Tommy Robinson, EDL and the Apostle Paul!
The radio interviews with Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League, over the last 24 hours have been extraordinary news! Emerging from 18 weeks of self evaluation in solitary confinement following a passport conviction, Robinson speaks with an entirely different kind of conviction -that of the ideological convert.
This crowd pleasing street fighter has reflected on his views, on his family and on ideas of race and violence, re-entering the world an apparently changed man. Resigning his leadership of the EDL, Robinson expressed concern about the increasing influence of extreme elements within his movement. He even apologised that the things he has said have not resonated with Muslims. Most surprising of all was this quote, 'I don't hate Muslims. Luton (his home) is a multicultural town, and from day one I've wanted to embrace everyone, all colours and creeds.'
There has been an understandably cautious welcome from British based Islamic groups, wondering as we all are, how a man known for such extreme views is now literally talking about embracing multiculturalism. I would imagine that a response of anger and defiance will come from the EDL any time soon.
I've been studying the conversion of Saul again this week. This EDL story has all the hallmarks of the original 'Damascus Road' conversion. Indeed, Tommy Robinson's change of heart only serves to put Saul's transformation into even greater contrast, and perhaps sheds a light on those around the world today who turn to Christ under oppressive regimes.
Whilst Robinson's new stance is to be welcomed, could you imagine if he not only renounced his old views, but then immediately converted to Islam, attended Friday prayers and began preaching from the Qur'an!
It sounds crazy, unbelievable - and yet this is exactly the journey the Apostle Paul took. Saul the zealot for Judaism, in an instant, turning away from everything he has ever lived for, laying it all down to follow Christ -The false God of the false sect.
The very people that he had been stoning to death as a rabble rousing Rabbi, he now embraces. The ones he persecuted and imprisoned, he now accepts their prison chains and their beatings! The disbelief around Saul's conversation meant that he had to leave Damascus by night. Neither the Christians or the Jews believed him. The first were still terrified of him, the latter now wanting to kill this apostate would be Apostle.
All of us to an extent have taken the Tommy Robinson path. When we come to Christ we have no idea of the true change of heart required for us to turn from our old lives, not just into a neutral position, but to fully embrace a brand new, opposing ideology. Around the world today, so many new believers in Jesus see the starkness of this decision, but like Saul, choose to turn their lives upside down for the sake of following Christ. Voluntarily taking themselves out of the safety of their families, culture and national identity, to identify with an oppressed minority.
So here's to you Tommy Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know! Your new world view, embracing all colours and creeds looks a better place, but there is a further step should you choose to take it, which will change you from the inside out for ever.