Monday, July 16, 2012

Lack of discernment fuels rumors

A rumor is a piece of information that is passed along without regard to its truth. They are often half-truths and sometimes complete fabrications. They can cause a lot of damage, even when not intended to do harm. The Bible compares the tongue to a spark that can start a forest fire (James 3:5-6). Like a forest fire, rumors can grow out of control.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21 we are admonished to examine or test what we hear and hold on to the truth. The Bible calls this discernment. A Christian needs discernment because Satan (the father of lies) will deceive us if we are not careful. He will play on the desires of some to believe the worst in people.

We must be very careful about what we believe and what we pass on. Jesus said, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37 NIV)”

The power of the tongue is magnified by technology. First it was the telephone, then the fax, the email and, now, Facebook. Each exponentially magnified the power of the rumor. I determined long ago not to pass along internet rumors. I will not stake my reputation on a forwarded email or anything that begins, “Facebook is at it again.” To pass it on means that I believe it to be true and am adding my approval.

Rumors run rampant in the workplace, at school and in the church. When it is directed at an individual it can be cyber-bullying and has led to more than one suicide. Be extra careful when talking about an individual. Defamation put in writing is libel and can cause someone to sue you.

I'm not sure that it is ever appropriate for a Christian to say negative things about people or institutions. The Apostle Paul wrote, “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 (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).”

It is certainly wrong if the intent is malicious, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28 NIV).”

Take care when you post something on line. It will be a permanent record; it will be seen by more people than you thought; and it will say as much about you as it does about the other person or institution.

The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
Proverbs 15:14 (NIV)

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