There has recently been controversy in the press about our legal right in the UK to ‘freedom of speech’.
Not all countries allow people to express opinions in public. This is not new. In New Testament times the authorities instructed the apostles not to preach about the risen Christ.
Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood on us!Acts 5:28
But the apostles, convinced of the truth of their message, refused to comply, saying “We ought to obey God rather than men”Acts 5:29
We do have rights, even when our speech might upset people.
Nonetheless, there are legal limits on our freedom of speech. UK law prohibits hate speech, and words which would incite terrorism or offensive behaviour. Moreover, words which seem offensive to one person may be innocuous to another. And some people, while insisting on their own right to free speech, resent other people expressing their opinions when they disagree with them.
We should, of course, be sensitive to the effects of our words on other people. But above all, we should avoid offending God by what we say or, indeed, what we do not say. We all have opinions. But God sets the standards of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’: ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
The apostle Paul told believers to be careful what they said, urging them always to encourage and to support spiritually:
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearersEphesians 4:29
So let us all be circumspect in our use of free speech.