July 28, 2012
The media, modern society and the secular culture of the West are making it increasingly challenging to exercise the freedom of speech that our societies are built upon.
When anyone expresses a belief or value that is contrary to the one they hold so dear the person or organization that has dared to speak or write is immediately branded intolerant, bigoted, backwards, and in many cases evil.
The greatest hot-button issue being dealt with at the current time seems to be marriage rights for homosexuals. The issue is greatly debated in the media and public arena by politicians, celebrities, activists, scientists and people of various faiths. In many states here in the U.S. as well as in other nations the issue has been voted upon.
America has gone through a little bit of a fire storm this week after Chik-fil-A fast food restaurant CEO Dan Cathy expressed his views on gay marriage, stating clearly that he supports the biblical definition of the family unit. As you can imagine this has caused politicians and activists on the right and left to vehemently defend their own beliefs, putting a fried chicken restaurant at the center of the controversy.
Those who agree with Mr. Cathy are praising his courage and his values. Those who disagree with Mr. Cathy are expressing themselves as well, some of them quite angrily.
The Freedom of Speech is still guaranteed in the United States of America by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Those who hold a biblical worldview and those who do not hold a biblical worldview are both guaranteed this freedom. However, if you want to be politically or socially crucified and are a high profile personality, politician or public figure all you need to do is exercise your Freedom of Speech in a way that those who do not agree with you do not like. Here are a few of the subjects that can get you into trouble in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave:
- Right and Wrong
- True and False
- Good and Evil
- God and the Devil
This situation reminds me of a story from the Bible:
But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:8-18 NLT)
As a believer I want to be like the three Hebrews and not like King Nebuchadnezzar. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego I won’t relent or recant on what I believe and will be willing to face the consequences of the system of this fallen world. I do not want to be like King Nebuchadnezzar setting myself up as judge, jury and executioner of all those who disagree with me or all those who fail to pay proper homage to the beliefs I hold.
As followers of Jesus there are always more people who disagree with us than there are that agree with us. These disagreements may be theological, moral, social or even political. We are always going to face disagreements from those who do not believe the same as we do, just as we disagree in like manner.
Disagreement should not lead to merely a denouncement of the other party and their views but in a free society disagreements should lead to dialogue and discussion over what is disagreed upon. Even when we strongly disagree with someone we must speak and act with the love of Christ. Our goal is not judgment of the other person but repentance and redemption. Truth never changes and love never fails. These two must remain united in our hearts and lives.
Frequently those who disagree with gay marriage are accused of “hatred” or “intolerance” and are cast in the same light as those who supported segregation or Apartheid. It is sadly true that there are elements within the “Christian” community who are actually guilty of hate and bigotry. However, disagreeing with someone’s values, beliefs or viewpoints is far from hate or bigotry; in many ways it is the essence of democracy and the right to decide for yourself is the foundation of our free will.
Those who live their lives contrary to the teaching of the Bible have the right to do so and those who believe the Bible have the right to do so as well. God does not force faith in Christ and obedience to the teachings of scripture upon people. He loves everyone, regardless of his or her beliefs and regardless of their sins. It is for this reason that Jesus Christ died upon the cross. Jesus Christ bore the penalty for all of our sins so that all who would answer His invitation to salvation could do so.
We must carefully wage war in our culture for the right to speak our beliefs. We must be willing to hear the words of those who we disagree with and who disagree with us and we must be bold enough to declare that which we believe regardless of the opposition. We must find ourselves speaking the truth in love with the goal of winning the hearts of people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must not find ourselves championing a cause for the sake of the cause.
God’s Word is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89). It does not need defense for the sake of itself. The truth of God’s Word is shared and defended because of the right that every person has to hear and respond to the free gift of His grace through Jesus Christ.