There are many challenges in the Christian life, many ways we trip and fall, many ways we confront suffering and pain, many opponents, and many uncertainties. In all these things, we are comforted that Christ goes with us in it all. More than that, Christ conquers all these challenges through us and makes us more than conquerors in Him.
This last two weeks have been quite a challenge for both my church and I. My regular heckler Mr S. has leveled a complaint against my pastor Campbell Markham and I under the Anti-Discrimination act here in Hobart. The complaint whilst long and convoluted is clear on one thing, the issue at hand is primarily the content of the Christian faith. Christian convictions regarding morality, the gospel, the sanctity of life, and the reality of God’s coming judgment are all under attack. Australia’s usual “holy cows” have been used in this complaint; homosexuality (and SSM), abortion, Islam, and the big one “offence”. It appears that a public Christian response to these is not only forbidden in the eyes of progressive ideologues like Mr S. but also in the eyes of the law (ala the Anti-Discrimination Act).
My Pastor has been targeted for writing letters to the editor and reproducing them as blog posts. The “offensiveness” of his comments is the excuse used to attack his reasoned, gentle, clear, and biblical response to homosexual campaigns in our state and nation. I must wonder what comes next if “offensive” church blogs and newspaper articles are open to legal action. Are we going to have people monitoring the content of pastors’ sermons and submitting them for assessment under the Anti-Discrimination Act?
Before you laugh at the ridiculousness of that thought you need to be aware that part of the complaint against me comes from a sermon I preached at a local church!
I will not weary you with the large list of my apparent legal misdemeanors. Suffice to say that apparently, I can and have breached the law with almost everything I’ve done in Christian evangelism for the last 4-5 years. Obviously, I reject the accusation that I and the team of Christians with me are hatefully bigoted against others who don’t share our views. Our team has worked hard (and sometimes failed) at keeping the balance needed between gracious and gentle proclamation and the clear need to present God’s unflinching opposition to all forms of sin. Over the years we have had a long string of people come to us and apologise for their opposition as they can see that we love the people of Hobart and act from that love. Many of these people are not Christian and some radically disagree with Christian doctrine, yet they can see that Christian street preaching is motivated not by bigotry and hate but rather by loving concern.
Where to then from here? The first port of call in this for all Christians should be prayer. We must praise and glorify God for His goodness in all this, even in challenging times we can trust His wisdom and exult in His Holiness. We need to ask that this will lead to an expansion of God’s kingdom and a deepening love for His ways in Christians. We need to confess our sin and ask for Christ Jesus’ mercy, no Christian is perfect and I am worse than most. We need to ask our loving heavenly Father to give us what we need for today, that we could live and glorify Him in how we live. We need to plead for forgiveness for our enemies, please don’t stop praying for Mr S.. Lastly, we should to call out to God for Him to act on our behalf and fight the spiritual war that this complaint is as small expression of.
Second thing we should be doing is to let this motivate us to Christian witness. Look at what is happening here as a warning brothers and sisters, opportunities to witness are lessening in our nation. Use the opportunities you have now to speak to others about Jesus. Needless to say, this complaint will not stop the team and I from publicly sharing the glorious gospel news here in Hobart.
Thirdly, as Christians I believe we have a responsibility to stand up to this opposition. What does that look like? Firstly, it involves preaching the gospel! Also, though it involves making this issue as public as you can, this sort of thing breeds in the dark. Bring it out into the light. Write respectful but urgent emails to your local, state and national representatives, make them aware of this and your concerns.
Lastly, we should trust God has all this in hand and it will end up glorifying His name and being for the good of His people. We can trust Him!