When you share the gospel, what rights do you apply? The right to freedom of speech? Or the liberty of the spirit? Both? Maybe you haven't even thought about it?
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Now before you answer the question do you even know if there is a difference between the two? I believe that knowing the difference will become more and more important for the citizen of God's kingdom.
So what is freedom of speech?
Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but also includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
Freedom of speech and expression has a long history that predates modern international human rights. It is thought that the democratic ideology of free speech may have emerged in ancient Athens as early as the 5th century BC. The values of the Roman Republic also included freedom of speech and religion while the UK'S Bill of Rights 1689 legally established the constitutional right of 'freedom of speech in Parliament' which is still in effect today.
Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Although enshrined in law, freedom of speech and expression are not absolutes and include limitations such as that which relates to libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, food labeling, non-disclosure agreements, the right to privacy, the right to be forgotten, public security, and perjury.
Those who support limiting freedom of speech often cite the 'harm' or the 'offense” principle. Limitations to freedom of speech may also occur through legal sanction or social disapprobation, or both. Certain public institutions may also enact policies restricting the freedom of speech.
It is in the case of these offenses that many Christians have become ensnared by the legal pitfalls whilst sharing their faith. This has become more commonplace within the public sphere as the Christian faith erodes from public life.
Aggressive liberal ideologies are using the harm or offence principle as a way of enforcing their idea of freedom of speech and expression, whilst suppressing religious beliefs. The condoning of sin by religious and political leaders has only further fuelled its progression.
The LGBT movement serves as an example of this. Homosexuality and transgender lifestyles have moved from a private/mental health issue to the public, the political and social norm. Conversely, on the other hand, we have seen the Christian faith move from a public, political and social norms to suppressed private and personal views or opinions.
This dramatic change was further supported by a recent survey by Premier Christian Communications revealing how Christians felt about sharing the faith in modern Britain. The question is will the liberals take the next step and label the faith a mental health issue? With deep concern, I have already heard these ideas echoed on social media discussions.
A recent case found an ordained Pentecostal minister guilty of preaching the faith within a prison chapel service. The judge upheld the decision of the prison and accepted that the Bible verses quoted were derogatory against homosexuals and that the preaching of this passage could 'legitimise bullying or other mistreatment'.
The man was actually fired for doing his job!
Angela Williams: Christian concern
So what does the bible have to say?
In stark contrast to the principles of freedom of speech. The liberty of the spirit is the right to articulate and express God's commandments and statutes in the spirit of love and truth. The liberty of the spirit is recognized as a new creation right decreed through the patriarchal blessings of fruitfulness, multiplication, and dominion. It is universally recognized and exercised through Christ's New Covenant.
Whilst freedom of speech is limited by the harm or offense principle. The liberty of the spirit commands the repentance and reconciliation principle.
So in what capacity should the kingdom citizen speak by the spirit of liberty?
The new testament citizen is admonished to stand upon the authority of the scriptures, the revelation of the Son of God and witness of the Holy Spirit. Read Hebrews 1:1-2 We are also to testify of the written word whilst behaving in the manner of sonship bestowed upon us through Christ. Read 1 Timothy 4:16.
Before speaking on particular matters citizens should bear in mind three of the five themes of citizenship.
- What did our authority decree?
- What was written in the law?
- What did the government (Apostles and prophets) declare?
To speak boldly in the spirit of liberty we must also:
- Remember that the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and our Lord will not suffer his citizens to shrink back in fear of obeying his commands. Read Matthew 11:2, Hebrews 10:39
- Understand that our words will more than likely cause harm and offence for the very reason stated above, that the gospel of the kingdom commands repentance and reconciliation. Read Luke 17:1 / John 15:18-25
- Recognise that although an antichrist society will impose its principles of harm and offence to try to curtail our liberty, the will of our authority is not limited and is far reaching. Read Philippians 1:12-18
For King and for country...