If you’re a Christian, the First Amendment is a more interesting conversation than you might think. In fact, in a weird way, it’s kind of a lie.
Please try not to have a heart attack as you read this, by the way. I’m an American citizen, too. I understand this freedom is afforded to all of us through our Constitution, and that many brave men and women have fought valiantly to make that happen. But let’s go a little deeper…
My identity as a Christian supersedes my nationality. It should for all of us. And there are implications to that reality– mainly, that my obedience is first measured in accordance with my faith, and then in accordance with my country. Therefore, we really don’t have permission to share any and every opinion we feel in the moment. Our country may say we can do such things, but then again, it also says we can have affairs, get addicted to pornography, and drive ourselves into drunken and financial ruin.
Simply put: we are not invited to speak our own opinions freely because we are first called to die to ourselves so that Christ can live in us (Luke 9:23, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 5:24). And if those scriptures aren’t good enough, we can always remember what “Christian” actually means: “Little Christ.” As sarcastic as it was intended, the term was coined based on the determination of the early disciples to genuinely and accurately represent Jesus rather than themselves. They made the conscious decision to reject or “capture” their own thoughts and put them into submission of the will of Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The Apostle Paul uses a title I think is really powerful. He calls us to be ambassadors (1 Corinthians 5:20). For a reminder of how ambassadors then weren’t like ambassadors now, just watch the first five minutes of the movie Gladiator. That headless guy coming back from sharing the general’s terms with the Barbarians was an ambassador.
The purpose of ambassadors remains mostly the same today, though, with thankfully less risk. It’s the calling to speak on behalf of your boss; to be a representation of the authority you are surrendered to. Ambassadors do not have the freedom to speak openly, but only what they are instructed or what is consistent with the message they are given.
In a similar way, we as Believers in Christ are not free to speak our own minds. Those have been surrendered and even put to death. By the way, I’ll be the first to admit this as a constant struggle. But it doesn’t change that we were given freedom to express only the love of Christ and to live in freedom only from sin (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23, Galatians 5:13-14). Again, what we are free to express is not our own words, nor our own lives. It is the words and life of our King.
You may be getting snarky with me right now, thinking, “Well if it weren’t for the First Amendment, you wouldn’t be able to speak as an ambassador in the first place, or even write this article.”
I would beg to differ. You’re assuming that speaking requires physical protection. Again, remember the headless ambassador in Gladiator, who rode into an extremely sketchy situation (with his head) and was nevertheless called to speak. And how about the millions of Christian martyrs who have spoken and lived in the freedom of Christ even while they were being executed for their faith?
Paul himself used this title of ambassador while he was in prison and on the tail-end of a life where he had been severely persecuted for freely speaking on behalf of his King. It made no difference to Paul what level of worldly freedom of speech (or lack thereof) he’d been given. He considered himself free enough still to send illegal letters across the Roman empire and to speak as a representative of His Lord.
We as Christians are called to speak, regardless of whether or not we are physically protected to do so. And this speech does not actually share our own words but rather the words that truthfully represent our Lord.
The command to stand up for Christ in the world (Luke 12:8) was given before anyone promised we would be protected as we do it. Therefore, even having those protections stripped away is not an excuse to forfeit our freedom to preach Christ.
So, Christian, just remember this next time you’re tempted to exercise your First Amendment American right: your voice is first a slave to the righteousness of Christ (Romans 6:18), long before it can be an extension of your personal beliefs and opinions. The freedom Christ purchased for you preempts and informs your opinion, not the other way around. It carries more weight and reaches far deeper than what our 230-year-old Constitution says.
I suppose this higher standard is one of the perks of being an adopted son or daughter to the Creator of the Universe.