“ ‘ I have the right to do anything’ — you say, but not everything is beneficial. ‘ I have the right to do anything’— but not everything is constructive.’ These are the words of the Apostle Paul from Corinthians 10:13 to the church in Greece (translated from the Greek into English for the New International Version).
In the United States, free speech is a big deal. It is part of the First Amendment of their Constitution. During the recent lead-up to their elections here in November, there is a discussion about what people can and cannot say. You cannot yell “ fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. But, can you speak lies, and demean other people’s arguments by shaming their character? The United States society is often trying to determine if there are lines to be crossed in the area of free speech.
In Canada, the discussion is not so heated, from my perspective. We have had the Charter of Rights and Freedoms since the 1982, and we have more opportunities to talk about what is not allowed in our society as free speech. In section 2 of the Charter, it talks of our four fundamental freedoms, and it includes freedom of expression.
When you are speaking or writing in public, do you think about lines that should not be crossed in referring to people or events? For you, as a Canadian citizen, what constitutes hateful speech? For you, where is the line for polite speech? Where is my line of speech drawn, in articles that I write here for the online version of the Observer?
Is free speech different for the church ? No, it is not. In the church , we should be polite, considerate and always in the listening mode. But, I am biased. I think we should get along with each other in the church, because we are all trying to follow the ways of Jesus Christ. But, what are those ways of living out Christ in our church and society? Recently, I heard about someone who does not attend church because people say such mean things to each other in the church. I have heard it many times, but it grieves me every time that I hear it. UGH!
In his letters to the early church community, Paul the theologian, pastor and prophet, loves his community, but also tells them how they should act. I think he is harsh sometimes. Jesus talks about loving each other, and loving our neighbour. He is concerned with people who are at the margins of the society. I believe that is what we are called to do in the church. But he also calls the leaders a “ brood of vipers “, and is angry with his disciples sometimes. It good and fine to disagree with each other in the church. But, how we do it is important.
In the passage at the top of the article, Paul speaks to the issue of free speech in the church. Since the church has been saved, they have complete freedom in Christ. He quotes the people’s statements, Since, they follow Christ, they should act like him in all ways. Be nice to everyone, even when you disagree. But, even with this great freedom, saying certain things are not beneficial to the community, or yourselves.
Where do you draw your lines in the church? After I delivered my first sermon in 1982, a good friend of my mom said to me at the back of the church, “Freddie, watch your language “. She said that I have to be careful with every word that I say, so I am understood, and that I am polite and grace filled . Great advice. Thanks Katie.