Is the Gospel Hate Speech?|
In recent years, the subject of hatred has been given more and more attention in our society. Our government especially has been concerned with the effects of hatred, and legislators have tried to control these effects. In years past, the laws of this nation were successfully and rightly revised in an attempt to eliminate the widespread prejudice due to race, gender, religion, disability, or other personal traits. Now, laws have been enacted to punish wrong-doers not only for their overt and malicious acts done against others, but also for their motivation behind those acts if it is deemed to be hatred. Such laws have been the subject of much contention.
In particular, “hate speech” has been a topic of debate because of its subjective definition and its relation to the United States Constitution. Hate speech is generally considered to be any speech that incites violence or bias against a particular group of people. The problem with this definition is that it is based on the assumed and interpreted effect of the speech rather than the content of the speech or the intention of the speaker. This makes a speaker accountable for what others may do after hearing him speak, whether he intended for them to act or not. Laws based on such a subjective definition are susceptible to abuse by anyone who wants to silence a contrary or controversial opinion. Besides this, such laws may violate the freedom of speech, which is one of the fundamental rights protected by our Constitution.
The concern for Christians is that there may come a time in which the profession of our faith will be categorized as hate speech. The preaching of the gospel includes the declaration of sin and the call for repentance (it never calls for violence against anyone). Such speech may be deemed offensive by sinners who refuse to repent, and they may accuse Christians of preaching hatred against them. For example, already in this country, we can see a movement to recognize homosexuals as a separate class of people who should enjoy special protection by the government. Even now, when Christians preach the plain Bible truth about homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27; 1Cor. 6:9-10), it is often categorized as hate speech. It may not be long until such preaching results in punishment from the government.
As we anticipate these possibilities, we must also prepare to face the consequences of continuing our profession of the Bible. Arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, or other forms of punishment for preaching the truth are not consequences that Christians have experienced in this nation recently, but they were quite common in the early days of Christianity. It was not long after the gospel was first preached on Pentecost (Acts 2) that the apostles were arrested and ordered to stop their teaching. In response, Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and they continued right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:42). Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), the apostle James (Acts 12:2), and many others throughout history even died for their profession of the gospel. It may seem far-fetched that we would ever have to suffer such consequences, but they may be closer than we think. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves now to stand with God regardless of the consequences.
In truth, God commands us to hate sin and to speak against it. The psalmists wrote, “From thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104, 128). God Himself hates overt and covert acts of sin (Ps. 5:5; Prov. 6:16-19; Jer. 44:4; Amos 5:10, Zech. 8:17; Rev. 2:6), corrupt worship (Isa. 1:14; 61:8; Hos. 9:15; Amos 5:21), and divorce (Mal. 2:16). God’s people must also hate what God hates and preach against it according to His will.
Unfortunately, when Christians “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), some may falsely interpret it as hate speech. The message of the gospel is the word of love, even though that message condemns sin and calls on sinners to repent. Christians preach that message to sinners out of love because they want sinners to be saved just as God loves them and wants them to be saved (2Pet. 3:9). Therefore, what some may receive as a message of hate is truly a message of love. Regardless of how it is received or the consequences that may follow, may we never stop preaching the truth in love, for we must obey God rather than men.
Stacey E. Durham
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