In April of this year, Dale McAlpine was standing in a shopping center preaching to passing shoppers when he was approached by a police officer. The officer told Mr. McAlpine that he was a liaison officer for the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, and that he was homosexual. Mr. McAlpine told the officer that he believed that, by Biblical standards, homosexuality was a sin. The officer then arrested him and he “was charged with breaching section 5 of the Public Order Act by allegedly using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress” (see here). This case happened in the United Kingdom.
A little closer to home, Stephen Boissoin, a Christian pastor in Canada, was taken before a Canadian human-rights tribunal and was ordered to pay a $7500 fine and demanded to stop making “disparaging remarks” about homosexuals after publishing a letter that stated that homosexuality was a sin (see here).
And even closer to home, in New Mexico a lesbian couple attempted to hire Jon and Elaine Huguenin to photograph their commitment ceremony. The photographers declined, and were promptly charged with discrimination before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. They were found guilty and ordered to pay more than $6000.
These kinds of things are beginning to happen all over the world. These issues happen to revolve around homosexuality, but other issues are coming to light as well. It can easily follow that before long, even preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in a public place will equate to “hate speech,” which is already being prosecuted in the United States. The early church was no stranger of the issue of being arrested for preaching the gospel. Today’s lesson from The Ever Loving Truth looked at Acts 5:17-21, where the apostles were arrested once again:
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
Here we see a miracle of monstrous proportions – an angel of God himself coming and opening the doors to the jail and releasing the apostles. But he doesn’t just set them free – he tells them to “tell the people the full message of this new life.” God’s intervention in this situation was more than just to show His power – it was to allow the gospel to continue to be preached.
So from this, we can see that it is normal to be persecuted for spreading the message of Jesus. We don’t think in America that we could ever be prosecuted in a court of law for doing something like this, but it’s already happening in other areas, and it’s only a matter of time before preaching and teaching the name of Jesus fall under the category of a hate crime. At first, this seemed like a stretch to me – how could spreading a message of love be considered a hate crime? But the prophet Isaiah predicted such things when he said “woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” It really is just a matter of time.
The good news is that regardless of what happens to those who spread the gospel of Christ, that message will still be spread. The apostles were jailed for spreading that message, but God freed them so that they could continue to spread it. The story of Paul’s life after his conversion is filled with persecution, torture, and many close calls with death – but he made it through them all in order to continue spreading the gospel. And at the end of his life, right before he was finally executed, he wrote to Timothy “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8-9, emphasis added). No matter what happened to Paul, the gospel would spread. The same goes for us.