The 1st Amendment
In the United States of America, the 1st Amendment to the Constitution reaffirms our God given right to freedom of speech. The text clearly states that Congress shall not make any laws that limit individual or group use of speech. There is no mention of any technicalities or extenuating circumstances that limit speech in any way.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The reason that only Congress is mentioned in the 1st Amendment is because they are the Legislative Branch of our Government. In other words, the Constitution only grants Congress the authority to create laws. Therefore, the heart of the 1st Amendment is this… The United States Government cannot make speech or any form of speech illegal.
The consequences of making words illegal
Those calling for the abolition of certain words or forms of speech are missing a very important point. If the Government can limit some forms of speech, it can limit any form of speech. One may believe that another shouldn’t be free to use hateful speech, but who should be responsible for defining what is considered hateful speech? The Government? The problem is that what one individual believes is hateful speech, another may believe that it is not. And advocating that the Government should intervene in what should or shouldn’t be said by citizens could lead us to a never ending path of speech control.
Our nation was founded on the idea that government should be restrained from limiting individual liberty. The Founding Father’s believed with good reason, that an individual’s right to speak was more important than an individual’s right to not be offended. In other words, one could be free to speak their mind and the other could choose how to respond. “A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” Proverbs 15:1-2
Speech that pleases God
God never gave the Government the authority to limit speech of individuals. When we decide that Government should determine what we say or don’t say, we have created a false idol for ourselves. This is an idea the Founding Father’s understood well. God should govern our speech, not Government. Government should not govern over every detail of our lives because that role has already been filled by a loving Heavenly Father.
As followers of Christ, there are words that we should not speak. We should seek to glorify God with our speech and let His word guide us in doing so. The 1st Amendment ensures that as U.S. citizens, we can say whatever we want, but as followers of Christ we should say only that which brings God glory. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
We should allow God’s word to transform us instead of allowing the Government to conform us. Let us put into practice what pleases God… “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19
Ever since Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years ago, there has been a lot of discussion among Christians about His second coming. Much of that discussion involves the first portion of Revelation 22:12, in which Jesus states “Behold, I am coming soon…” And as Christians, we understand that those words are true. Yet for some reason there seems to be a misunderstanding in regards to what soon actually means in the context of Jesus’ return.
What does soon actually mean? Does soon mean tomorrow? Does it mean a month from now? Does it mean a year from now? Or maybe the word soon is not a reference to a specific date or time at all. Consider these words from Jesus… “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) And if no one knows the day, can one know the week, month, year, decade, or century?
The phrase “coming soon” literally means “coming swiftly, quickly or suddenly“. Therefore, Jesus will return in the blink of an eye and promptly. His return is not overdue. He will return in His perfect timing. What seems like a delay to some is only a demonstration of His patience toward those who do not yet know Him… “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
It seems obvious that since Jesus said He was coming back soon over 2,000 years ago, He was not using the word “soon” in the context of a date or time. Yet many Christians still take his words out of context and lead others to believe that He will return in a matter of years from now. As Christians we should be careful with our words when we share with an unbelieving world. When we tell those who already have a lack of understanding of our faith, that Jesus is coming back soon, we should be cautious.
We should provide context for our statements, so that His message is delivered clearly and without confusion. When we tell others that Jesus is coming soon, we should provide further explanation in regards to His “sudden” return. We should stop frantically checking our calendars and worrying about when He will come back. Instead, we should be comforted in knowing that it will happen swiftly when He is ready.
All of this may seem trivial at first, but consider the impact speaking out of context in regards to Jesus’ return could have on non-believers. If we tell non-believers that Jesus is returning soon without any explanation, they could easily interpret that to mean that we believe Jesus will return within the next few years. And if Jesus does not return in a few years, that non-believer could easily question our beliefs, and rightfully so. Would you want to follow a faith that teaches something that doesn’t happen according to what you have been told?
Believe and be ready
There are five important truths that we can know and share about Jesus’ return…
- Jesus will return (Hebrews 9:28)
- There is hope in His return (Titus 2:3)
- Be ready for it (Matthew 24:44)
- It will happen suddenly (Matthew 24:27)
- We do not know when it will happen (Matthew 24:42)
Let’s end the speculation of when Christ will return and begin focusing on being obedient to Him. We should focus our attention on doing the good work that He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). There is so much that He can accomplish through us if we focus on the work He has for us, instead of spending our lives trying to predict the timing of His return so that we can get credit for being correct in regards to “Biblical Prophecy”. And let us always remember, that He will return in His perfect timing.
Controversy and tension
Over the last several months tension and strife have become the norm for our nation. A new President has been elected. Protests (both violent and non-violent) have seemingly become the main focus of the news and society as a whole. Social media has become an environment of anger and hate in many instances. In general, there are a lot of people choosing to be heard over choosing being kind.
It would be easy for us as Christians to simply ignore all of the problems in our nation by withdrawing from social media and turning away from any controversial discussions. However, I am reminded of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Kindness and truth
As we learn from that same sermon, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Removing ourselves from controversial discussions may at times seem like the right thing to do. And there may be times when that could be true. Although, if we look at Jesus’ life we will see countless examples of Him speaking the truth in love when controversial discussions took place. For example, consider His encounter with the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees who sought “justice”. Instead of ignoring the Pharisees when they mentioned what the law said in regards to the woman’s sin, he answered them brilliantly by saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Jesus wasn’t rude in his response, but neither did he ignore the controversial discussion. He spoke in truth and love in the midst of controversy. He simply reminded everyone in that group that they all had sin in common. While it may seem easier to remove ourselves from a controversial discussion, it may be perfectly appropriate to respond in truth and kindness. After all, our light shines brightest when we let it out for the whole world to see… “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Matthew 5:15
Good men are distracted
Many good men – especially Christian men have become relatively silent when it comes to speaking up in regards to current events and politically related discussions. Many good men avoid doing anything politically related for various reasons. One obvious reason is that we have become too easily distracted.
Distractions can be leisure activities, entertainment, movies, television, phones, computers, sports, video games, etc. That doesn’t mean that we should avoid these things completely. Good men need time to their leisure. The point is that these things should not take priority over the Lord, our families, or our nation. Yet that is exactly what has happened to many good men. And that is part of the reason that our nation is suffering so much. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
Many men don’t know how to be courageous because they have experienced little discomfort in life. As Americans, we have experienced a great deal of luxury and comfort. When we become comfortable in our lives, we must be reminded that we still have the responsibility to live our lives in a courageous manner. We must stand for that which God calls good. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
Good men are afraid
There are so many things wrong in our nation, which has led to many men giving in to their fears. Many good men believe that life is hopeless. We believe that our current situation is to dark to confront. Yet, in the midst of difficulty God calls us to… “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
We need to stop telling ourselves that the enemy is too great. We need to remember that the Lord is with us wherever we go and whatever we do. He will fight for us, but we need to show up. Our trust in the Lord should always conquer our fears of what other humans can do to us. “In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:4
Good men are confused
We have convinced ourselves that we shouldn’t participate in politics, but participating in those things that distract us seems to be completely acceptable. The idea that salvation is the only thing Christians should discuss is a completely false, but popular belief these days. That is not to downplay the high importance of speaking about salvation. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) clearly states that we are to “make disciples of all the nations”. Yet, Jesus also stated… “teach[ing] them to observe all that I commanded you“. Jesus commands us to teach others of every command He has given us.
Therefore, we are free to discuss whatever we have been previously commanded by God. Paul the Apostle spoke in regards to current events in his time. Of course, Jesus himself spoke about the issues that were at hand at that time. The issues in those days and the issues we face today are all politically related, since politics is simply the way we govern our lives. And God’s word declares that we are to expose evil deeds of all kinds… “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;” Ephesians 5:11
Good men should not be confused about speaking the truth. Jesus came to testify to the truth; all of it (John 18:37). Good men need to be reminded of their responsibilities to the Lord, their families, and their country. Our relationships with the Lord would grow. Our relationships with our families would grow. And our nation would be in a lot better shape. Our silence and our lack of action has led us to this point, so we must no longer be silent and we must take action. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A timely reminder
As Britain has recently demonstrated, national independence is still valued by a large number of people in the world. #Brexit became a more trendy hashtag than many members of media might have originally expected, once the final vote came through. And as Britain exited the European Union, many Americans were reminded of another quest for independence, which occurred almost 250 years ago.
The founding father’s reasoning for declaring national independence was in large part due to their desire to worship God as they believed He led them to. Consider the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The founding father’s didn’t want the government to force people to worship based upon laws given by the state. The First Amendment was written with the idea of people freely worshiping God in mind.
National independence is good
National independence has at times been criticized by Christians. It has been said that the independence that we have experienced in the United States has led to apathy among Christians. And that apathy has led to lukewarm faith. However, it can be argued that our apathy has been accelerated much more by our own selfishness and sinfulness as a group of individuals, than our experiencing independence as a nation. Apathy is not produced by national independence or the lack there of. Apathy is produced by a lack of faith or a lack in our individual relationships with Christ.
We have become apathetic because we have forgotten how to love God and one another. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13
God made the nations so that they would inhabit the whole earth (Acts 17:26), but not for the nations to become dependent on each other. He made the nations independent so they could independently remain dependent on Him. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” Psalm 33:12
Pursuit of happiness
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While many debate the intent behind the founding father’s reference to a “pursuit of happiness”, it seems reasonable to believe that at least some of them believed that it equated to the pursuit of God.
“There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation, than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. Taking the word “interest” as synonymous with “ultimate happiness,” in which sense it is qualified with every necessary moral ingredient, the proposition is no doubt true. But taking it in its popular sense, as referring to the immediate augmentation of property and wealth, nothing can be more false.” James Madison
As we celebrate this Independence Day, may we remember that God gave us independence and the freedom that we have so that we would choose and pursue Him… “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:20