The Gospel of Christ: Truth in Love or Hate Speech
MUCH can change in the span
of a single generation. My father also was a preacher, but I doubt if he ever
preached a sermon in the mid 1960's exclusively dedicated to such subjects as
abortion, homosexuality, lesbianism, same sex marriage, euthanasia, and
certainly not on the subject of cloning or the moral implications of embryonic
stem-cell research. Forty-five years ago sermons on such topics would have been
either ahead of their time (as in the case of cloning and stem-cell procedures)
or simply considered unnecessary. Besides that, most preachers would not have
been eager to suffer the discomfort and embarrassment of publicly discussing
such sexual perversions if they did not consider it necessary to do so.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said today. Such topics are relevant and need to be addressed by gospel preachers both privately and from the pulpit. Most preachers today, in response to the sins of our generation, have broached these sensitive issues from the pulpit, and have probably done so on several occasions. It is daunting to contemplate the types of moral and sexual perversions that will have to be addressed and condemned from our pulpits in the next generation!
Another telling and destructive change that we have seen in our generation is the manner in which gospel preaching and teaching is now being characterized. Previous generations, even within the ranks of secularists, have generally recognized the value of gospel preaching in wielding a positive and enriching influence on our culture. Such an attitude is accurate and obviously in keeping with the teaching of Scripture itself. We see it reflected in such passages as Ephesians 4:15 where Paul refers to speaking the truth in love. What could be more beneficial to an individual or the society in which he lives which should be seeking to honestly evaluate itself and improve itself than to have the truth spoken in a spirit of love? Furthermore, in carrying out the commands of the gospel, the saints in Galatia were instructed to share in all good things and as they had opportunity, to do good to all men. Also, Paul testifies in Romans 1:16 that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. The preaching and practicing of Christianity is both pleasing to God and beneficial to mankind as described in 2 Corinthians 2:15: For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. In Colossians chapter one, Paul describes the gospel of Christ as that which made known to the Gentiles the riches of God’s glory; which, when preached, warns every man, teaches every man in wisdom and presents every man perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:27-29). Such passages speak of the overall good which the gospel holds, not just for Christians, but for all men.
Highly regarded secular and political leaders of our country in previous generations have recognized the unparalleled influence for good that the teaching of God’s word holds for our nation. George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Sir Isaac Newton is quoted as saying, “I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever.” Thomas Jefferson said, “The Bible makes the best people in the world.”
In recent years, however, this positive attitude toward the Scriptures has been undermined and replaced with an attitude of derision. Under many circumstances today the gospel message and its teaching, rather than being seen as God’s truth spoken in love is disdainfully characterized as hate speech.
The incessant efforts on the part of some in this and other modern countries to legitimize and normalize homosexuality, lesbianism and same-sex marriage see the teaching of the Bible as an obstacle standing in the way of their agenda for social change. As an obstacle, the Bible must be overcome in one way or another. The way they have chosen is to criminalize the teaching of the Bible on such topics.
This is exactly what has already happened in Canada and other countries. “In June 2001, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Board of Inquiry ordered one of its residents to pay $4,500 fine for running an ad in a local newspaper which referred to verses from the Bible that condemn homosexual practices. The verses weren’t even quoted.” In both Canada and Sweden, it is now a “hate crime” to criticize homosexuality in any fashion. Canadian broadcasters are forbidden to air any critical discussion of homosexuality, and are required to censor programs by Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and the late Jerry Falwell and others deemed insensitive to homosexuals.
The same movement is taking hold in the United States as well. If you remember back in 1998 when Matthew Shepherd, a young homosexual, was beaten to death by two bar-hopping thugs in Wyoming, the San Francisco city supervisors blamed the killing on a “climate of hate” fomented by conservative Christians. Recently, in Illinois, a bill was introduced that provides heavy penalties for “conspiracy against civil rights,” including “intimidation,” defined under state law in part as “exposing any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule.” The law specifically targets offenses committed “in a church, synagogue . . . or place used for religious purposes.” That’s hitting pretty close to home, I’d say! Such laws, including the recent federal “hate crimes” bill (not yet passed into law) lays the foundation for persecution of Christians in this country. It will not only be unlawful to publicly speak out against homosexuality, but simply having the opinion or adhering to the belief that homosexuality is wrong could become a crime. Many believe that this is where all current “hate crime” bills are actually headed.
Many college campuses have installed actual codes forbidding “hate speech” – which at times can mean anything that offends a homosexual or anyone who claims to represent a minority group. Focus on the Family’s Citizen web site reports: “In one of the better known cases a few years ago, the University of Michigan’s rules against ‘harassment’ banned behavior such as “telling jokes about homosexuals, and laughing at jokes about someone in your class who stutters.’ In one instance a complaint was filed against a UM student who said in class that homosexuality was a disease and that he intended to develop a counseling plan to return gays to heterosexuality.” The report added that “usually such cases do not hold up when challenged in court, but the concept of “hate speech” and efforts to link it to crimes in the public mind, make for a powerful intimidation tactic that can chill free speech.”
The governments of other lands, law makers in our own country, representatives of the news media, educators and others already feel free to ostracize and demonize those of us who seek to speak the truth in love about homosexuality and other sins of the flesh. Our thoughts and beliefs are next to be condemned. The enemies of the truth are indeed seeking to outlaw Christianity!
It has never been easy to live a Christian life. Forty-five years ago, it was at least socially acceptable to do so in this country. Now things are beginning to change. It should drive those of us who are parents to our knees in prayer on behalf of our children and grand children who will face a more hostile environment than we have faced as Christians. The gospel is still the truth and we must continue teach it in love regardless of the obstacles or consequences. The real hate speech is coming from those who speak out against God and His Word, thus leading sinners yet further away from their only hope of salvation. We, and our children must be emboldened to stand for the truth regardless of what the world says or does.
By Ed Barnes
From Expository Files 17.12; December 2010