Free Speech Isn’t the Only Liberty at Risk — the Gospel Message Itself is Being Threatened
Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.
My approach in this article might be considered a bit strange since it’s coming from someone who has a high value for holiness, love and honor of others. The right to offend opens up the floodgates for all sorts of cruel, immoral, hateful and ungodly behavior. In fact, we as Christians should never desire to cause others to fall into the prison of offense by our unrighteous words or actions.
I’ve written and taught on this critical topic for several years, and it’s quite possibly the most freeing message I’ve ever delivered.
The Bible tells us that in the end, love will grow cold. Offense overtaking a culture is a key indicator of the arrival of the latter part of the end times:
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (Matthew 24:7-10, KJV)
If we are going to survive and avoid falling away, we must live a life free from offense. We must be unoffendable. The moment offense takes root is the moment we have adopted the identity of a victim. We point fingers at others and blame and complain and allow their actions against us, beliefs about us and words said about us to define us. Instead of laying down our lives, loving, forgiving and blessing those who curse us, offense causes us to strike back. Imagine if Jesus did this as his haters were mocking him as he was dying naked on the cross.
This is why the vile sin of gossip is so destructive. Gossip erupts from the soul of an offended person. It’s a form of hatred and revenge, and it is a powerful and wicked weapon against those who oppose us. Further, gossip breeds even stronger offense as it seeks to destroy, shame and manipulate.
With this in mind it’s critical to understand that we have a dire responsibility to love with such passion that the unapologetic truth of Jesus will touch as many people as possible. We don’t want people to be offended. Why?
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: And their contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19, KJV)
If we, through mean spirited, arrogant or unloving words or actions cause people to be unnecessarily offended, we imprison them. It’s next to impossible to win them to Jesus.
So, I understand how it might seem a bit bizarre that I’m promoting “the right to offend.”
A Call to Repentance is Possibly the Most Offensive Message Many Will Ever Hear
The Daily Mail, a British publication, reports,
Judges have insisted that freedom of speech includes the ‘right to offend’ in a landmark ruling which could help to turn the tide on ‘woke’ intolerance.
Presiding over a case in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Bean and Mr. Justice Warby said: ‘Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.’
They added that ‘free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another.’ The judgment from two senior members of the judiciary will set a precedent for future cases involving freedom of speech.
The reason Christians must support the right to offend is simple: the message we have been mandated to deliver to the world is by nature offensive to those who reject it.
According to the Bible, the cross of Christ is offensive. We can’t avoid that. We can’t soften it. Jesus offended to such a severe degree that people tortured and murdered him. Yet, he loved and forgave.
Fire in Our Veins and Tears in Our Eyes
Our attitude when serving the message to our audience should never be offensive. We must preach with fire in our veins and tears in our eyes. Our hearts must be broken over the pain and hopelessness of the world. Shoving our favorite Bible revelations down the throats of the lost is abhorrent behavior to say the least.
However, while the Gospel message is the greatest revelation of love the world will ever know, it is also threatening, corrective, invasive, unmoving and, yes, offensive.
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Peter 2:7-8, ESV)
The Gospel message invades the private spaces of those who have rejected God. The Holy Spirit will confront the rebellion and the pain and the confusion in an attempt to reach the deepest places of their hearts. Many of you who are reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s quite possible, normal even, to be offended into the Kingdom of God!
The resulting collapse to their knees as they cry out to God for the first time in their lives is evidence of the power of sanctified, holy offense that the Holy Spirit is perfectly skilled at delivering. When the message offends, God can transform lives powerfully. However, when the messenger offends, ears are shut and hatred results.
The Right to Offend Goes Even Further
Let’s bring this topic into the natural, secular realm.
The justices on the other side of the ocean are on to something. A nation becomes weak and liberties are threatened when its people become easily offended. The snowflake culture is more threatening to the strength of our nation than we know.
Does it make any sense that certain affinity groups would have a right to be protected from what others are saying while the rest of civilization does not? Why would those who have adopted a transgender lifestyle (which was the focus of the Daily Mail’s article) have a specialized right to not hear what others have to say while the rest of the world has no choice but to have cruel, hateful vomit spewed all over them?
I was so saddened when I was watching a TikTok video the other day. A wonderful special needs adult who has a large following on the platform was attacked by a troll. This terrible person said it’s “cute” when special needs children are on display on social media, but adults? They should be euthanized.
I was sickened. This was hateful speech. In comparison to an individual refusing to refer to a transgendered person by their preferred pronoun, well, there is no comparison.
I Will Defend the Right to Speak Freely
Anyone who spends any amount of time online will see the most heinous people in our nation freely hating, attacking, trolling, bullying, mocking, canceling, shaming and attempting to wound anyone they disagree with. It’s everywhere. So, again, the question is, why would certain affinity groups be protected from free speech while the rest of us are not?
My wife and I have a travel channel on YouTube. We are privileged to have a great community of people who are pleasures to interact with. However, there have been several who have been hurtful. Guess what? They have a right to say what they want. They can attack. They can hate. They have that right. I will defend their right to projectile verbal vomit all over me.
Hatred on Social Media
Comedian Dave Chappelle unleashed absolutely disgusting, vile, unfunny and hateful language in the direction of conservative activist Candace Owens. I won’t come close to sharing what he said here, but I will share the shocking and refreshing response from Candace. She tweeted:
To every Democrat tweeting me the clip of #DaveChappelle insulting me: I’m not a leftist. I have a sense of humor & I think comedians SHOULD make fun of people. Dave Chappelle is one of the greatest comedians of all time and I made it into one of his specials. That’s POWER!
Whatever the opposite of a snowflake is, that is Candace.
When Congressman-elect Luke Letlow recently died of a heart attack while battling COVID-19, many truly sick individuals started launching I-told-you-so attacks against him (regarding his more right-leaning beliefs concerning the virus that ironically took his life). The hatred that flooded Twitter and other social sites is protected free speech, but people become enraged when their affinity group isn’t affirmed? This offensive, demented and loveless barrage of missile strikes on Luke Letlow has most certainly devastated even further his precious wife and children who are in mourning.
Of course, we know Christians are often targets of hate. Where is the outrage?
The Daily News reports:
On New Year’s Eve, left-wing journalist and New York Times bestselling author Kurt Eichenwald wished “pain & misery” on Republicans and said that he wants to find an “antimasker” and “beat them to death.” During the volatile rant, Eichenwald also scolded alleged “anti-mask” “F*****G ‘Christians’ who preen about God saving [them] from COVID,” claiming they are who “Jesus condemns.” “I have so much hate in my heart tonight.”
With all sincerity, I pray God touches Kurt’s heart and heals his pain.
Again, on TikTok, a creator was greeted with a comment that said, “I really hope this is a video of you having a stroke that will end your life.”
And, again, that hate speech is perfectly okay? Understand, comments like this are flooding the social-sphere night and day. Innumerable people being sniped by innumerable commentators with unfathomable hatred. Well, of course it isn’t okay — but it’s legal, and it should be. Voicing opinions, no matter how politically incorrect, evil or personal is protected in our nation. It’s called free speech.
Free to Use Hurtful Words
The saying goes, “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Of course, that’s untrue. Words hurt. But in our nation we are free to use hurtful words. Spend ten minutes outside of your Christian bubble and venture into the world of public opinion. Every form of vile language and unrelenting hate-filled assaults are non-stop when it comes to politics, abortion rights, gay rights, masks, lockdowns, sports, parenting and pretty much every other hot topic in our culture.
Please tell me why this hate speech is protected but other hate speech is censored, rooted up and out. While you are considering that, let me know why some lies are affirmed while other lies are banished from social media.
The Right to Lie
Okay, this is getting downright blasphemous. A Christian author supporting the right to lie?
It’s not blasphemy. Honestly, it’s common sense.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have emerged as today’s thought police, independently becoming arbiters of truth. They are either attaching disclaimers to “deceptive” tweets and posts or completely deleting them. Entire conservative accounts being deleted has become quite normal. In a nation that not only celebrates but was founded on free speech, alternate viewpoints (conspiracy theories) and even mainline, honest evaluations have become flagged as deceptive.
No longer can we question the election, share our beliefs regarding biology (science) when it comes to questions of gender or debate many of the liberal ideologies of the day.
Here’s why we must support the right to lie. You will agree that it is common sense. The truth of the Word of God is already being rejected as a lie. If we don’t support the right to lie or to hold positions that differ from secular society, our freedom to preach truth will be stripped.
Facebook, Twitter and the others: stop the moderation. You can’t sanitize your platform of the truth you call a lie. If people want to promote belief in aliens, so be it. If we want to discuss election fraud, surely we should be allowed to. Our President surely should never be censored. (I’m talking to you, Jack Dorsey.)
But, friend, we have to know that as the end draws nearer, truth will be called a lie and lies will be called truth. This is why we must support the right to lie. We as Christians must be unmuzzled, free to spread “lies” that will set the captives free.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. (Romans 1:24-25, ESV)
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20, ESV)
We Must Be Unoffendable
If we are unoffendable, we will remain full of life, joyful and victorious no matter what people say to us. Yes, words hurt, but they should not debilitate.
Both in the spiritual and the natural, we must discover this strength. Our churches and our nation will become stronger, healthier and enduring when we refuse to melt when the verbal (or written) attacks come.
The Daily Mail continued,
Mr. Justice Warby explained that the relevant parts of the Communications Act ‘were not intended by Parliament to criminalise forms of expression, the content of which is no worse than annoying or inconvenient in nature.’ Mr. Justice Warby also suggested that the prosecution had been an ‘unjustified state interference with free speech.’
A Spirit-Led Balance
Please hear me. I have already made the case that we should never desire to offend. But when we as Christians stand for truth, offense will come. There is a careful, Spirit-led balance that must be discovered. There is a time to avoid offending people, as Jesus made clear:
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the tax?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?’ And when he said, ‘From others,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.’ (Matthew 17:24-27, ESV)
There’s also a time to stand for what is right — defending the liberty of society, even though those who aren’t willing to be graceful may strike back. It makes no sense that it’s okay to call for a special needs adult to be killed but it’s a crime for someone to call someone a “he” instead of a “she.” A spirit of offense truly is overtaking the world, and we cannot allow it to dictate laws and culture.
I’ll conclude by requalifying and clarifying my position on personal holiness. We as blood-bought Believers must be spotless, rejecting a life of sin and driven by the love of Jesus. We should not lie, hate or intentionally offend. Our passion must be the transformation of those who God so deeply loves. The world needs to see us as an unoffendable army of lovers of our mighty God. We must stand for truth even when it’s determined to be a lie. We must deliver the offensive truth of Scripture from a pure and unoffended heart. We must love so deeply that those who vehemently resist it lash out and call us haters.
Simply, as we fight for freedom and advance the unmatchable love of Jesus, we need to get ready for persecution. It has already begun. These are, in fact, the end times.
John Burton is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. He has authored ten books, is a regular contributor to Charisma Magazine, and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. He has planted two churches and has initiated two city prayer movements and a school of ministry.