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Hot topics and freedom of speech

11 August 2018 War Cry cover image
Posted August 9, 2018

In this edition


When hot topics bubble to the surface in the Christian community, there is usually a debate about freedom of speech. On one side, we’ll argue that we shouldn’t express opinions that could be considered judgemental, unloving, or cast a shadow over the reputation of Jesus.

On the other side, we’ll argue for the right to free speech—which loosely means, being able to voice our genuine opinion. We may see it as the right to express ‘the truth’, even when it is unpopular.

Within this argument, it’s important to note the biblical imperative. Freedom of speech is a democratic construct, it is not a biblical construct. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that—as representatives of Christ—we have the freedom to say whatever we like. Even if we think it’s the truth.

In fact, the Bible puts some clear boundaries around our speech. It commands us to say only what is ‘helpful for building others up’ (Ephesians 4:29).

Gentle speech will ‘turn away wrath’ but harsh words ‘stir up anger’, says Proverbs 15:1–2—how often we see this in the social media world!

Within this context, Paul’s words resound with beauty: ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone’ (Colossians 4:6).

In this issue, we are discussing a contentious—perhaps the most contentious—topic for the modern church. We will not all agree. But let us all season the conversation with grace, in a way that gives life to others and welcomes everyone into God’s life-giving Kingdom.

Ingrid Barratt

Bible verse

Psalm 141:3
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Ngā Waiata 141:3
Hōmai he kaitiaki mō toku māngai, e Ihowā; tiakina te kūwaha o oku ngutu.