Resistance Is Not Futile image

Resistance Is Not Futile

I got back from a trip to the US today and as I waited to be allowed off the plane scrolled through the BBC news feed. Just behind the arrest of Julian Assange and the latest Brexit developments was the story of rugby star Israel Folau. Folau, one of Australia’s best players, is facing the end of his career for social media comments about gay people.

According to the report Folau didn’t say only gay people faced the risk of hell – his comments seem to have been a more-or-less direct quote from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and were equally comprehensive:

On Wednesday, he posted on Instagram that “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” should “repent” because “only Jesus saves”, and made similar remarks on Twitter.

An axiom I have borrowed from some of my American friends is that, ‘The gospel is offensive. Nothing else should be.’ This means that in speaking the truth of the gospel we need to ensure that if offense is caused it is because of the gospel, and not because we have been jerks. We see a good example of this in Acts 19 where the impact of the witness of Paul and his companions sparked a riot in Ephesus, yet the city clerk was able to say, ‘these men have not blasphemed our goddess.’ Clearly the gospel was causing offense but the believers had not set out to be offensive.

Sexual diversity is the goddess of our age (as I left Heathrow I passed a large poster advertising the forthcoming ‘Heathrow Pride’ day) and there doesn’t seem to be the same concern for those drunks, liars and atheists who may have been offended by Folau as there is for gays - and Donald Tusk has not lost his job for saying certain British politicians have a special place reserved in hell. But because the reality in which we live is that LGBT issues are the goddess we should not set out to ‘blaspheme’ this: we shouldn’t be provocative for the sake of it or crass in the things we say. Yet if we are to be faithful to the gospel we can’t go cutting out of it those parts that our culture finds most offensive.

The posture of Christians towards those in authority should be one of respect and submission (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2) but there comes a point when we are also meant to resist the authorities. That line is crossed when the authorities refuse the free declaration of the word of God. An example of this is when Peter and John are commanded not to speak about the gospel and reply, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’ (Acts 4:19-20).

Practically, I think this means we need to be wise in the way we speak (especially on social media) and not use Bible texts as battering rams. But if the authorities say we are not even allowed to quote scripture we have to resist and obey God rather than men. That might make resistance costly, but it won’t be futile – it is faithful.

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