Last week before leaving for Portland I posted about two British Evangelists being arrested for preaching Jesus. I have returned to learn that post has received an incredible amount of impassioned response. It has been shared over 10,000 times on facebook and has been viewed over 80,000 times on our blog site.
Here’s some context. Following by some important observations.
My sources for the post were ChristianHeadlines.com and ChristianConcern.com. However, knowing there might be additional unreported information, I offered this disclaimer that there could be “other possible infractions” and that the incident might not be “correctly reported.”
It appears there is more to this story. At least, if other news accounts are accurate. Apparently the two street preachers, Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell, were rude, crude and abusive in their speech toward the assembled crowd and Muslims in particular. Some said their speech was offensive and disparaging, causing alarm to the extent that the crowd might be incited to violence.
During the trial the Judge granted their right to free speech and religious expression, but added “The comments were inflammatory and extremely offensive, but taken in the context they crossed to behaviour that was abusive and in most respects were disorderly.”
There may other unknown facts not reported but these are sufficient to draw some conclusions and make additional observations.
(1) The original post was not intended to defend Overd and Stockwell. I have no idea of their religious persuasion or their motives. Personally, I doubt that “street preaching” is the best way to reach people in the Western World.
(2) The comments of the prosecuting attorney disparaging the name of Jesus and the Bible have not been disputed. If the evangelists were guilty of violating British law, then why demean Jesus and God’s Word? ThePreachersWord stands by Jesus’ words from John 14:6 and our comments.
(3) We are seeing increasing backslash against Christianity and the name Jesus both in the USA and around the world. I have personally been chastised for praying in the name of Jesus when asked to lead prayer in public setting. The original post was focused on persecution and disrespect for preaching the name of Jesus.
(4) However, if Overd and Stockwell used some of the language that has been reported, they were wrong. Not just insensitive and rude, but wrong. The Bible commands that we “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).
Furthermore, in our interactions with unbelievers we are instructed to speak and behave in a manner reflecting the love of Jesus. “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:6).
While we disagree with the religious teaching of Muslims, our conduct, demeanor and speech should not be rude, crude or insulting. We can respectfully disagree without being personally demeaning to others. We will never win others to Jesus by insulting them with degrading and derogatory remarks.
I would further add that some of the comments of our readers have crossed the line of civil discourse.
(5) Publishing this post reminds us of the power of social media. We all need to be careful what we post and what we report. ThePreachersWord pledges to do a better job in the future when reporting current events to make spiritual applications.
Hopefully, this post clarifies both the issue in the previous post and the stated intention of ThePreachersWord to speak the truth of God’s Word. And to speak it in love.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman