In both the USA and Britain it has becoming increasingly difficult to work out what is true! This has become a massive issue and talking point. I really enjoy interaction on social media however I have become increasingly concerned at the way in which people constantly post or share news that they presume to be absolutely true or to have some element of truth.
Just recently the players at my beloved home town football club (Leicester City) have been absolutely slaughtered in the press and on social media for not trying, being lazy, undermining the manager, having meetings with the chairman to get him the sack etc etc. They’ve been described as being snakes, of only being in it for the money and in fact the star player has even received death threats on the back of this ‘news.’ And yet, as far as I am aware, no one has proven these allegations. However they are being received and shared as truth. I understand that our twenty four hour media channels must have something to report however I would suggest that sometimes things are made up just to sell papers or attract us to websites.
Fake News Is Dangerous
Fake News is dangerous and can undermine a democracy and destroy individual reputations. Trust me – I’ve been on the receiving end a number of times, as I’m sure most of us have. Innuendo, rumours, speculations, lies and half truths wreck people’s lives.
‘Gossips are worse than thieves because they steal another person’s dignity, reputation and credibility…..which are challenging to restore. Remember: when your feet slip you can always recover your balance. But when your tongue slips you can never recover your words’. (Karen Salmonsohn)
Dealing With Fake News
Allow me to make several suggestions:
First – We must make every effort to check before we share something online that it is actually true. As God’s people we should be truth seekers. I’ve fallen into this trap myself only to discover that something I shared wasn’t actually true. Let us also really consider our Christian testimony to others as we share and could I also ask this – what does the constant sharing of negative press about someone or some issue actually saying about us, our attitudes, character and faith? Is what we are posting a good witness and reflection on the God we love and serve? Before you speak think:
T – Is it true?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it inspiring?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?
Second – We must make every effort to act in a godly way within our workplaces, churches, neighbourhoods and families by determining not to gossip or slander others. Who does not love a bit of juicy gossip?! We’re human and if we’re honest we love it! However – we must not share it because first – it may not even be true and second: the bible forbids it.
‘Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.’ (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Third – We must always remember that what we share has the power to corrupt us and corrupt others. Are you aware that the juiciest piece of gossip can bring the hearer down. It can cause someone else to lose their peace about their boss, team leader, pastor, governmental leader or about an issue when previously they were quite content with their lives. Little wonder that Paul exhorted the Ephesians Christians:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32)
Let’s ensure that our words build up and benefit those who hear them including the Holy Spirit who Paul suggests is ‘grieved’ by this kind of talk. Personally I hate the thought that my words have the potential to grieve the Holy Spirit.
Fourth – let make sure that our heart is right. I know there have been times in my life where I have shared things about others because my heart has been corrupted by people and situations. Paul appears to suggest this about the Ephesians motives:
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
I guess that we need to regularly examine our hearts to make sure that we are right with God and right with others. Let’s not allow our hearts to become corrupted and damaged. When our hearts become full of anger, bitterness or unforgiveness it doesn’t just impact us it will impact every area of our lives. If your one topic of conversation is one topic then surely it’s time to check your heart. When our heart is focused on a single issue there will be far reaching impact. This will affect our thoughts, relationships, families, work, faith and focus. Heart issues steal our joy, impacts our ability to actually be present when with people, reduces our creativity and will sometimes also affect our health. That’s a tragedy. We must not allow the enemy of our souls to hijack our lives.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” (Proverbs 4:23-24)
Fifth – let’s not judge others. How on earth can we judge the actions, behaviour or motives of another man’s heart? We simply can’t and for that reason we shouldn’t. I’ve actually been in situations where I have been judging others and as soon as I’ve stopped doing it the relationship has been restored fully – why? I suspect because the principle of sowing and reaping had kicked in and they had been judging me back. We simply must not judge others or we will be judged:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
This is worth bearing in mind before we’re tempted to judge someone via a social media post….
Sixth – rather than simply sharing what could possibly not be true – shouldn’t we actually be first and foremost praying for the person or issue involved. Often those directly involved in situations that others are speculating on are dealing with myriads of different issues at multiple levels and often find themselves caught in Catch 22 circumstances. They so need our prayers for wisdom, revelation, understanding, integrity, strength and often peace.
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT)
Pray For Your Pastor
As a pastor myself, can I encourage you to pray for your pastor? Don’t judge him, don’t criticise him, don’t speak badly of him. Don’t share fake news. Ministry has changed so much in the past twenty years and I can assure you that he will be dealing with all kinds of complex issues. He will never be able to please everyone. He needs and covets your prayers. I often say to people that ‘you will get the pastor you pray for.’
Honesty moment – when was the last time you actually prayed for your Pastor? Why not pray for him/her when you’ve read this article?
Seventh – how about us looking for the good in those who have been formed in God’s image. It’s so easy to focus on the one thing we find unpalatable but how about looking closer for the many wonderful and God given attributes and gifts. We live in a hyper critical and negative world that constantly focuses on what’s not so good (I wonder who the source of those thoughts is?!) and so we are naturally drawn to those things. Let’s focus less on the bad and amplify the good. In any case aren’t we commanded to:
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Check Your Heart
I often use this prayer of David to check my heart. Maybe you should too:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
I know that personally I’m far from perfect in this area but I’m determined, with God’s help, to improve. One of our behavioural values at our church is to ‘honour others’ – this is my longing and desire. Let’s be people who forsake fake news, bad news and share the good news!
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)