Summary: God grant that, in America but also prayerfully and hopefully throughout the whole world, Christians will (or one day will be able to) exercise their God-given freedom to "speak the truth in love".
FOUR FREEDOMS IN CHRIST SERMON II: FREEDOM OF SPEECH
To be free to speak is probably the most basic of all freedoms since all other freedoms depend upon the ability to communicate our needs . . . wants . . . choices . . . preferences . . . likes . . . dislikes . . . whatever. Even persons who cannot speak words develop other means of communicating with those around them.
To be able to communicate by using words is not appreciated by some folks until they lose that ability. Throughout his life, a brother of mine was “the life of the party” – and it was not unusual for him to be called on to emcee convention gatherings – until one day he suffered a stroke that left him unable to pronounce the syllables that make up words.
My brother, to avoid depression, learned a new system of sounds and gestures that enabled him to communicate his thoughts, feelings and desires. Those of us who knew him as he was now appreciate more than ever one’s ability to speak words in the exercise of one’s freedom of speech.
As Christians, we are admonished to exercise our freedom to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ set us free from our bondage to sin and death, and, if our salvation is not something worth talking about, I don’t know what is.
During the early days of Christianity, the apostles were forever being hauled before the ruling council to defend their preaching of the gospel and testifying about Jesus.
On one such occasion, as Peter and John stood before the Sanhedrin to give an answer as to why they disobeyed the command not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus, these two men of God replied, “Sirs, we cannot help but speak about that which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)
We are fortunate to live in a country where we have the freedom to speak the truth about God and His Son Jesus Christ without fear of having to stand trial before the Supreme Court. Increasingly, Christianity is being put to test in newspaper editorials, on talk shows, and in political circles; but we must remember that those who oppose us have the same freedom to speak that is ours to exercise. At least, we are at liberty to disagree.
You and I are free to worship God according to the dictates of our hearts and to testify to the world that we are Christians; yet there are those who keep their faith “under wraps” as if it were some kind of secret to be guarded rather than proclaimed. There again, God has given you and me the freedom to choose whether we engage in speaking the truth in love. I have made my choice. I will speak my convictions at every opportunity.
In what manner am I taught in the Word of God to speak the truth as I know it and understand it? In love - which says to me that I am not at liberty to speak in a manner that degrades another person or that, even possibly, could bring shame on the name of Jesus.
We are to speak the truth “in love” – which I take to mean that we are to speak about Christ out of a heart of concern for the spiritual well-being of others; and we are to do so in a “loving” manner – sincerely and caringly.
Christ wants the testimony that we speak – whether in words or in deeds – to be such that those who listen to us and observe our ways will glorify our heavenly Father!
Remember the first verse of one of the greatest chapters in the Bible?
One of the ablest “speakers” of the truth of God - the apostle Paul – gave us the Love Chapter – the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians – and he began it by saying of himself and anyone else who speaks for Christ, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Now, if you and I, as Christian witnesses, do not want to be looked upon as doing nothing more than making a whole lot of loud noise – of the kind that people don’t like to hear – we will demonstrate to folks that we love them before we open our mouths to speak about Christ.
Do I need to remind any of us how we show love for one another? Perhaps we all need a “refresher course” in Christian love. So, it will not hurt us to review Paul’s list of the elements of true love – agape: