by Tim Hall
If Snopes.com gave frequent flyer miles, I’d have enough points to take a vacation. For those who aren’t familiar with Snopes, it’s a site on the Internet that attempts to set records straight. At any given moment there are dozens of hoaxes and lies shooting through the ethernet. Sometimes it’s easy to spot a lie, but at other times we just don’t know. Snopes investigates the most common stories and reports their findings to any who are interested.
I visited there again yesterday. The e-mail I received was alarming. It spoke of the dangers posed by a certain world view, a view that is seemingly incompatible with the American way of life. As the message concluded, it connected a high profile political candidate with those very views. How could we even think about voting for this person if they hold views as dangerous as this?!
Snopes debunked the claims. A lengthy explanation stated the candidate’s actual views, and a video was included in which the candidate gave a detailed response to the charges. If a person is allowed to speak for himself, then this man answered the accusations I had read earlier.
I know the person who sent the e-mail with these charges. You’d be hard pressed to find a more dedicated Christian. But this person erred in forwarding the e-mail without checking the facts.
“He who speaks truth declares righteousness,” wrote the wise man, “but a false witness, deceit” (Proverbs 12:17, NKJV). According to scripture, it’s a serious matter to spread erroneous views, whether we do it knowingly or in ignorance. When we have the ability to know the facts, we should go to great lengths to check them out. If we don’t have that ability, we should remain silent.
The principle continues today: “Therefore putting away lying, ‘Let each of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). Paul doesn’t limit truth-telling to messages of a religious nature. Any message we share with others ought to be based on truth.
Now for the rest of the story: What should I do once I know a message is wrong? I’m not excited about the candidate who was slandered. Why not just keep quiet and let others think the worst about him? In that way, a better candidate might be elected. But can God’s people allow error to go unchallenged? How does that fit with this admonition: “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1). Should I allow my brethren to continue forwarding misleading information?
Truth is truth, whether it’s what we want to hear or not. As people of God, we have an obligation to communicate only what we know to be true. And when error comes our way, let us have the courage and love to correct it.
by Tim Hall