Thursday, January 5, 2017

Is There Really Freedom of Speech?

Acts 25
9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” 10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar! 12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Today, we see that the Jews set up an ambush plan to have Paul killed, as he went from Caesarea to Jerusalem. They tried to get Festus (Felix's successor) to buy into their plan by dismissing the case to be tried back in Jerusalem. Festus, wanting to pacify the Jewish leaders for his own politically motivated reasons, asked Paul to go to Jerusalem. But Paul once again exercises his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. Festus has no choice but to send them there according to Roman law.

The Jews want to eradicate Paul in the worst way, but God actually uses the laws of the land, albeit the Roman law, to protect him from certain death. Notice Paul says, "I do not refuse to die if I am guilty". I.e. Paul is ready to die for his testimony about Jesus. Paul"s argument is essentially, "I have done nothing to deserve death." He is exercising his right to free speech. He is proclaiming something he believes in, that Jesus is the Messiah, and he rose from the dead, just as the scriptures predicted.

The Jews could have said, "Paul we do not believe you, we really don't want to listen to you anymore. We don't believe Jesus is the Messiah, nor did he rise from the dead. Would you please leave!" Just as it is Paul's freedom to preach what he believes, it is their right to reject his teaching. But they want to kill him. Why? They are so threatened by what Paul is preaching and specifically that people are starting follow him. They are losing their control of the people, they were supposed to be shepherds for and it will have financial implications as well.

In our "politically correct" world, being a Christian and expressing your own free speech about your Christian faith can be seen as "hate speech" in some extreme situations. For example, for someone to say they believe "Jesus is the only way", is to discriminate against people who don't believe in that. I don't think cramming the Christian faith down someone's throat, or telling them their religion is wrong and will lead them to hell, is an effective form of evangelism nor appropriate. But, I do think we should be able to to publicly state what we believe, without fear of reprisal, or worse yet being called hate monger. After all, I would fully support any other religious person to assert that they believe is "the only way to God".

If you did not believe your way is the way to God then, why do you believe it anyway? I respect someone who believes wholeheartedly in what their religion teaches about how to know God. I may disagree with them, and want to dialogue with them. but why I am deemed as "hateful" or "discriminating" because of stating what I believe. Have Christians become the true religious "minority"?

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