If you have recently been monitoring the various news outlets available to you, then you have almost certainly been lied to these last weeks. I didn’t go to law school, but I do teach US Government to high school students. News headlines have run contrary to the most basic facts regarding government, facts that my students understand, but the general population may not. Not all of these news people and social media participants spread lies intentionally. They just pass it on. We're left wondering what's true and what's not, if it occurs to us to do so.
If you know that there is a lie or two mixed up in all of the headlines that cross before your eyes on a given day, what’s a person to do? Given two contradicting pieces of information, do we assume that the correct piece is the one that supports our position? Is it possible to fact check each one? Not if you expose yourself to a lot of media. That wouldn’t be possible. Sometimes quantity does, in fact, forgo quality.
Here’s the hard truth: the truth-checking websites are also contaminated by bias and personal agendas. I’m sure some are more reliable than others, but personal opinions die hard in this political and social atmosphere. The specific stories that are chosen to either be validated and invalidated, in fact, may expose the reviewer’s personal agenda.
A modified truth is just as much a lie because it is contaminated.
Intense emotion alters the way we present our words. Something may be forecasted to be likely. When an angry or fearful person relays this forecast, they may relay it in stronger language that makes it seem as though the the possibility is actually an eventuality. Emotions are running high these days. This is happening. To make matters worse, strong emotion lessens our inhibitions. As a result, previously prudent restraint can give way to hostile opinion free-for-alls. We may be surprised at the unbridled and unpredicted animosity of our closest family and friends.
It's unsettling to see generally G-rated friends and commentators cursing, belittling and accusing. Matthew 15:18 explains, "But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them." Getting caught up in hype can result in throwing caution to the wind, which can undo so much good between people. It can be tragic. People are sincerely and angrily proclaiming to one another that they won’t be tolerant of one another’s intolerance! Think about it. We’re not even hearing what we’re saying. We’re using our words to blindly shoot at our opposition, unmindful that we are hitting our loved ones. In the battle that rages politically today, very few people have remained unaffected in the aftermath of the elections.
Scripture warns us that even when we are thoroughly and passionately sure that we are right, we may not be! Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Your first response may be to share that on social media in order to add biblical support to your accusation that someone else is deceived. Actually, each of us must pause and hear that it is written to all of us. Some of us are at least partially wrong. When sides are fiercely chosen, someone has to be wrong. Yet no one thinks that they could be the one who appears right, but is not.
Scripture warns us that even when we are thoroughly and passionately sure that we are right, we may not be!
Romans 13:14 deals with this head on. Paul tells us, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” It doesn’t seem that we’re listening to one another, unless maybe to get ammunition to eventually fling back. Why are we intentionally infuriating one another? According to Paul, we are responsible if our intentional actions lead to another’s man sin.
What do we know of the governmental leaders and media celebrities that are pushing a lot of buttons these days? Can we know their true intents and motives? Scripture reminds us that we know less than we think we know. I Corinthians 2:11 says, “For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” We are to make our choices as the Holy Spirit leads us. Only God knows outcomes. We frequently say, "IF.....THEN," as if we are the authorities. We aren't. If we are burdened, prayer is the outlet that God has given us to rectify bad situations. It's not wrong to have opinions, but according to Scripture, it's wrong to place them above respect for the people who disagree with them.
Discernment is essential, because truth, though promised to one day come to light, may not have done so yet.
Ephesian 4:2 may be a hard verse to practice after a historically divisive Presidential election. It says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Beware. You probably won’t get much credit on earth for responding in humility and gentleness. But neither will you be held responsible for any harm done through pride, self-righteousness and yes, in some cases, anger that has become hate.
Romans 12:18 tells us, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." John 1:5 talks about the roll of the church through difficult times. It says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” More grace, more humility, and His truth are there for the asking. Now is one of the church's greatest opportunities to shine.