Everybody wants to speak what is on their mind; it’s human nature. We desire that our point and perspective be heard and on a good day we would like it to be valued. We as Americans have also come to believe that as a result of the first amendment we can say whatever we like, whenever we like and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.
That is just not true.
Words are far too powerful to limit their effect to stark neutrality and apathy. While the government (usually) cannot imprison us for our statements and criticism of the establishment and culture, it does not mean that our words cannot land us in dire straits.
In our present cultural climate we have seen NBA team owner Donald Sterling severely punished for errant racist utterances spoken to a girlfriend in the comfort of his own home (words that she recorded and effectively ruined his life with). We have also seen an NFL player, Don Jones get fined, suspended and sent to sensitivity training for tweeting about openly gay Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend when he was drafted 249th in this year’s NFL Draft.
If you haven’t learned this yet, don’t worry you will.
Your words can be a noose, regardless of your intent.
We can argue over political climate, culture wars and the “Big Brother” state of liberal media. We can make snide remarks about thought police and intolerance toward the “intolerant” yet at the end of the day we can only control ourselves and our own words. We must realize in this day and age everything on the internet is written in ink, errant words spoken (even when you are drunk, go ask Mel Gibson) can destroy you and we must always think before we speak.
I have the right to freedom of speech as a pastor, however I know many things that I could say on a Sunday morning that would end my employment before the sermon was over. Maybe I can’t go to jail for my public utterances but my life can be compromised and my ministry can be effectively ended.
John the Baptist couldn’t say whatever he wanted without repercussions. When he called King Herod out on his adulterous affair with his brother’s wife publically, he was swiftly put in prison. All it took was a striptease, some drunken promises by the king, a vengeful woman and his head was being served up on a silver platter.
Jesus Christ himself couldn’t say whatever he wanted without social, political recourse. Go read Matthew 23-26 where Jesus calls out anybody and everybody in authority locally. Guess what happened right after that: They killed him.
I really like those last two guys mentioned above. I’m not criticizing their methods in the slightest. One was perhaps the greatest prophet to ever live and the other was God incarnate. I’m just saying that the rules apply to them as well.
We may be called to confront evil, battle injustice and call for repentance. We may be prodded to aggressively address hypocrisy and to defend the people from the wolves who seek to devour them, but know that it’ll be your head on a platter, or you hanging on 2 pieces of wood, or you looking for employment someplace else or deleting your twitter account due to death threats and a public outcry.
Remember, the nature of dying on a hill is that you can only do it once, and that you will die. Perhaps we need to save our words and energy for the most opportune times.
I often times wonder what kind of platter will bear my head. I feel like stainless steel would be a nice choice.
Words have amazing power.
We should not be dismayed when they reap a reaction.