Friday, February 25, 2011

"Hate" Speech?

Recently the Christian Post had an online article about a Maryland senator who changed his stance on gay marriage because of the “hate and venom” of gay marriage opponents (as he put it). One of the comments to the article asked, “Is it hate speech for a doctor to tell a patient he has cancer? Is it hate speech to be told to evacuate because a hurricane is coming? Is it hate speech for a parent too tell a child not to touch a hot stove?” A reply to that comment said, “Sure, if it was written in ancient times or involves an imaginary source as it's basis. Try using the medicinal remedies from Biblical times and you'll see what I mean.”

It raises an interesting question that we, as Christians, will have to deal more and more with in the days and years ahead if we choose to stand and declare from God's Word what He says is right and what He says is wrong. The question is, just what is “hate” speech? (Recently some nations have tried to hold pastors accountable if they had talked about homosexuality being a sin, and someone in their congregation has later committed a “hate crime” against a homosexual.) So, just what is “hate” speech?

Clearly, in the comments above, the distinction between the two commenters lies in their outlook on God’s Word. For one, it seems, telling a truth and warning people about a sin before God is as clear, and as necessary, and loving to the person, as warning them about a danger or sickness. To the other, because they don’t believe in God’s Word as truth, it is hateful. It seems that this is really what it comes down to. If someone doesn’t believe in God’s Word, then voicing an opinion (and even trying to bring about legislation) that speaks unfavorably about another lifestyle is intolerant, unloving, and hateful. But, to a person who believe’s in God’s Word, it would, in fact, be unloving to not warn someone of their choices that are sinful before God, or to embrace laws that encourage continuing in that lifestyle. Of course, we must be consistent in our speech . . . if we speak against gay marriage, but say nothing to a friend or coworker who is having an affair, or looking at pornography, or gossiping, etc., then we are in danger of being hypocritical because they, too, are practicing choices that are sin before God.

I think that the manner in which we speak says volumes. Recently a young man in Iowa, Joel Northrup, stepped down from a state championship wrestling match because he felt it went against his beliefs to wrestle against a girl and have that kind of contact with her. His statement was gracious and kind to the two girls in the match, and he is the one who paid the price and stepped out of any chance at the championship—in true, Christ-like fashion, he took the hit, he didn’t rant at the girls or try and get them thrown out.

Isn’t that Christ’s way—to speak truth, but to die for the very ones attacking Him? Yes, He fashioned a whip and drove money changers out of the temple . . . and yes, He called Pharisees hypocrites and other unkind things. But, we need to be very careful before we take that level of combative speech, and remember that He did so as One without sin . . .  we address sin as ones saved from sin, but deserving of death for sin. There is a big difference.

Some of the most hateful web sites I have ever visited are self-appointed Christian watchdog web sites that slam other Christians and their belief differences (not all are like that, and discernment is important). What does that say about us when our hate and our attacks are no different from the worlds? Yes, we must speak truth. But we must also remember that Christ is truth, and He is love, and He modeled laying down a life for the very ones who hate you. I was not there to hear the testimonies that the senator in Maryland heard—but if they were not said in love then, no matter what was said and how true it was in word, it was not true in Spirit and God was not authoring it.

I believe that we can’t compromise our speech or stand on that which God declares as right or wrong, but:

1) We need to make sure we are even more aggressive in noticing, and correcting, our own places where our choices, lifestyle, and thoughts are sin as we are pointing out other’s sin, and . . .

2) We need to make sure that our life bears as much witness as our words. We can point out the sin of another’s choice, and share what God has to say about it, and encourage our nation not to adopt laws flaunting or enabling it, but if we don’t have love we have nothing. If we aren’t laying down our lives, loving those we share with, and doing it from a place of love, we ought to shut our mouth, get in our prayer closet, cry out to God, and get back into the proper place, or our words will never glorify God, nor model His love to another.

We, as Christians, have the greatest privilege in the world. We are the very dwelling place of the Creator of the universe, and we have recognized the very source of truth in the form of Christ, and His Word. We have tasted of the greatest love ever known, and we are privileged to serve God and bear His love, and words, and truth, and power in a world that is lost, dying, blinded, and in slavery to Satan. What a calling, and what a privilege! But, we can never, ever, forget that the greatest truth of God is love, and if we do, or say, anything that does not come from love and faith, then it is not from God, no matter how “true” it is at face value. And, if we aren't willing to lay down our life for the very ones who hate us, then we are not modeling Him as well.

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