Don’t believe everything you hear

The Standard May 20, 2021

In today’s 24/7 news cycle we have seen the devastating effects that a rush to be the first to cover a hot story and to pronounce a conclusion or verdict can have. In recent years major national news outlets have gotten several big stories completely wrong and have ruined the reputations of innocent individuals in the process. In the race for staggering headlines, the truth is too often left in the dust. A Forbes Feb. 10, 2020 article entitled, “From Scams to Mainstream Headlines, Clickbait is on the Rise” quoted the Better Business Bureau as stating, “’Clickbait is a sensationalized post about trending news items highlighting exclusive, breaking or urgent news inciting people to quite literally, click on it.” This clicking takes place on our computers and cell phones and is lucrative for online brands. News outlets as well as political parties benefit from stirring up or provoking their audiences.

Real people feel real impacts when we rush to judgment without waiting for all of the facts to be uncovered. If we see a short video clip, for example, we must know what transpired before and after that segment. Background information is important. We need to see the full context in which an incident happened. Often there are holes in any given story, and what is left out is as important as what is relayed. Thoughtful, careful people do the hard work of reading from various sources and listening to an assortment of perspectives. Listening to only one side of any story is a recipe for being swayed by partial accounts. Christians always should pursue the truth, in spiritual matters and in matters that might not seem so spiritual.

In his gospel the apostle John uses the word “truth” 23 times, especially in quoting Jesus. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32) “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6a) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17) “But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13a)

The Holy Spirit indwells every believer and guides us in all truth. Despite what some popular ideologies pronounce today, there is objective truth. Those who do not have the Spirit of truth cannot accept or know him. The Christian worldview often makes little sense to those who do not follow Christ.

Scripture teaches us to take the time to listen and to evaluate carefully what is true and what is false. We can’t help but be somewhat subjective, although God gives us discernment when we ask for guidance. With God’s help, we can be as fair as possible.

”To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.”  (Proverbs 18:13, 15, 17)

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:19-22)

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