"Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy." - Proverbs 31:8-9
There is a lively debate in our country about the First Amendment. Can Nazis be kept off college campuses? When does hate speech become an incitement to violence? Should hate speech be protected at all?
Some believe in an absolute right to speak, even if they hate what gets said. They fear that anything less gives those with power a tool to silence those without. Others say that speech that does violence is violence and should never be protected. It's an important debate to have.
But I am a Christian. So whatever we as Americans decide our Constitution means, I know that my freedom of speech has already been constrained by the God made known in Jesus.
Words of hate and violence are out. Likewise silence in the face of injustice.
Proverbs tells me I have to speak out for those who cannot speak and defend the rights of the poor and needy. I Peter says, "Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God." Philippians demands I focus on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable..."
There are so many scriptures that teach me how to speak! And others that teach me to be silent. It feels like there's a lot I cannot say. And that frees me to share a gospel of love.
Sovereign, forgive me when I confuse my citizenship in America with my citizenship in your holy city. Though I may be free to speak hate, fill my mouth with words of love.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.