Monday, December 12, 2011

Hate Speech, Bigotry and the Bible

The Bible pours forth “hate speech.” Peter and the Apostles had just been arrested for the third time for preaching the Gospel. The ruling religious council, the Sanhedrin, reminded them:

• We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name…Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood. (Acts 5:28)

The Apostles had been deemed guilty of uttering “hate speech,” making the authorities “guilty of this man’s blood.” However, Peter, filled with the Spirit, did nothing to retract the damning indictment:

• We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:29-32)

In fact, Peter intensified the charge stating “you had killed [Jesus] by hanging him on a tree.” That’s calling your judge a murderer! It might be true, but the truth is seldom well-received:

• When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. (Acts 5:33)

Hate speech is one thing but hate speech which indicts the ruling body represents a quantum leap. Couldn’t Peter have expressed himself in a less offensive way? Wasn’t he foolish to not anticipate the response, which should have been entirely predictable? But perhaps offensive speech, if it poignantly reveals the cancer of sin, should not be regarded as “hate speech,” but as “love speech!”

The Gospel proclaims many things that are highly offensive. It tells us all that we are sinners who deserve nothing less than judgment and death. It gives us the one solution to our problems – the death of the God-man Jesus, who we all put to death by our sins – and warns us that He is the ONLY way. This, of course, is entirely offensive to those who believe in and rely upon other ways. It is so offensive, that many now regard the Gospel as “hate speech.”

Indeed, the Gospel knows nothing about political correctness, multi-culturalism, religious-pluralism, and honoring the spiritual solutions of other religions. Jesus even informed the doctors of the Law - those under the Mosaic Covenant:

• You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:23-24)

No sensitivity at all! The Rabbis had to believe in Jesus! No wonder they put Him to death! The Jewish leadership had their own God-given covenant. How could Jesus have suggested that their way wasn’t good enough? What hubris! What hate speech!

However, this was healing speech. If the Rabbis had alienated themselves from God through their sins, the first step was to correctly diagnose the problem. The second step was to apply the solution – Jesus the Messiah!

Peter had learned well from his Master. He revealed to the Sanhedrin the problem – their sin. Then he offered the “offensive” solution: “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”

Yes, the answer is highly offensive. It informed these educated and esteemed Rabbis that they are sinners – murderers – and they had to seek forgiveness from the One they both hated and murdered.

Was this “hate speech?” No! It offered them the only hope for the worst of fates – eternal separation from God! Did they regard this as “hate speech?” Yes, and they beat the Apostles.

Today, many in the church maintain a highly errant belief: “We aren’t supposed to confront others about their sins. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit!” Well, even if it is the work of the Spirit, everything else is the work of the Spirit. Even the hairs on our head are numbered by the Spirit (Matthew 10:30).

However, simply because everything is the work of the Spirit, it doesn’t mean that some things aren’t also our work. (We theologians call this “synergism.”) Even though we are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), we also bear the consequences of our unfaithfulness and disobedience. Likewise, we have a responsibility to be His representatives, sometimes even to convict others of their sins. This is what the Prophets of Israel had been called to.

Is it therefore “hateful” or “bigoted” to confront others about their sins or is it loving. It might be convenient to not say anything, but does it demonstrate loving concern for their ultimate welfare? We have a duty to uncover sin:

• Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them…But everything exposed by the light becomes visible. (Ephes. 5:11-13)

We are to be the light! Of course, this isn’t easy, and it isn’t even advisable if we are guilty of similar sins of which we haven’t repented. However, silence is taken as acceptance. If through silence we fail to expose sin, we are saying, in effect, “You are fine just the way you are.” We thereby become partakers, and their blood is then upon us (Ezekiel 33:7-9).

It is therefore loving to confront others about their sins, whether financial, sexual, or even sins of the mind or mouth. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

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