"Such fresh advances took place in spite of much opposition and danger. Rowland and Williams were not the only ones to suffer at the hands of persecutors. Morgan Hughes, one of the exhorters, was imprisoned in Cardigan jail, ostensibly on a charge of vagrancy, but in reality it was on account of his Methodist activities [including open-air preaching]. The month of March was a particularly testing one for the Methodists until his release was secured. They worked vigorously for this, consulting Whitefield, influential landowners, and attorneys. Rowland was advised to seek legal advice from a sympathetic magistrate. Harris and others spent the a 'night in the suburbs of heaven' with Hughes 'in the place of his confinement' at Cardigan. Marmaduke Gwynne, particularly, proved a tower of strength in the affair, enlisting the help of his nephew John Lloyd of Peterwell (Lampeter), and telling Rowland 'to bring some witnesses with him to Cardigan Sessions, and to indict the person who abused him.'I am indebted to brothers in Christ like Pastor Jon Speed, Pastor Steve Lawson, Jeff Rose, Chris Sippley, Robert Gray, and others who have fostered in me an ever-growing love for church history, especially that history that chronicles the march through time of open-air preaching. While the Word of God is the authority, the grid through which I run all matters regarding faith and practice, I have also learned much from the lives of men of God who left this world hundreds of years ago. Daniel Rowland of 18th century Wales was such a man.
"Rowland, Harris and many other Methodists prepared to attend the trial and prayed much for the outcome. On March 27, 1743, Harris called at Llangeitho on the way to the Magistrates Court. There he heard a sermon from Rowland on Isaiah 32:2, 'And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.' It was a timely reminder of God's protection of His people in the face of dangers;
'He showed of the new creature, how it has God for a house about him, and Christ for a Robe, and the Spirit dwelling in him. He showed how the new creature is made and fed by God's Breath . . . Sin is like the devil's breath, and this wind may blow off for a little the cloak, and the wind too sometimes shakes the earth; but it can't move its foundation . . . He showed how the justification is still safe; the house of sanctification may be shaken; and the new creature, let Satan tempt as he will, can't sin, can't yield; for our grace, faith, love, humility, etc., is God's Breath on our souls, and this, being born of, or proceeding from God, can't turn against God again, though the flesh yields . . . Have filial fear in all places, but flee slavish fear . . . Christ is the peace of the soul - He is the food - He is the Physician and protection of the soul.'Fortified from a measure of assurance from that message, Rowland and Harris proceeded to Cardigan, Harris 'seeing the tenderness and wisdom of the Lord in managing us and our sufferings together.' In court the prosecutor was stopped, and Harris, responding in 'the Christian spirit,' offered to drop counter charges, 'only let them pay the expenses'" (Evans, Eifion. "Daniel Rowland: And the Great Evangelical Awakening in Wales." Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, pp. 219-20).
Arrest and Exoneration
On January 8, 2014, in Dundee, Scotland, I was arrested immediately after open-air preaching. The charges: breach of peace with an aggravation of homophobic hate speech. I was released on my own recognizance, after signing a promise to return to Scotland, to stand trial for the indicated charges.
On June 16, 2014, the Procurator Fiscal's Office (Scotland's equivalent to the District Attorney's Office), went before the Sheriff of Dundee (the local magistrate) and petitioned for a dismissal of all the charges against me. The Sheriff subsequently dismissed the charges. The reason the Procurator Fiscal sought the dismissal of charges is that their office, more than six months after my arrest, finally viewed the audio/video that has been in their possession since the time of my arrest. They discovered what I have maintained all along. I did not make the statements I was accused of making. In fact, the Procurator Fiscal deemed that nothing I said during a lengthy open-air sermon constituted a breach of peace or homophobic hate speech.
By God's sovereign grace and mercy, and according to His sovereign will, I have been exonerated.
I am very grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from the Body of Christ, in the United States, Scotland, and around the world. It has been a blessing to me and my family. The support has far-outweighed the negative comments I have received from brothers and sisters in Christ. There are Christians who believe I was wrong to preach on the streets of Dundee, Scotland. They believe my preaching hurt Christians in Scotland. There are Christians who believe I was wrong to agree to return to Scotland, to stand trial. They believe returning to Scotland to stand trial will hurt Christians in Scotland. And, most recently, there are Christians who believe I am wrong regarding my decision not to sue or file a complaint against Police Scotland and the Procurator Fiscal's Office. They believe not pursuing a civil suit and formal complaints against those responsible for my arrest and attempted prosecution will hurt Christians in Scotland.
I believe I have made the right decision. My conscience is clear.
I believe my decision is the right one--not because it seems to be the most popular decision among Christians who have taken an interest in the situation. Frankly, I have no way of knowing which decision has the most support among Christians. In fact, considering who has publicly and privately said I'm right or said I'm wrong, as well as the silence of some of the people I would expect to hear from, my gut tells me that among the people I know and who know me (especially open-air preachers) the decision I have made is unpopular. This is not the first time I find myself in the minority.
I believe my decision is the right one because I believe it is consistent with Jesus' teaching regarding how Christians should respond when persecuted, and how Christians should treat their persecutors.
Some have put forth arguments, which indicate I should file a lawsuit in order to keep Scotland's governing authorities from treating Christians in the future the way I and others have been treated. This is part of the argument that states the unintended consequence of not filing a lawsuit will be that Christians will continue to be persecuted by Scotland's governing authorities.
What Does Scripture Say?
In addition to praying and seeking the counsel of my pastors and the Cross Encounters Ministries Advisory Board, I have also searched the Scriptures for whatever I could find that even remotely addresses the issue of Christians entering into lawsuits against non-Christians, when Christians are persecuted as a result of publicly following Jesus Christ and proclaiming the gospel (Scripture is explicitly clear regarding Christians suing other Christians; see 1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
Here are 25 passages I found, primarily based on word searches, that speak either directly or indirectly to court proceedings, including lawsuits:
2 Samuel 14:1-20
2 Samuel 15:1-4
1 Kings 3:16-27
2 Kings 6:26-29
None of the above passages in any way support the idea of a Christian suing individuals or governing authorities, as a result of persecution experienced at the hands of individuals or governing authorities.
In addition to the above, Jesus had this to say in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12).And:
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48.And let us not forget how Jesus handled Himself when he endured a wrongful arrest (Matthew 26:47-56) and not one, but several illegitimate prosecutions (Matthew 26:57-27:31), as well as an unlawful, murderous execution (Matthew 27:32-56). Remember what Jesus said to Pilate?
"He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, 'Where are you from?' But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, 'You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?' Jesus answered him, 'You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin" (John 19:9-11).Jesus Came to Die
Some may be quick to object, saying, "You can't compare the trials and execution of Jesus to your case in Scotland. After all, Jesus came to die. He came to endure everything, including death on the cross so that sinners could be saved."
Of course, that is true. However, I can turn to how Jesus handled the greatest persecution ever faced by a human being who was, in His case, fully-God and fully Man, without sin. I can draw wisdom and discernment as to how I should behave in my trial of momentary light affliction, from the One who behaved perfectly in a time of affliction that no mere man like me will ever experience. While my trial in Scotland is nothing when compared to Jesus' trial in Jerusalem, I believe the best course of action for me is to behave like Jesus--to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29) as I respond to those in Scotland's government who have persecuted me.
Yes, Jesus came to die. And what has He given me to do? What honor, privilege, and dare I say right has Jesus given to me?
"And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me'" (Luke 9:23).I, like many of you reading this, share the apostle Paul's sentiments about living for Christ.
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).Jesus has given me the right to die--to die to self and, if He requires, to die for Him.
My Civil Rights Are Not My Primary Concern
No, I am not suffering from some sort of martyrdom complex. I didn't try to get arrested. I didn't want to be arrested. I didn't like spending 30 hours in jail. I didn't enjoy the specter of having my passport confiscated, forcing me to remain in Scotland for six months, until the case was settled or I stood trial. I didn't enjoy the specter of facing a sentence of a fine or up to five years in prison. I didn't like telling my daughter and future son-in-law that if I had to go back to trial and was found guilty and sentenced to prison that I wanted them to go on with their wedding without me. And there has never once been a time in my 29-year marriage when I took pleasure in seeing a tear fall onto my wife's cheek.
But if all of the above were to have taken place, I hope I would have done my best (only succeeding with the Holy Spirit's help) to consider it all joy (James 1:2-4), understanding that the Lord would enable me and my family to endure whatever hardships came our way (1 Corinthians 10:13). I hope my faith (Romans 1:17; Hebrews 11:6) would be such that I would have prayed (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and tried to face the trial (James 1:12) while always remembering that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), that the momentary light affliction The Lord had for me would be used by Him to prepare me for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).
I simply cannot put my civil rights, which ebb and flow on the waves of mankind's sinful whims and the godless agendas of secular societies, above my obligation to Christ to die to self, to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow Him.
Some godly, learned, faithful, Christian men have turned to the apostle Paul to support their position that I should sue Scotland Police and the Procurator Fiscal's office. Acts 16:35-40 and Acts 22:22-30 are the passages to which those who disagree with my decision turn. In both of these passages, Paul is as bold as a lion, asserts his Roman citizenship, and challenges the injustices perpetrated upon him by the governing authorities.
Here are the two scenes. First, Paul in Philippi:
"But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, 'Let those men go.' And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, 'The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.' But Paul said to them, 'They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.' The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed" (Acts 16:35-40).And, Paul in Jerusalem:
"Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.' And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, 'Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?' When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, 'What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.' So the tribune came and said to him, 'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?' And he said, 'Yes.' The tribune answered, 'I bought this citizenship for a large sum.' Paul said, 'But I am a citizen by birth.' So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him."While I am unworthy to untie the apostle Paul's sandals, there are some similarities between Paul's situations in Philippi and Jerusalem, and my situation in Scotland. Paul was persecuted for his faith in Christ and his teaching. Paul was wrongly accused and arrested. Paul challenged the governing authorities for his mistreatment. And...
"But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them" (Acts 22:22-30).
Paul did not sue the governing authorities.
Neither of these dramatic and historic instances can be used to justify a Christian suing a secular governing authority for overstepped its legal authority in an effort to persecute the Christian.
Paul questioned the legality of what was happening to him. So did I. Paul would demand his day in court. So did I. Paul appealed to Caesar. The charges against me were dismissed, so there was no reason for me to appeal to a higher court.
Paul did not sue the Roman government for damages. He did not sue in an effort to set a favorable legal precedence. He did not sue to hold the Roman government accountable. He did not sue to hit the Roman government where it counted--in the government's deep pocket, which carried a very big wallet. He did not sue hoping that, as a result, other Christians could avoid persecution in the future. Paul didn't do any of these things. And neither will I.
I cannot sue Police Scotland and the Procurator Fiscal while insisting, with any integrity, that I love my enemies. Maybe someone else can reconcile the two activities in his heart and mind, but I can't. My conscience will not allow it. And believe me; I've tried.
I've thought about this for six months. And I think it is safe to say that I have likely thought and prayed about this particular decision, regarding my specific situation, more than anyone else. No one bothered by my decision, no one who has expressed their opinion that I have made the wrong decision, has offered anything by way of justification for a lawsuit that I haven't already considered. I wanted to sue. I wanted to make the Scottish government pay for this miscarriage of justice. I wanted my lawsuit to pave the way for more freedom of speech for Christians, in Scotland. I wanted to file and win a lawsuit to make Scottish police officers on the street think twice before harassing another open-air preacher. There was only one problem.
In order to achieve all of the before-mentioned, seemingly noble goals, I would have to set aside loving my enemy so I could strike back at my enemy. I would have to find some way to convince myself that this is what Jesus and the apostles would do, while knowing the Scriptures show that neither Jesus nor the apostles ever filed a lawsuit against the governing authorities to achieve either the before-mentioned goals, or any others. Again, I just can't do it. My conscience won't allow it.
Doing the Least Expected
Sometimes the best tactic is to do what the enemy least expects.
Law enforcement agencies around the world expect lawsuits from the citizenry. In fact, many law enforcement agencies will settle complaints out of court, going so far as paying off complainants, even if their internal investigations determine the department is not liable for damages, knowing that an out of court settlement will cost the department less than going to trial and winning a favorable verdict. It's cheaper to settle than to fight and win.
Police Scotland likely expects me to file a lawsuit. The Procurator Fiscal's office likely expects me to file a lawsuit. Scotland's governing bodies may even expect me to file a lawsuit. The Scottish people probably expect me to file a lawsuit. Americans likely expect me to file a lawsuit. Why? The world is a litigious place. The world says, "Eye for an eye, so long as it's not my eye." The world says, "Touch me and I'll sue!" The world says, "If you make me suffer, I'm going to make you suffer worse."
Many in the world would see the implementation of the following standard, especially in response to a wrong suffered, as out of the ordinary, outside the box, unexpected, perplexing, and, if they think about it long enough, maybe just a bit endearing. Others, including some Christians, would see the implementation of the following standard as weak. The bottom line: implementing the following standard when suffering persecution at the hands of those who hate Jesus Christ and those who follow Him is biblical. No other explanation is necessary.
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.And:
"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:14-21).And:
"Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, 'He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!' The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, 'If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!' There was also an inscription over him, 'This is the King of the Jews.'I've decided to do the least expected. I've decided to love God by loving my neighbor, in this situation, by not suing Scotland Police and the Procurator Fiscal's office. And I'm going to do it for righteousness' sake.
"One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.' And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' And he said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'" (Luke 23:32-43).
For Righteousness' Sake
I was arrested on January 8, 2014, in Dundee, Scotland, for righteousness' sake. And I have decided not to sue Police Scotland or the Procurator Fiscal's office for the sake of righteousness--not my righteousness, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Theologian John Gill explains in his commentary on Matthew 5:10.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted,.... Not for any crimes they have done, for unrighteousness and iniquity, as murderers, thieves, and evildoers, but for righteousness sake: on account of their righteous and godly conversation, which brings upon them the hatred and enmity of the men of the world: for saints, by living righteously, separate themselves from them, and profess themselves not to belong to them; their religious life sets a brand upon, and distinguishes other persons; yea, it reproves and condemns their wicked lives and practices; and this fills them with wrath against them, and puts them on persecuting them: or by 'righteousness' may be meant, a righteous cause, the cause of Christ and his Gospel; for by making a profession of Christ, showing a concern for his interest, and by engaging in a vindication of his person and truths, saints expose themselves to the rage and persecution of men: and particularly, they are persecuted for preaching, maintaining, or embracing, the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ; because it is not of man, nor agreeable to the carnal reason of man; it is opposite to the way of justification, which men naturally receive; it excludes boasting, and is contrary to their carnal and selfish principles: persecution is either verbal with the tongue, by cruel mockings and reproachful language; or real, by deeds, such as confiscation of goods, banishment, imprisonment of body, and innumerable sorts of death: the latter seems here more especially designed, and both are expressed in the following verse; and yet the saints, though thus used, or rather abused, are happy."How can I be happy in the midst of persecution or in its aftermath if my thoughts are on seeking damages for the persecution endured? And to what extent would I bring a reproach upon my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, if I say with my actions, "I am willing to die for Christ, but it will cost you if you persecute me."
It has been made abundantly clear to me that there are those, among whom are people I respect and admire, who, even after reading this, may still disagree with me. They will continue to assert I have made the wrong decision. There will be those Christians who have filed lawsuits against governing authorities who will insist I have made the wrong decision. They will cite the positive verdict in their own case as proof positive it was and is the right thing to do.
While I will assert that pragmatism is not the best foundation upon which to build one's orthopraxy, and while in this specific situation I will assert that the ends do not justify the means, at the same time I will not condemn my Christian brethren who have entered civil courtrooms seeking redress for wrongs suffered at the hands of governing authorities. I cannot and will not say my Christian brethren who have sued governing authorities have sinned by suing governing authorities for persecutions suffered. To make such an assertion would require me to know the motives of my Christian brethren with whom I disagree and deem those motives sinful. I am utterly incapable, and thankfully so, of having such infallible insights and the responsibilities that go with them.
I have written this article to explain my decision, not to condemn those who may disagree--especially those who have made the difficult decision to pursue redress in civil courts. But as for me, instead of filing a lawsuit against those who persecuted me, I am going to return to Scotland to serve again as one of King Jesus' heralds. I am going back to Scotland to speak the truth in love--to call the people of Scotland to repent and believe the gospel. If I am arrested again, let it be for righteousness' sake. And for the sake of Christ's righteousness, may I love my enemies more than I love myself.
In Jesus' name, amen.