Do Christians really have free speech? Legally in America, yes, but does that mean we can say anything and everything? No, we are to guard our speech for the sake of Christ and the gospel:
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 NAS
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Colossians 3:8 NIV
Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone. Colossians 4:6 NLT
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:12 NAS
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8 NIV
Then what should come out of our mouths? The truth. Christians are the only ones who can really know the truth and we should certainly speak it. But there is a condition:
[B]ut speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. Ephesians 4:15 NAS
From what I read, I think Phil Robertson spoke the truth in love and that his speech was seasoned with grace. I think he has a true desire to bring people to salvation because he knows what the Lord has done for him. The problem is that the world cannot understand the beautiful, unworldly concepts of truth, love, or grace, therefore it is offended. As it should be.
The gospel is offensive to those who reject it and foolishness to those who are perishing. (1 Corinthians 1:18) And when believers identify something as a sin, unbelievers become defensive. They angrily quote three words from the Bible – do not judge – and conveniently ignore the other 780,000 or so. If they only read a little further, they would come across the truth that they judge themselves by their disbelief. (John 3:18)
So what do we do? How do we exercise our “free speech”? How do we live out our faith as sheep among wolves? Jesus told the disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NAS) We are to be wise and innocent while we speak the truth in love, guard our mouths, and season our speech with grace.
Believers, of all people, have free speech in the purest sense of the word. In every aspect we walk in freedom, and our speech should direct others to that freedom. However, the Lord reminds us:
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 NAS
Yes, we are free. Free to bring good, not harm. Free to share our faith for the good of others. Free to speak of freedom in Christ.
But we are not only free to speak. We are compelled to speak, for freedom in Christ is the only freedom there is. And the world needs it desperately.
Janice Powell 2013