The recent attack on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo is uniting people around the world to the cause of free speech. “Je Suis Charlie” appears on posters and shirts, and is becoming a rallying cry at gatherings.
The debates have already begun about whether or not Charlie Hebdo should have published cartoons that were offensive to Muslims. In all fairness to the newspaper, Christians, Jews and Muslims were equal targets – sometimes on the same cover!
What about the Church? Do we as Christians have a responsibility to stand for the exercise of free speech? The short answer is “yes,” as the free speech that we enjoy allows us to freely and publicly proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Christians however, we also have a greater responsibility when it comes to exercising our speech. Our charge is to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, [giving] no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Peter 2.9; 1 Corinthians 10.31-32).
As we have already seen in our own country, the preaching of the Gospel itself has become offensive to some, especially as we shed the light of Scripture on issues that have become acceptable in the broader society.
My point is this: as we preach the Gospel, calling on those around us to turn from their sins and follow Christ, we will offend some. We don’t need to go the proverbial extra mile to mock what others may or may not believe. We need only to speak the truth, “not seeking [our] own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10.33). Our instructions are explicit:
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4.5-7
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” – Titus 2.7-8
Je suis chrétien!