Freedom of Speech and Respect for Authority

Progressive 29

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17

I am really glad we live in a democracy. It’s not perfect, but we no longer have to deal with slavery or other barbaric practices, and we can vote—something the writers of the Bible couldn’t do. (And best of all, we don’t have an emperor.)

And yes, we have freedom of speech. But have we taken that freedom too far? For the last few years, I’ve seen and heard incredible disrespect coming from all sorts of people, including Christians. Especially Christians.

Think the system is unjust? It is, as is every human-made system. (Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Colossians 3:22) I don’t believe the Bible ever condoned slavery; I believe God wants us to do the right thing even in an unfair world. (Fortunately for us, we have rights that allow us to change what is wrong, albeit slowly.)

In my country, we can say practically anything we want. We can insult other people, even our leaders, without fear of being thrown in jail. Sadly, discussions in social media usually turn into insult-swaps. Apparently the person who comes up with the most colorful (and often disgusting) affront declares him or herself the winner when the other backs down (or gets tired of it). Hence, everyone is talking but no one is listening. The “contenders” in an on-line conversation are always thinking of their next put-down.

How lucky we are to be able to say almost anything without fear. But by exercising their right to free speech in this way, I think people are ruining it–we’re a nation of self-styled satirists. How many problems are solved by one person calling another a “dipshit” for believing as they do? (Do you really think the insulted person will change their mind?) Next time you’re in an escalating insult-swap, think of that.

Here’s an alternative:  1 Peter 2:12 says “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Let’s educate ourselves before we vote, then accept and respect our authorities, even if they’re not the ones we voted for. If we want change, let’s bring about change. Respectfully.

Discussion, yes… Satire, okay… Insults, no. It’s just not Christian.


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