Freedom of speech is something we value highly in the US. The first constitutional amendment ensures that among other things, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Why is this important? It is important because the citizens of this great country need to be able to voice their opinions without fear of the government throwing them in jail when their opinion is not in vogue.
Other countries have also seen the value of freedom of speech. During World War 2, Prime Minister Winston Churchill brought up the subject of free speech while addressing some thorny issues and the possibility of differing views within the government.
Party government is not obnoxious to democracy. Indeed Parliamentary democracy has flourished under party government. That is to say, it has flourished so long as there is full freedom of speech, free elections and free institutions. So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.COALMINING SITUATION (Hansard, 13 October 1943) (millbanksystems.com)
This is both a good and difficult statement. It is good because we want to speak our opinions without repercussion. It is difficult because not all opinions are equally valid, and some could also be harmful. We actually don’t want some people to speak their mind. But… consider a few thoughts.
- Freedom of speech applies to Christians proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to those who oppose that message or have corrupted it.
- Freedom of speech applies to those who are against _________ as well as those who celebrate it.
- Freedom of speech applies to those who promote godly behavior, but also to those who promote what God hates.
While it would be nice if people would always govern their thinking by what God says in the Bible, that isn’t usually the case. People have differing views on what they saw happen at a car accident, so it is probable they will have differing views about everything else as well.
As a Christian, I want my beliefs to line up with the Bible. This is important because the Bible reveals what God (our Creator) desires and says is best for us. However, not many people will share that perspective. Their opinions about life, religion, politics, sports, entertainment, marriage, and a whole lot of things may be completely different than what God says.
As a Christian, I value the freedom of speech because I want others to know the Lord. If I am unable to speak freely, the gospel will be hard to share. But that has to go both ways. If I want the freedom to speak the truth to other people, I need to allow them the same right. They can disagree. But without the freedom to have a conversation (or debate) it will be very difficult to have a meaningful discussion.
A couple thoughts:
- Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Both aspects are important. The truth is important to proclaim but the way it is presented is also important. Are you speaking out of duty or because you love the person? It should be evident. For further discussion, consider this article.
- Realize that it takes time for people to be convinced. Paul took the time to reason with and persuade the people he was talking to (Acts 19:8-10). Most people don’t believe something the first time they hear it. Neither do you. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, take the time to explain what the Bible says and why it is relevant to each person.
- Know when to stop talking. There are times when continuing a conversation may be a waste of time (Prov. 26:4-5). It is hard to know when to keep talking to an argumentative or foolish person. But there are definitely times when you should walk away because further speech is not profitable. In these cases, be sure to ask the Lord for wisdom.