Free Speech

The tragic attack on Salmon Rushdie has provoked outcries about the importance of free speech.

Free speech is defined as the right of a person or group of people to express opinions without restriction by government. Many countries, including USA where Salmon was attacked, have this enshrined in law. In other parts of the world this principle is not accepted. For example, in some countries preaching Christianity is strictly forbidden. This is not new. In the first century the Jewish religious authorities tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to prohibit the disciples from teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:27–29).

Even where ‘free speech’ is promoted, there are restrictions; for example, where the language would genuinely threaten health, safety or national security. But the Bible goes further than this. The Jews were strictly forbidden to misuse the name of God.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Exodus 20:7

Sadly, nowadays, the names of God and Jesus are commonly used in profane ways in this country. Years ago, that might have been considered blasphemy: it is certainly disrespectful to God.

Ironically, Jesus was delivered up to be crucified for what the Jews classed as blasphemy. This was because he said he was the son of God, which indeed he was.

And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so…” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy…” 

Matthew 26:63–65

Bible truth is often contrary to the ‘spirit of the age’, and so is not always well-received. But like the apostles, this should not deter us from presenting its message. Of course, we must be careful how we speak about this and about anything else. God has not given us the freedom to speak as we wish. Time and time again the Bible warns us about speech that is filthy, malicious, untrue, deceiving, cursing or corrupt.

Jesus said that “…what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” .

Matthew 15:1

He spoke gracious words (Luke 4:22). And we need to be careful how we use our ‘free speech’, because he also said:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned”

Matthew 12:36–37

Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay

Sign of things to come

According to scientific research, a recent extreme heatwave in India and Pakistan is a ‘sign of things to come’. A researcher from Mumbai said that such events were made more likely by climate change and were a harbinger of the region’s future.

This is worrying. And some signs do herald bad events. Others are more optimistic.

The Bible contains lots of signs from God. So much so that the apostle Paul said:

For Jews demand signs.

1 Corinthians 1:22

Jesus despaired of the people asking for signs, when he was already performing miracles among them.

He said:

Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.

John 4:48

But Jesus did give signs to the people. One of the most important was about his death and resurrection: a sign that he was indeed the son of God. They had asked, yet again, for a sign and he said:

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Matthew 12:39­­–40

He also told his disciples about the signs which would herald his return to earth. He lists wars, famine and describes a world in crisis:

… on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.

Luke 21:25–26

Bible students believe that there are many signs that Jesus will come back soon. The fears about potential devastation caused by climate change could well be one of these signs.

At the return of Jesus the world will change beyond recognition: for the better. So we do indeed have signs of good things to come. We surely cannot ignore them.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

The Cost of Living

People are worried about the cost of living. Prices of things we consider essential are rising almost out of control. And this affects many people in many countries. We keep hearing about the poverty trap: a helpless situation. And there is pressure on governments to help; pleas to save people from crisis.

The Law of Moses had provision for the poor. The Jews were commanded to care for them, not exploiting them or making profit from them. Even if a poor person volunteered himself as a hired worker in order to survive, he could be redeemed. And he was only required to serve for a limited period of time. Some of the instructions were:

He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee

Leviticus 25:53 & 54

Being ‘redeemed’ is a theme in the Bible; the most important example being Jesus Christ. Jesus died a cruel death so that we could be redeemed from the worst possible crisis: the fact that as sinners we naturally die and perish. A situation which, without Jesus, is utterly helpless and hopeless.

Jesus said that he:

 came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

The apostle Peter wrote to believers:

you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,but with the precious blood of Christ.

1 Peter 1:18 &19

Jesus does not ask for much in return, but he does ask us to follow him and try to obey God in this life. This involves loving and caring for others. In return he offers us eternal life. He has ‘paid the price’ for this, doing much more than we could ever begin to achieve. Surely this is the ultimate cost of living!