Free Methodist Pastor John Sherwood was arrested on April 29 in London, UK, for publicly preaching the biblical view of marriage. Several anonymous callers complained to the Metropolitan Police about the pastor’s hate speech and homophobic slurs in violation of England’s Public Order Act.

Pastor Sherwood said or did nothing of the kind. He insisted that he was preaching about the Genesis account of God’s creation of the male and the female in His own image and the beauty of marriage. An accompanying pastor and witnesses supported his claim. But he did that in public.

It seems that this world does not care much about what we say or do in the confines of our respective church buildings or other private associations. But it cares a great deal whenever we proclaim divinity and its power to heal in public, in their hearing, in the world’s purview.

I remember years ago when NPR reporter Lynn Neary was the featured speaker at a gathering sponsored by The Polis Center, a nationally recognized community involvement association of civil, educational and religious entities in Indianapolis, Indiana. Neary’s address to us was what one might expect overall, sympathetic to the Center and its goals.

But her concluding remarks were notable regarding the place of religion in community involvement. The impression that she left seemed so ‘keep it on the reservation’ somehow, commendatory of the involvement of religious social motivation as long as it remained religiously innocuous.

This world’s disposition toward religion in society remains pretty much the same. Do good for the community, and we will get along all right. But declare your belief in such a manner that may even obliquely criticize the way we live, and we call the police.

In St. Luke 8:27-43, we read of how Jesus of Nazareth experienced this similarly in His earthly ministry. The healing of the Gadarene demoniac was one thing. The people of the town marveled at the miracle, that the man who before went about naked and insanely reclusive was now clothed and in his right mind.

But when the witnesses informed the Gadarenes about who performed the miracle, they feared His unfathomable power to transform even the sorriest situation into civil sanity. So they asked Him to “get out of Dodge”, “hit the road”, “thank you for casting out the man’s demons, but please not ours”.

Take your powers and leave us to ourselves. For You must recognize, we have rights under the Public Order Act!

So, keep it on the reservation…

Father David+

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