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
That time Jesus banned swords
Sword violence was rampant while Jesus lived on the earth. Fortunately for those who lived during that time, Jesus issued a decree and banned swords from certain areas of the nations. Thankfully, sword violence decreased dramatically once Jesus established a law that permanently removed swords from those particular areas. Potential criminals agreed to no longer carry swords in those areas and the people were safe.
Does that story sound accurate? It shouldn’t, because it isn’t true. Yet it is the same type of fantasy land that some Christians live in today. Our nation experienced another tragedy last week and some Christians believe that the way to fix the issue is by making it more difficult for people to own firearms. They believe in so called “common sense” gun laws and proclaim that… “those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.
Why didn’t Jesus ban swords or create sword free zones when He walked the earth? He certainly had the authority to. That would have brought peace to the earth, right? No, but the answer is quite simple. Jesus knows where violence comes from. Violence is rooted in sin. Our sinful desires are what cause us to fight, steal, and murder. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:1-2
Weapons aren’t the problem
Sword free zones wouldn’t have solved anything, because mankind is rebellious to God. Mankind has experienced murder from almost the very beginning. Cain killed Abel with what some scholars believe was a rock (Genesis 4:8). David killed Goliath with a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17:49). Members of the Sanhedrin stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:59-60). Things haven’t changed much throughout history. Sinful mankind will use just about any tool they can get their hands on to murder.
Jesus knows that weapons are not the cause for murder. Jesus knows that murder comes from the sin in our hearts. And Jesus knows that banning weapons does not change hearts. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:19
Die by the sword
Jesus never told his disciples to get rid of their swords. In fact, Jesus told his disciples to purchase a sword (Luke 22:36). Jesus did say the following words… “Put your sword back in its place, Jesus said to him, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
However, those words must be taken in context. Jesus was speaking directly to Peter after he cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus was telling Peter that he would die if he didn’t sheath his sword. It was not a blanket statement in regards to owning or carrying weapons.
Instead of advocating against firearms, we should be praying for the victims of the tragedy in Orlando, along with their families. We should be seeking Jesus and asking that our hearts would be right with Him. We should confess our sins to Him and repent. We should be praying that He heals our land. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Jesus doesn’t endorse Socialism
Socialism is not a new idea. As a political movement, socialism began during the Industrial Revolution. However, it has been a thought in the minds of men and women for much longer. There are those who say that even Jesus taught us the principles of Socialism. Although, it goes without saying that many people have a misunderstanding of what socialism is and what Jesus teaches in regards to money.
Socialist apologists explain that the greatest benefit of Socialism is that it creates equality and it provides prosperity for all. Socialism is “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies” (Merriam-Webster). The key ingredient in Socialism is government control.
Jesus’ teachings on money are not an endorsement of socialism. Socialism is government enforcement of the redistribution of wealth. Jesus clearly teaches us to make a choice to give what He has first given us, void of government intervention. “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” ~ Matthew 19:21
Pay your taxes
Jesus commands us to pay our taxes (Matthew 22:21). Paying our taxes involves an act of obedience to Him. It is tempting to view taxation as an us versus them mentality. However, this command from Jesus applies to both citizens and government officials. “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:7
Jesus commands all of us to “give what you owe them”, so it is applicable to the tax payer and the tax collector (e.g. Matthew). Jesus does not condone government abuse of collecting taxes. Biblically speaking, taxes are used to collect money for the benefit of the nation, state, or city (Ezra 6:8). Taxation becomes theft when one individual’s money is taken from them and given to someone else.
That doesn’t mean we should stop paying our taxes when the government abuses their power with that money. Jesus did not give us conditions for paying our taxes. However, it does mean that the government officials who abuse their powers are accountable to God for their sins. Taxation for the purpose of legal plunder is not glorifying to Jesus. It is theft! And God’s word declares to everyone… “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15
Jesus desires generosity
God’s word makes it clear that Jesus is not a Socialist. To be fair, Jesus is not a Capitalist either. He is our king! Although free market Capitalism most closely resembles Jesus’ teachings in regards to money. Capitalism in its purest form allows individuals to make choices in regards to what they do with the money they have been blessed with. Skeptics of the free market claim that Capitalism is flawed because it leads people to greed. However, this is a flawed perspective. Greed abounds in any economic system (even Socialism), because we are sinful beings.
Socialism does not make us equal. In fact, it does almost the exact opposite. Socialism takes from some and gives to others. Eventually it leads to less production, since many individuals no longer desire to work once they no longer have to. In essence, Socialism promotes laziness. Socialism may be the radical idea of sharing, but not the kind of sharing that Jesus teaches. Jesus never commanded the government to force us to be generous. He commands individuals to be generous by giving to the poor out of love.
Jesus’ triumphant return
While there are many unknowns regarding Jesus’ return, we can be certain that He will come back. We know this because His word declares it. Of course, we don’t know when that will be (Matthew 24:36). It could happen in our lifetime or it could happen after our generation passes. What is clear, is that we should always be ready for His return and look forward to that day (Matthew 24:44). Jesus also made it clear that His return will be quick and unexpected. However, we should be reminded that God has work for us to do while we wait for Him (Ephesians 2:10). He commands us to love Him and love our neighbor (Luke 10:27). He commands us to reach the world with the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). He commands us to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). He told us we will be the light in a dark world (John 8:12).
Jesus told us to be watchful of His return, even though we don’t know when it will be. He correlated watching out for His return with a homeowner taking care of his house… “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” Matthew 24:42-43
Notice that in this parable, the homeowner didn’t abandon his home. Instead, he kept watch over his home and protected it. Through this parable Jesus is telling us that we are to remain vigilant over what is happening on earth while we wait for Him. As temporary as it may be, earth is our home until we meet Jesus in heaven. Jesus wants us to be doing the good works He has planned for us, even though we don’t know when His return will be. A similar parable in the Gospel of Luke, explains what Jesus desires from us while we wait… “occupy till I come” Luke 19:13.
We must define “the world” in context
What exactly should we be doing while we wait for His return? Most Christians agree that one key to growing our personal relationships with Jesus is to distance ourselves from the world. While this teaching is true in a sense, it is often used out of context. In biblical terms, there are three different meanings for the word “world”…
- People in the world (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9)
- The physical earth (Hebrews 1:2, John 13:1)
- Sin of the world (Matthew 18:7, John 15:19, 1 John 4:5)
God never commanded us to not love people. When God commands us to not love the world, He is referring to sin or sinful things. We are not to love sin, or essentially, the world’s way of living. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15
Your relationship with Jesus in relation to politics
Some Christians believe that we shouldn’t be involved in politics, because God commanded us to not love the world. However, in the context of 1 John 2:15 (and other similar verses), the world does not equate to politics. Politics are defined as the way we govern our lives and are not inherently evil. God has clearly called us to govern our lives in obedience to Him. He instituted government for our good (Romans 13:1-4) and so we each have a role in government, at least to some degree.
Looking forward to Jesus’ return and caring about politics do not have to be mutually exclusive. We are called to love people. Politics are directly related to people (the world). Politics are intertwined with our relationship to Jesus. He is our King and our lives are governed by Him. Therefore, our political stances should be in alignment with God’s word.
It is easy to get discouraged when politics get ugly. When our favorite candidate doesn’t get elected, we want to give up, because we see no hope. However, when men and women of faith avoid politics, the worse our nation becomes. We falsely believe that we should give up when our nation is struggling, yet that is precisely when our nation needs us the most. In order to oppose the world system, we must do so actively. And we must bring our faith into the political realm until Jesus returns. Believe it or not, your relationship with Jesus could actually blossom by doing so.
The fight isn’t over
The world is messed up. Although, we still seem to make it out to be worse than it actually is. There are so many problems in the world and we become discouraged because of how bad things appear. It is at that moment in which we have at least a couple of options in how we react to difficult circumstances. The first and seemingly natural instinct is for us to just give up. The second option is to turn to God in prayer and deed, regardless of our circumstances. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
Many years ago, in one of the most notorious prisons in the nation, one prisoner in particular was known for being the best fighter behind bars. For the sake of the story, let’s refer to this prisoner as Jim. Jim was involved in so many fights that fighting became second nature for him. One day, several other prisoners decided to teach Jim a lesson. They locked him in the mess hall and proceeded to fight. Slowly, one by one, each of the prisoners came out of the mess hall, bloodied and bruised. Jim had whipped each one of them.
The Warden spoke with Jim about the most recent conflict. The Warden said, “You have been to my office so many times, you could probably recite my lecture back to me. I didn’t bring you in to lecture you again. I brought you here to ask you a question… How do you win all of these fights?” Jim replied, “It’s very simple warden. The fight ain’t over until I win.”
Different circumstances, same reaction
Obviously, the moral of the story is not about advocating violence. Rather it teaches us to never give up, regardless of how tough the fight may be. We should never stop depending on God and we should never quit the good work he has planned for us.
We face so many different types of challenges in life. Whether we experience tragic loss or just have a tough day at the office, life circumstances can be difficult to overcome. For some reason, when it comes to political challenges, we often crumble under pressure. How many times have you heard someone say that they are done with politics, after “the wrong” President is elected? Notice that God didn’t tell us to overcome evil, by ignoring the world’s problems. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
We shouldn’t let the outcome of elections dictate how we live our lives. Besides, there are many other things we could do in politics than just vote. For example, we can contact our elected officials and hold them accountable or even share the Gospel with them. Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, we should be focused on what we can do. Whether our challenges come from politics, friendships, family, sports, careers, He called us to do good works and to not give up… “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Jesus never gives up on us
If we are truly seeking God and His Kingdom first, then we will not give up on doing good. We should not let our discouragement get the best of us. As Christians, we have Almighty God on our side…”What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. He bore our sins in our place. He paid the penalty of sin for us. Jesus did not give up on us and he never will. He loves us! Therefore we should love others as he loved us. We should never give up on doing good for others… “It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
On this Good Friday, be sure to reflect on what Jesus has done for us. His sacrifice should remind us of our need for a savior and also that we should not take our freedoms for granted. For He has made us free. May we resist the temptation to give up and instead remain focused on Him and the good He can do through us. Fight the good fight! The fight isn’t over until we win!