Saturday, May 05, 2007

Freedom of Speech

One of our most often quoted rights as Americans is our right to free speech. But too often when this right is being exercised, people seem to overlook two other things. First off, if you have the right to say whatever you want, I have the right to not like it and say so. There's been this big to-do with Imus and what he said, some people upset over his words, then others getting up in arms about it and saying he has the right to say what he did. Sure, he has the right as an American, but I also have the right to not like what he said and to express my thoughts on the matter. It goes both ways.

The second overlooked issue is more important, because it comes from a higher mandate than the Constitution.

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. - Colossians 4:6

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. - Ephesians 4:29

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. - Proverbs 25:11

These verses tell us how we should speak, with grace and edifying words. We need to examine what we say against those principles.

Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being. - 1 Corinthians 10:24

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. - Philippians 2:3,4

These verses show attitudes we should have toward others. If we're truly seeking the good of others above our own desires, if we try to edify others rather than make ourselves look good or superior, we should desire to speak with grace and to encourage others and build them up. Sometimes it even means saying something the other person doesn't want to hear, but it should be done in love and with grace. We should want to encourage and edify them rather than accuse and shame them, and rather than wanting to say anything that comes to mind because we have "the right to free speech".

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. - John 15:12, 13

We should love others as Christ loves us, and show them His love and treat people the way He would treat them. If a person is willing to lay his life down for his friend, should he not also be willing to put aside his own desires enough to speak in a manner which is edifying?

Our American rights are nothing compared to the love we should have for others, the love Christ commanded us to show. The right to free speech is a very good thing to have as a law, to keep the government from infringing upon us any more than it already does, and it can be a useful right when it comes to spreading the gospel. But more importantly, we need to filter what we say through those standards we were given by God, and make sure our words would have His approval, rather than that of the first amendment.

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