A lie can get around the world twice while the truth is still putting on its pants.
While Abe Lincoln could not have foreseen the Internet, his words could have been spoken with blogs and Facebook posts in mind. Two events happened this morning to remind me of what a terrible thing the Internet can be. No, I don’t speak of porn, political ads, or even the misuse of chimps on YouTube clips. Rather I speak of “Christian” blogs and Facebook posts.
This morning I was made aware of two events the likes of which happen all too frequently on the web. The first was a Facebook post attacking a theologian who not only has forgotten more about the Bible than I will ever know, but how is also one of the most Godly men that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The post was unkind, unfair, and worst of all, untrue. It was posted, of course, by another Christian who wanted to “warn others of the error.” The difference between warning others of error and taking potshots at a brother or sister seems to me to be the same line that is used to distinguish between sharing gossip and sharing “prayer request for (insert name here) who was caught doing (insert sin that no one knows you are guilty of here).
To make bad matters even worse the post shared links to blogs that mischaracterized this gracious gentleman in even shoddier terms. I suppose the Facebook poster could claim that he was “simply sharing information for those who desired it.” Unfortunately, this claim does not absolve anyone from the sin of bearing false witness.
After hearing and reading about the Facebook post I learned of another problem. A student at a particular school found negative information about the school and some of its faculty on (need I even say it) blogs. The student, rather than going to his professors, went to some of those named on the blogs and became convinced that he had entered an institution that was not orthodox. Again, the Internet at its finest.
After hearing about these events, I was reading (providentially) Genesis 37. This is the start of the Joseph story. In Genesis 37:2 the text says, “Joseph brought a bad report of them [his brothers] to their father.” The verse here seems to indicate that Joseph was wrong in bringing this report. In fact Wenham, in his Word Biblical Commentary, translates the phrase as “Joseph told tales” and later points out that the Hebrew word used for this action is “always used elsewhere in a negative sense of an untrue report.” Thus Joseph’s “report bringing” is indeed a negative action. A reminder to all of us to be careful about the “tales” that we tell.
The Westminster confession (as well as many other confessions) in speaking about the Ten Commandments, reminds us that while the commands are mostly negative, that they imply positive actions. So, for example, the command not to kill implies that we are also to try to save those who are being killed (in Nazi Germany for example). We are commanded not to lie, but this also implies that we are to do our best to set the truth straight when we can. That is we are commanded to try to protect those who have been lied about, not to pass on unconfirmed attacks and slander.
This sort of slander and hateful speech is a terrible sin. It harms the Church of our Lord, and hurts individuals in ways that we can only imagine. There are those who argue that the great pastor Charles Spurgeon’s life was shortened as a result of his battles with those who were jealous gossips, passing along whatever negative statement they could find, regardless of its truthfulness.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I certainly am not against all blogs or the Internet (it seems unnecessary to state this since you are reading it on a blog, but I wanted to be clear). I only mean to communicate the need for us all to be careful about what we say and be particularly careful (because it lasts so much longer and is so much more public) about what we post, tweet, re-tweet, blog, wall-to-wall, “like,” or even point our browsers toward.
Let us all post with the knowledge that one day we will stand before God and he will ask us “Did you check those facts before you posted that?” What will we say? I used to sing a song in Sunday School that reminded us to “be careful little feet where you go, or be careful little eyes what you see.” In this Internet age we could add another verse to the song, “be careful little fingers what you post.” Let us all strive to “tell the truth” even when it might be inconvenient.
*Blog and Mayblog is the name of Doug Wilson’s blog. I wish that I had thought of it.