy provides the healthiest and most secure option for families to pursue. While observing the increased acceptance of sex-change operations and transgender behavior, we look for opportunities to expose the emotional instability such life changes might bring about. Ultimately, we do bear the responsibility of showing how any moral failing, left unchecked and unrepented of leads someone to eternal punishment in hell. On the other hand, Christ Jesus reconciles us with the Father and sends us into the public square as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20) that people may be convicted by the law and brought the forgiving freedom that the promise of eternal life by grace through faith in Christ Jesus affords us. While society balks under pressure of the fear factor, we, too, voice our concern. Our prayers fill heaven with our own anxiety and frustration with adjusting to our postmodern society. Beset with this concern, we desire to keep our eyes fixed forward, to the prize that leads us heavenward. Through our careful study and application of His Word in view of the chaotic circumstances around us, the Holy Spirit promises to give us the words to speak. Maybe, we may face governing or law enforcement authorities because of something we’ve said. Perhaps, our business faces pressure to include abortifacients in an employee’s medical coverage. We stare economic insecurity in the face when charges of discriminating against homosexuals wishing to use our services keep us up at night. “God” remains our “refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)