It Used to be Called Gossip

Published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, January 16th

Screenshot 2015-09-23 at 2.19.54 PM - EditedNo doubt by now you know there was a big lottery drawing this week. On Monday there was a meme circulating on social media about how poverty could be done away with in the United States if we simply divided that historic $1.4 billion jackpot equally. According to the image, $1.4 billion divided by 300 million Americans would give each of us $4.3 million. That didn’t sound right to me and the first comment I saw said “Your math is wrong. It would only amount to $43,000 per person which would hardly end poverty.” Ever suspicious of anything online, I did the math and came to my own conclusion that it would really be $4.33 per person. Poverty would not come to end but we could all enjoy a cup of coffee together at Starbucks.

I preached a sermon this past Sunday titled “No Fear.” That’s one of things that changes once Jesus comes into our lives. As an introduction, I mentioned an image that keeps popping up on social media that claims the phrase “Do not be afraid” appears in the Bible 365 times and serves as a daily reminder that we are to live fearless. Just like the lottery winning post, people click like and share buttons without checking into the facts of what they are sharing. One of those things may seem like harmless fun but the other misrepresents the Word of God. We should have a problem with that.

Back before the Internet, social media and texting there was a thing called gossip. When I was a kid parents warned their children that just because they heard something didn’t mean they needed to repeat it. A lot of times gossip is untrue and/or meant to be hurtful. Sometimes the details are in fact true but that still doesn’t mean everyone needs to share them. Somehow we’ve gotten past that. The amount of raw data we are presented with on a daily basis, combined with the anonymity of not seeing the people we are communicating with face to face, has made us share happy. It’s harder to care about people when they are represented by a small icon on a screen than when meeting or speaking to them in real life.

I’ve seen hoaxes and exaggerations shared online by people that are friends in real life. A few times I’ve pointed out that the information is untrue to well-meaning folks that did not realize. Once or twice the person apologized and took the post down. More often than not I get a flippant response that amounts to “I didn’t know if it was true or not” or even “I figured it was bogus but shared it anyway.” Maybe I’m just getting too old and grouchy to be using the Internet but I still believe that Christian brothers and sisters in particular need to think twice before sharing any and everything.

I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton. But I will not like or share with others that picture of her shaking hands with Osama bin Laden that encourages us to “Remember this” when voting. The image is not real and was manufactured from two pictures that have been very well put together. Some people don’t care if the story is true or not and will share it if keeps her from being elected. Even though I will not be voting for Senator Clinton I refuse to believe it serves the greater good to tell lies about her. Doing the wrong thing even if we think it’s for the right reason is still the wrong thing.

Whoever wrote the original post about a daily reminder to live fearless may have had the best intentions. It’s an inspiring message instead of more of the bad news we get enough of on a daily basis. We have an Old Testament command to not bear false witness and a New Testament command to rightly divide the Word of Truth. There is enough good news in scripture that we shouldn’t need to make any up! Jesus told his followers they would have troubles in this world but to fear not because he has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Christians are called to be people of character and integrity no matter what the rest of society finds acceptable. We have an even greater obligation to study and understand the Bible in order to faithfully represent its message. And as Momma might add “…no matter what the other kids are doing.”

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About Clark Bunch

Clark Bunch is the pastor of Unity Baptist Church and author of God is Near. He and his wife Teresa have one child. In his spare time he enjoys blogging, playing guitar and riding his motorcycle. And coffee, he'd be nowhere without coffee.
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