Perry Emerick – Mesa Campus Pastor
In America, one of the freedoms I believe we hold most tightly to is our first amendment right to free speech. And though there are some who want to reign that in a bit, it still remains ingrained in our psyche that we are free to say whatever we wish to say. As American and as Christians though, I believe we are conflicted about this, or at least we have folks who would land strongly on opposing sides of this issue.
One side of the issue are those who take their first amendment right, supercharge it with a ton of pious religious superiority, and spew out whatever their self-righteous mind wants to say. Images come to mind of the Westboro Baptist Church holding up awful signs proclaiming God’s judgment, or people who stand outside of conventions or on street corners displaying signs and condemning people walking by. Even to a lesser extent, people want to call people out in social media and paint this extreme picture of how wrong they are. Obviously it goes both ways in that there are plenty of non-believers who do that as well.
The other side though are those who don’t say a word out of a deep fear of offending or being perceived as casting judgment. If anything, they are afraid of free speech for fear of being judged or criticized. You may ask, what does that have to do with free speech? I only bring this up in that freedom of speech means one also has freedom to not speak, and as a Christian we can avoid it out of fear.
But what does the Bible say? Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” It is this “speaking the truth in love” that I think gets taken a bit out of context. This first group mentioned about takes that as justification to say whatever the want because they apparently “love God” more than the rest of us, so they speak the truth…as they see it…loudly and boldly and with a lot of judgment. It isn’t so much about loving the person and building them up. The second group wants to speak in love, and not worry so much about the truth. We love to hide behind the line, “who am I to judge?”
But speaking the truth in love is about discipleship. It is about loving God and loving those who claim to love God, and in the context of relationship and respect, direct them to a more mature place with Christ. Acts 18 has a powerful story about Priscilla and Aquila taking Apollos home and “explaining to him the way of God more adequately”. They loved Apollos enough to build a relationship and in love, share with him in such a way that he may grow, not slam him publicly so that their pride and ego might grow. As believers, the charge for us is to build one another up, not tear down. Let us use our free speech for God’s glory not our own.