Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10 ESV)
The internet is a remarkable thing. Never before in history has so much information been available to so many people so quickly. Remember the days where you used to sit around with your friends, and wonder about some person or piece of information, and you couldn’t just pull out your smartphone and Google it? Remember when if you wanted to write to someone, you actually had to, you know, get out a pen and paper and write? Then go to the post office, wait in line, buy stamps, and only then send your note, and wait a few days for it to get there? Remember how if you wanted a new book or CD, you had to go to a store and hope they had it? The ability to conveniently exchange information and media has been revolutionary.
However, this advancement has come with its unintended consequences. Recently, “fake news” has been a concept in the public discussion. Not that fake news is itself new. I remember the first time I received an e-mail chain letter. I was around 10 years old. It told me that people were attaching diseased needles to gas pumps. I didn’t know how to fact check, and I believed it, and it was traumatizing. It took me years to realize I had been duped.
These days, misinformation is exceedingly common in the political arena. America just came through a divisive, ugly election cycle last year. With unprecedented frequency, people would abandon their moral principles just for the chance that the candidate on the other side would lose. The principle that suffered earliest and most often was the principle of truth. People in droves shared unsubstantiated information, click-bait designed to discredit the other side, without fact-checking or even simply asking “is this plausible”? A lot of really popular stories proved either unverifiable or outright false.
Now, this behavior isn’t surprising when it comes from the fallen, sinful world. But increasingly, this behavior is common among professing Christians. Almost every day, I see posts on social media feeds from my brothers and sisters in Christ that are from unreliable sources, implausible, or just plain false (and mean and nasty, to boot). There’s a trite pragmatism to it–a mindset where if one can make their opponent look bad, and convince others to come to their side, it doesn’t matter if they use faulty information. The end justifies the means. However, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard. We are responsible for the things we say, even in online forums. Slander of political opponents is still slander. Lying to condemn liars is still hypocrisy, and lying in any form is sin.
When we “like” or “share” a post, we’re putting our name on it, for better or worse. And, as Christians, we’re also staking our Christian witness, our churches, and the good name of Christ upon what we say and what we endorse. We must be careful to avoid bearing false witness and slander. If we are to be a light for the gospel in a dying world, we need to show that world that we are serious about what the Bible teaches, and there are few things it condemns more than lying. We need to check ourselves to make sure we are not lying, either intentionally or unintentionally, by the information we spread.
Honesty has always been the best policy, and it still is in the digital age. ♦