The timing is interesting: In my morning perusal of Scripture, I have again been reading about the amazing things God was doing with the early church as recorded in the book of Acts. The new believers in Jesus were persecuted terribly by the powers that be. Saul was one of those who was very eager to hunt down these pesky believers in Yeshua.
Yet he too had an encounter with the risen Christ, and that put an end to his anti-Christian bigotry. As I just posted on social media: There are many biblical moments that would have been amazing to witness. The scenes of the newly converted Saul would have been one of them:
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.Acts 9:26-28
Imagine the big grin on Paul’s face as he hugged the disciples and told them, ‘Hey, I am one of you now – I am a follower of Yeshua!’ But of course, persecution continued, as it has for 2000 years now. But the church grew and grew. It spread throughout Europe, and we saw it becoming the real cradle of Western civilisation.
We had the Reformation, the great revivals and awakenings. So much has happened over the centuries. But sadly we have basically gone full circle since then. Europe today is almost as pagan as it was back when Saul was head-hunting believers. It certainly is the most secular and anti-Christian continent on the planet. It is in desperate need of being re-evangelised.
Because Europe has rejected what made it great – its Christian past – we see more Saul-types today doing all they can to silence Christians and intimidate those of the faith. There are countless examples of this. Let me highlight just one of them – but with a terrific outcome.
Over four years ago I wrote about one such case. It involved a Finnish politician who was being hounded by the powers that be because of her faith. Because Päivi Räsänen dared to quote from the Bible, all hell broke loose. For simply highlighting what the word of God has taught concerning homosexuality, the police began going after her just as passionately as Saul had gone after the early followers of Jesus.
In my piece, I called her “the Finnish Israel Folau.” I concluded my article about her at the time with these words:
In my books Päivi Räsänen is a real champion. We certainly need more bold and sold-out Christian politicians like her. She puts to shame all the limp-wristed and cowardly Christians who refuse to take a stand and speak out, be it in parliament or in any other public forums. Please pray for brave Päivi. She is a wonderful witness for Christ. God bless you Päivi.
But now, after four long years, it seems she finally has been vindicated. After years of grief and turmoil, she is now hopefully finished with this ugly secular witch-hunt. One story says this about the latest developments:
A Finnish court of appeal on Tuesday tossed out the “hate crime” charges against a lawmaker and Lutheran bishop who have been in a four-year legal battle for expressing traditional Christian beliefs regarding sexuality and gender.
Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen was unanimously acquitted by the Helsinki Court of Appeals on charges stemming from her 2019 tweet that took issue with the Finnish Lutheran Church’s promotion of LGBT “pride month” by citing verses from the Bible. She faced another charge for comments she made about homosexuality on a radio show.
She faced further charges for a pamphlet she wrote in 2004 titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.” Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland also faced charges for having published the pamphlet 19 years ago.
Räsänen, the former leader of Finland’s Christian Democratic Party, who also served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, had already been acquitted in March 2022 by the three-judge District Court of Helsinki, which ruled that the government should not be interpreting “biblical concepts.”
She was dragged back into court in August when state prosecutors appealed the lower court’s ruling. One prosecutor took issue with her description of homosexuality as “sin,” and argued that while she is free to cite the Bible, “it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.”
The charges against Räsänen and Pohjola fell under the umbrella of the “war crimes and crimes against humanity” section in Finnish law. Paul Coleman, who is executive director of ADF International and served on Räsänen’s legal team, likened her trial to something medieval.
“At the heart of the prosecutor’s examination of Räsänen was this: would she recant her beliefs?” Coleman said. “The answer was no — she would not deny the teachings of her faith. The cross-examination bore all the resemblance of a ‘heresy’ trial of the Middle Ages; it was implied that Räsänen had ‘blasphemed’ against the dominant orthodoxies of the day.”
The article continues:
The prosecution was ordered to pay tens of thousands of euros to cover the legal fees for both defendants, though they have until January to appeal to the Supreme Court of Finland. “I am deeply relieved,” Räsänen said Tuesday following her latest acquittal, according to a press release from her lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International. “The court has fully endorsed and upheld the decision of the district court, which recognized everyone’s right to free speech.”
“It isn’t a crime to tweet a Bible verse, or to engage in public discourse with a Christian perspective,” Räsänen continued. “The attempts made to prosecute me for expressing my beliefs have resulted in an immensely trying four years, but my hope is that the result will stand as a key precedent to protect the human right to free speech. I sincerely hope other innocent people will be spared the same ordeal for simply voicing their convictions.”
And this is part of what the ADF said about the outcome:
Coordinated by ADF International, Räsänen’s legal defence highlighted the strong protection that freedom of speech enjoys in international law, in addition to being integral to Finnish democracy. The defence submitted to the court that Räsänen’s use of the word “sin” in her tweet, which the prosecution had highlighted as “insulting” and therefore unlawful, was quoted directly from the Bible, and any judgment condemning its usage would directly condemn the Bible itself.
The Appeal Court recognized that, “there is no reason to alter the final result of the District Court’s judgment,” which had recognized that while some may object to Räsänen’s statements, “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression”. The District Court had concluded that there was no such justification stating that, “it is not for the District Court to interpret biblical concepts”.
“While we celebrate this monumental victory, we also remember that it comes after four years of police investigations, criminal indictments, prosecutions, and court hearings. We applaud the Helsinki Court of Appeal’s ruling in this case, and we work towards the bigger victory when such ludicrous cases are no longer brought. In a free and democratic society, all should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies. We are relieved to see courts enforce the rule of law when state authorities overstep by seeking to penalize and censor statements that they dislike,” continued Coleman, who is the author of ‘Censored: How European Hate Speech Laws are Threatening Freedom of Speech’.?
Yes, that is great news indeed. But it never should have happened in the first place. Europe was once the centre of global Christianity and a light to the world. Today it is mired in darkness and stifling neopaganism. Today it needs more than ever champions like Päivi Räsänen. It needs those who will once again proclaim that Christ is King, even in the deepest darkest jungles of Europe.
Well done Päivi. We need more heroes of the faith like you. And may your brave and lengthy battle for religious freedom inspire many Sauls to become Pauls. May the misotheists and Christophobes in Europe become missionaries for Christ and the Gospel.
You have done it before Lord, and you can do it again.