[This article was originally posted in June of 2016. Unfortunately, it is even more germane today.]
If two groups of people, each a leader with followers, pass on the street and one leader shouts at the other, “You stink! You’re ugly and stupid!” This would be rude, but not a crime, not even if his followers join in the childish behavior.
If the other leader and/or his followers respond in kind, it is still not a crime. If they add, “I hate you!” to their insults, it is still not a crime.
HOWEVER, if anyone, leader or follower, strikes someone, throws a brick, breaks a window, or sets a car on fire, that person is guilty of a crime.
Although insults, and unpopular opinions, even words of hate, are rude, ugly, immature, and certainly not Christian, they are not crimes. The people who use another’s words to excuse their own acts of violence are the criminals, not the person they are reacting against.
In our current culture where the manufacturer of an item can be sued if a person uses the item in a crime, blame is being moved ever further from the actual cause of crime or injury, leaving individuals free from responsibility for their own actions.
Freedom without responsibility leads to chaos.
Christians have been blessed with the greatest freedom of all and we have the greatest burden of responsibility as well, as we read in the book of Galatians:
5: 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other.