Did you see the news reports about he woman at Hyde Park speakers corner who was stabbed by a Muslim? Initially it was presented as a faith issue. Christian brings the Gospel in words, Muslim responds with violence.
Yes the confrontation was around Christians and Muslims but no it was not as simple as someone getting stabbed for preaching the Gospel. The person attacked was wearing a Charlie Hebdo T-Shirt. Charlie Hebdo specialise in provocative cartoons that have caused particular offense to Muslims and this was the context for terror attacks in Paris a few years back.
Now you don’t need me to tell you that the fact she was wearing a Charlie Hebdo T-Shirt does not in anyway make the attack more justifiable. It was still a shocking, horrendous, disgraceful event and the perpetrator must be brought to justice.
However, as Christians we need to distinguish our horror at the event, our condemnation on an attack on free speech and our compassion for the victim from clarity about what is wise, loving and godly in our actions.
Should she have been stabbed? No
Should she have been wearing a Charlie Hebdo T-Shirt? No.
Why? Well very simply because such an action distracts away from the message of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul was clear that the cross is offensive and a stumbling block. We should never take away from the offence of the Gospel but nor should we distract from that offence by creating our own stumbling blocks.
There has been a tendency among some to get a name for themselves whether it is by saying things to provoke Muslims or focusing on issues such as homosexuality when street preaching. The risk is that this becomes about being martyrs rather than about what helps people to hear the good news about Jesus. I write here not as an armchair critic but as someone who’s ministry has included open air Gospel witness and many, many conversations and debates with Muslims. Such actions hinder rather than help Gospel witness. I am not afraid of opposition for the Gospel but I am concerned when actions mean it is less likely that the Gospel will get a hearing.
This links to my point in yesterday’s article. Some may be tempted to see Charlie Hebdo as an ally in opposing Islam but Charlie Hebdo is not an ally and I would dare to say not even a co-belligerent. Our aim in outreach is not to commend particular groups or even concepts such as free speech. Our concern is to commend the Gospel.