Christian Free Speech?
HE First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right of free speech for American citizens. This keeps the state from oppressing those who hold discenting views contrary to those of the government. It is a foundational right for religious freedom as well. But is it a Christian value?
In short, yes. It is. Christians do not want a state mandated religion enforced on an unwilling populace. But how should Christians consider this freedom for themselves? While Christians believe all should have freedom of speech, are Christians free to say whatever they want?
In short, no. They aren’t. Christians do not believe they are free to say whatever they wish. Christians hold themselves to a different standard.
Christians believe it is wrong to lie (Exodus 20:16), gossip (Romans 1:29), slander (James 4:11), complain (Philippians 2:14), use crude humor (Ephesians 4:29), be careless in their speech (James 1:26), speak in uncharitable ways (Proverbs 17:9), and use words to assume and imply the worst of others (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Christians are not free to speak our mind in any kind of careless or uncharitable way. We are to speak the truth, yes. But we are commanded to speak the truth in love. As one preacher said, truth should be used with the kind of care and precision with which a surgeon uses a scalpel. Truth shouldn’t be used like a machete.
The Apostle Paul gives us an objective and measurable standard for what love looks like. Love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Our language should demonstrate that we believe and hope the best and that we do not glory in wrongdoing, even when we feel like the clever detective who carefully, if not dubiously, connects the dots on a conspiracy that no one else is apparently able to see.
So, how should Christians use their freedom of speech? To build others up. To speak the truth in love. And above all, to glorify God.
How should we resond to those who have a track record for using their podcasts, blogs, and social media in careless an uncharitable ways? We should confront where appropriate and call such persons to repentance. It may be that they are in a church where the elders are comfortable with the same sins and do not at all caution or challenge them. Perhaps our challenge may give them pause.
If they don’t listen, and if they persist in gossip, slander, half-truths, and bold faced lies, we should ignore them entirely. Time is too short and our witness is too important to give platforms to those who discredit the Christian witness by a lack of discretion, decency, biblical discernment, and general Christian care. We must heed the words of the Apostle Paul: the day is far spent and our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. Let’s quit playing games (Romans 13:11).