Earlier this month, billboards that hung on the property of Newport Beach’s Fashion Island and the Irvine Spectrum were taken down after several complaints were directed toward the Irvine Company. This is the SoCal Harvest Crusade, which has posted up ads around the Southern California area for a few years. Yet, this is the first incident of its kind in which a SoCal Harvest ad received complaints and was forced to be taken down due to peer pressure. A full refund was given to Harvest Riverside Church.
What was on this billboard that caused some people to be offended? As Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Riverside explains to CBS News, “This is a Christian event … but notice on the poster it says Harvest, my name.” The banner depicts Greg Laurie speaking and holding a black colored book, which is not explicitly labeled as a Bible. But apparently, it was obvious to some people, and that’s when they got offended.
Laurie shares some further thoughts, “I’m offended all the time. In malls, things I see in billboards, but I’m not out to boycott it, especially if they paid for it.”
Technically, the owner of the malls can do whatever they want with the billboards. The discussion at hand is not about whether it is right or wrong to post up religious based events on public property. The real issue is whether the posting or taking down of such ads are in line with our nation’s belief in free speech, and to some degree, freedom of religion.
God’s word tells us that the world and all that is in it was created and sustained by God. When humanity fell due to the original sin of Adam, the entire human race took on a sin nature that caused them to be innately distanced and fearful of the Lord God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this world to reconcile sinners onto God, which He did through His substitutionary death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin debt. Sin brings about the expectation of God’s wrath in hell, but Jesus paid the fine with His life so that we can be forgiven and made righteous when we believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Christ promised that He will return again in the future to establish His physical kingdom on earth. But until then, this world’s economic, social, and political culture will not resemble the kingdom of God. Christians are kingdom citizens who live in this sin-cursed world, which will not be receptive to the light of God’s word and His rule.
It’s interesting to note that the Bible does not advocate freedom of speech and freedom of religion, because He created all people in this world to live a certain way, which is to worship God and not idols. A failure to live up to that standard leads to accountability and final judgment. However, God has used freedom of speech and freedom of religion, in countries such as the US, as a means of common grace for His people. It thus allows for Christians to freely practice and live out their faith in a culture that would be otherwise against them. Freedom of speech can be an agent of tremendous good, but also of tremendous evil if exercised by a wicked person.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Steve Cha