One of the most prevalent threats to our democracy is the attempt to suppress free speech. And perhaps the most common method today to limit undesirable messaging is for large tech companies to remove or censor posts on social media that don’t match their ideology, or may offend their followers.
Suppression of free speech is definitely not new.
Jesus addressed the issue by stating that prophets of old were killed for proclaiming God’s word.
The Pharisees told Jesus that if they had been living at the time of their fathers they ‘would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
Jesus told them that they would do the same in the current generation.
“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets…some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will persecute…on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth…Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Matthew 23:34-36
The Greek word for ‘generation’ in this context means the current generation which is believed to have been fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem. We’ll see, however, that it can also mean the time up to the ‘day of the LORD.’
When Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, many believed in Him; however, the Pharisees were greatly concerned.
The Pharisees couldn’t deny the miracle, but they thought the believers had to be silenced; else they would lose their pseudo peace with the Roman government.
The high priest at the time offered a solution, i.e. kill Jesus, which would cease the movement. Caiaphas, the high priest, offered the following words:
“You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” John 11:49
Little did he know the prophetic profundity of his statement.
From that time forward they sought to seize and kill Jesus.
After Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, during the early days of the church, Peter healed a certain lame man. That miracle was also witnessed by many.
When questioned, Peter explained that the lame man was healed by faith in Jesus.
That message did not set well with the Sadducees.
“…What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all…But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” Acts 4:16-17
Peter, however, was not silenced. He preached all the more and drew great numbers to the dismay of the Sadducees, until they put him and John in prison.
An angel subsequently opened the prison doors and brought them out and instructed them to continue their teaching and preaching.
The Sadducees were really angry.
“Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine...” Acts 5:28
Peter responded by saying that he, and the other apostles, ought to obey God rather than men and they had no intention of easing up on preaching and teaching Christ.
Peter then told the Sadducees that they had murdered Jesus who was now sitting at the right hand of God as the savior of the people.
“When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.” Acts 5:33
The Pharisee named Gamaliel told the council that if Peter’s efforts failed, his words and work would fall by the way side, but if it was truly of God, there is nothing that could be done to stop the movement.
So they beat Peter and the others and commanded them not to speak any more in the name of Jesus.
“So they departed… and daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:40, 42
Tradition states that Peter died a martyr’s death by being crucified upside down.
What will the suppression of free speech lead to in America?
Of a surety, God ’s justice will ultimately prevail.