Before You Forward that Message

“Don’t believe everything you hear” is an adage I’ve heard all my life. It’s good advice, even when the thing I’ve heard is something I want to hear. In fact, that may be the most important time to apply this wisdom.
Consider an e-mail I received just yesterday. The message talked about a political candidate that I personally hope is defeated in November. The message reported a speech in which the candidate was attempting to display his piety by citing John 3:16 as his favorite verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). A problem arose, however, when the candidate gave the reference as John 16:3, a passage in which Jesus says “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.”
It is quite ironic, isn’t it, that such a slip would occur? The message went on to say that this miscue might be seen as a Divine sanction against the candidate. To quote from the e-mail: “The Spirit works in strange ways, doesn’t He?” Indeed, it might seem providential — if it was true.
There’s good reason to suspect that this incident never happened. According to information on Snopes.com, the incident has been attributed to both of the major candidates for President, just as it was attributed to Al Gore in a smear attempt in 1999. If Snopes is right, then the message I received is not true.
Can we trust Snopes.com, or other similar sites on the Internet? I often do. When I receive an e-mail from a government official in Nigeria offering me several million dollars in exchange for my help, I’m naturally suspicious. When another e-mail informs me that the logo for Proctor & Gamble is a Satanic symbol, I want to know if that’s really the truth. Another message urges me to boycott Duncan Hines cake mixes because of that company’s connection with a political candidate; a quick check reveals, however, that there is no such connection.
E-mail has benefited us in many ways, but it has also opened up new possibilities for those who wish to deceive honest and good people. We who are the targets of these schemes must exercise vigilance in what we accept as truth. Before we become willing participants in someone’s slander, shouldn’t we make every attempt to verify the claims?
Let us hear again Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” Does this apply only to words spoken with our lips? Or might it also apply to handwritten letters or electronically transmitted e-mail or text messages? Any communication that Christians pass along ought to first be filtered for inaccuracies.
The message I’ve just received confirms my bias against a certain person. I’m tempted to forward the message to all my friends so they will share my views. But before I click the forward button, I must honestly try to ascertain if it’s based on truth.

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Tim Hall

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