Article of the Month

Febuary 2015

HATE speech

This will not be an article for or against “political correctness.” Nor will it be an article demanding unlimited license to say what one feels nor the opposite, the promotion of extensive censorship.

So, what is the point? AS ALWAYS, the problem which this poor world is having will find its solution, only in the establishment of Christ's Kingdom. But until that time, those who seek to do things in a manner favorable to God's standards want to know the Scriptural guidelines for personal behavior.

Humanity finds itself squeezed by extremes of all kinds. Most people in civilized lands cringe when uncomfortable statements are hurled against certain groups or concepts. However, these same people fear that the curtailing of the rights of free speech will result in the serious loss of important freedoms. As the old saying states it, “We're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea” ─ an expression likely having its roots in the Exodus-from-Egypt experiences of Israel. But God delivered Israel; and He will also deliver the world.

Those of us who are very serious about our relationships with God are particularly affected by this problem. After all, who can be silent when erroneous concepts about our God are being perpetrated all around us? We need to speak up. But we are always in danger of being accused of hate speech if we are too openly critical of others. But that is part of the problem. We are not being critical of others. We are being critical of ideas and practices, not of individuals. But this last point is so subtle that most of humanity seems incapable of discerning or appreciating the difference.

In January, we all witnessed the carnage in France when a magazine's staff was slaughtered because of the magazine's open practice of ridicule of what it saw as unreasonable claims by religion, politics, etc. Clearly, the attackers could not abide criticism of their religious beliefs and concluded that assassination was a reasonable response. Most of the world, fortunately, did not agree.

Those of us who are privileged to know God have long since realized that a true God does not need: us to defend Him! We need also not defend His prophets. He is perfectly capable of taking care of defending Himself, His prophets, His adherents, and the progress of His plan. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of false prophets and gods is that their adherents feel the need to fight off physically any and all enemies and “non-believers” or “infidels.” They do not realize that if our ideas will not stand without the support of machine guns, our ideas never will succeed.

And, we might add, Christendom has not been exempt from these practices. The infamous Inquisition is only one example of “believers” who can't trust their own god to handle his own affairs. To our very day, there are professing “Christians” who would be delighted to torment their detractors to any extent if they thought they could get away with it. So, whether we are dealing with Inquisitors or Jihadists, we must feel a kind of sorrow that these people don't trust each of their own god's ability to defend himself.

At this point, it is absolutely necessary to bring up a matter which will come up in many minds. The Old Testament is filled with carnage against the enemies of God. And it was God who directed Israel to pursue the carnage. Indeed, the Jewish Law even insisted upon the stoning, of some Israelites who were incorrigible. These truths must be met head-on. There are very satisfactory explanations for these things. But many will find these explanations only to be superficial justifications which we make because we believe in that same God.

Here are the basic (but not in-depth) explanations for our God's Old Testament actions. Those who know Him and His plans and purposes for the blessing of ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH will easily see and accept these explanations. Those not so informed will likely just see us as issuing “excuses” for Him.

1.  Israel was always in danger of extinction or domination by its enemies. But Israel was a key part in God's long-term plan for bringing the entire human race to perfection and everlasting life. As the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:8, “The Gospel was first preached unto Abraham.”

The existence and protection of Israel during the “Jewish Age” was imperative to the development and success of God's long­ term plan. Thus He had to defend Israel from its (and His) enemies — external and internal. And God used Israel as His tool to defeat those enemies. He added His own miraculous powers (like the parting of the Red Sea) to do so. So, unlike Jihadists and Inquisitors, He directly and audibly communicated to Israel when and how to protect His people. He never issued a direct and restricted “go-out-and-slaughter-others,” carte-blanche commission. He carefully planned the preservation of Israel, and carefully and selectively destroyed threats to that preservation.

2.  A very important consideration and caveat to those actions is the ULTIMATE DESTINY of those who were destroyed. Islam, deceived Christendom, and most other false religions, condemn their slaughtered enemies to an eternity of torture. Our God, on the other hand, proposes to bring them all back and to teach them and to grant them an eternity of blessings! How is that for a contrast!

3.  God knew that everyone since Eden was dying. Until the planned time for it, there is no escape from death for anyone. Even Christians cannot expect life from the dead until “the last trumpet.” (See I Corinthians 15:51,52.) With this in mind, we can see that God's direction to Israel to exterminate certain people has an interesting component. First, when these enemies were killed, they were dead. They were not conscious, nor were they suffering. They were OUT OF EXISTENCE — dead. Secondly, the fact that they died from the sword of an Israelite at God's command rather than from smallpox or any other reason, is somewhat immaterial. Everyone was dying (Israel included). It was inevitable. But as far as God was concerned, they all would come back to life to be blessed. Thus, what did it matter when or how anyone died. Death was universal and did not harm anyone above anyone else. All experience the death sentence issued in Eden. But the BIG DIFFERENCE is that Our God knows that He will, get everyone out of the problem with the prospect for an unimaginably beautiful future. The Old Testament deaths will, in the long run, be seen as necessary, but innocent, and far from vengeful.

4.  One of God's uses of the Old Testament nation of Israel was the making of TYPES and ALLEGORIES — picture prophecies of things to come. Christian disciples in the Gospel Age learn from these types, shadows, and allegories. Just as one example, Galatians, Chapter 4, tells us that Abraham's wives were pictorial of covenants which God makes. The Apostle Paul thus explains in Hebrews 10 that the “Law, being a shadow of the good things to come but not the very image” of them, serves us now as an instructor about our own Christianity. Thus, many of the seemingly horrible slaughters and events of the Old Testament record were actually designed by God to be used later as instructive tools for the development and benefit of “the body of Christ” — as well as ultimately for the whole world in the Millennial-Age Kingdom.

This puts one additional perspective on how God's seemingly “bad behavior” in old times is not bad behavior at all, but just another step in the ultimate blessing of all the families of the earth — the Gospel which was first preached to Abraham.

 

—  —  —  —

 

The world of today cannot deal with the questions of speech freedom adequately. We are full of prejudices, self-interests, fears, misinformation, and peculiar experiences. For instance, while France is relatively progressive in its free-speech laws, it will not allow free speech by those who deny the holocaust of the Second World War. It will not allow school students to wear clothing or adornments which openly show religious significance. But these things are A DEFENSE against the experiences of France. Many of us could well be critical of France's seemingly duplicitous free-speech practices. But France, like the rest of us, is fighting its own demons. The fact is, not only for France, but for all of us, THERE ARE NO ANSWERS until Christ's Kingdom.

— Our Part —

The point of this month's article, of course, is for us to weigh our own personal responsibilities as Christians regarding what we are to say, and how we are to say it.

Constant silence is not apropos. Peter makes this clear in Acts 4:1-22. When he was told that he could no longer witness about Jesus, he said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard?”

On the other hand, the Apostle Paul makes the astounding statement in Romans 14:22, “Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself.” Paul's point in this context is that we do not goad others. We do not force their faith. He is dealing with our relationship to the consciences of other Christians. He is saying, in essence, that we have no right to force instruction on others against their wills or against their consciences. Nor do we have a right to judge their consciences.

Paul's words remind us of a concept which rings forever true and which would well be the standard of all who can receive it: “The greatest use of power is its restraint.” Our God is like that. He restrains His power in the great wisdom of knowing that He will eventually make everything right — and that rushing or forcing that eventuality will only harm it. Our “free speech” has that kind of power. There are times when not saying something is the most powerful thing we can do.

Words INCITE actions in others. The only things we want to incite are GOOD and EDIFICATION. What careful weighing of our words this implies!

The Scriptures do not say that we must not hate. To the contrary, they LIST things which God, Himself, hates. (See Proverbs 6:16-19 as an example.) It is said of Jesus that his victory is due to BOTH his loving righteousness and hating iniquity (Hebrews 1:9). We, too, must have that perfect balance. Thus we must speak up against iniquitous concepts — which is not the same thing as judging and hating the persons who hold or practice those concepts. “Hate the sin but not the sinner” is an adage of great merit. It also is something most of us have difficulty practicing.

There is a difference between speaking with a FEAR OF OFFENDING versus SETTING OUT TO OFFEND. We know that any positions we put forward contrary to the positions held by others will be found offensive in the sight of someone. But we must never fear to speak in defense of truth and good. Fear of offending merely ends up with our being fearful of thinking. But, WE SHOULD NEVER SET OUT TO OFFEND. We are never to be willing to HURT purposefully. But we are willing to say things that we know will be taken wrong, if we feel that there is a definite and appropriate need to say them. Silence in the presence of evil is, in a measure, consent.

The Bible does not countenance evil-speaking. As the matter of fact, the religious term, “blasphemy” means speaking evil of another — particularly of a higher power. Evil speaking IS “hate speech.” It doesn't matter whether the evil speaking is true or false; if its INTENT is the hurt of the other person, it is EVIL. It demonstrates that we have a kind of hatred toward the person who holds the view. We can criticize a viewpoint; but we cannot intend to do harm to the one who holds it.

Thus, a sincere Christian must have that maturity of character that (1) will allow him to speak openly of ideas without forcing them on others; (2) will insist of him that he speak in defense of righteousness; (3) will insist of him that he speak his opposition to moral evil when personally confronted by it; and (4) will give him the wisdom to keep silence when he discerns that silence will best serve the good of others.

All who sincerely study Scripture are faced with the concepts of criticism and evaluation. The free exchange of ideas, certainly amongst Christian brethren, and hopefully in all other human venues, is a hallmark of the ideals cherished by the great philosophers of history. But, most especially, it is the standard of God, who invited us saying, “Come. Let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18)


 

 

 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *