A group of Christian women in Australia write in to ask: “Dear Pastor John, we were discussing this topic in our small group tonight. When is it harmful for Christians to share their opinion on homosexuality on social media? How should Christians navigate this issue on Facebook specifically? Is there a benefit to expressing our opinions? It seems like when Christians do share opinions there seems little, if any, benefit, and it stirs up such negative responses. What do you think is our prerogative as Christians? Is it worth it?”
Maybe the most helpful thing I can say is to draw attention to the word opinion. The woman who asked the question may not mean, and probably does not mean, what I am hearing in the word opinion. So please don’t feel this as a criticism because this may just be a language problem, a culture problem, or an assumption problem. But it does give me a helpful way forward. I can’t read her mind.
Stewards of Truth
When I hear the word opinion — Can Christians give their opinion? — I hear connotations of superficiality, quickness, arbitrariness, lack of heart or passion, unreasoned. And I don’t think that she meant any of that.
But my answer demands that I get that on the table, because my answer is that mere expressing of opinions probably does little good. Opinions are in most people’s minds a dime a dozen. Everybody has an opinion, and they are so common that they have little worth. So I am not eager to encourage Christians to go online and just let all their thoughts and feelings hang out with their opinions.
We are stewards of God’s grace and truth. I just read that this morning in 1 Peter 4. We are stewards of God’s grace, and stewards are to be found faithful. They are not careless with truth and with grace. They manage their master’s wisdom. They manage their master’s grace and truth with great concern for integrity — his and theirs. Peter says,
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God. (1 Peter 4:10–11)
In other words, when we open our mouths to speak for the glory of God, which should be always, there should be a concern to steward our mouths — our tongues — to steward the gift of truth and the gift of grace.
Biblical Clarity with Christlike Compassion
Let it sober us that Christians represent God. We are Christians. We are walking representatives of Christ. We shouldn’t be just slinging around opinions without some sense of sobriety and responsibility for why we hold them, and what effects they are going to have, and what truth they might encourage or discourage. Therefore, it is different to have a merely personal opinion that is not rooted in God’s word, and to have what I would call a conviction that we believe is deeply and truly rooted in God’s word.
So my answer to this group of women who have this rightful concern is: No, don’t just spread opinions. But yes, do give careful, well-reasoned, biblically-saturated, well-informed, compassionate, Christ-exalting, humble convictions about the issues of our day. There is not enough of that. There are plenty of opinion, but there is not enough of that. Then let the chips fall where they will. If you get criticized, you get criticized. If we stop speaking because we are afraid of criticism, of stirring up people’s slandering us, we will never communicate in any public forum. Don’t be intimidated by negative feedback.
Aim Truth at Every Falsehood
One of the reasons not to be intimidated also comes from 1 Peter 2:12
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
So there it is. Peter knows it is coming, right? He knows it is coming. Even when you speak or act honorably, they are going to speak against you as evildoers — the very opposite of what you are. But the verse says that what starts with slander ends in worship. Don’t assume — that the criticism of those who are hearing what you say or seeing what you do and criticizing you as hateful or whatever they might say — don’t assume that is their last word, because Peter says it may start with that kind of slander, but it may also end in worship.
He says almost the same thing again in 1 Peter 3:16: “Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” We never know. We never know when our careful, reasoned defense of truth — and I say it that way, because 1 Peter 3:15 calls us to give a reasonable answer for the hope that is in us — we never know when that reasoned answer, supported by a long-term life of integrity, love, we never know when that may lead our critics first to shame and then to worship.
So my answer is: Don’t stop speaking and living the truth. Do stop the buckshot of opinion scattering. But don’t stop the well-aimed rifle bullet of truth at the stronghold of error.