News and Fake News, Gossip, and Bearing Witness

Author Name: 

Things happen. People make choices. Sometimes the choices are really, really, bad (or good). Events come together and accumulate. Current events turn into history. Someone has to tell the story.
What happens on the part of onlookers and talkers is what we want to think about in this article. Many times, what people do with what they see and hear - what we do and say with what we hear - may be as bad as the bad choice made in the first place. Or it may be a good choice- and be redemptive. This is a critical point.
The first two sub-topics, news, and fake news relate to the world that surrounds us; what happens in our political and social environment. The second two sub-topics, gossip and bearing witness, enter into our own personal world and church life — our responses to both need to be tested by the Biblical standard.
News. News has always been important, but especially so in the information age. News is defined as “new information or a report about something that has happened recently.” Another definition is “previously unknown information.” As we learn of events that are developing, we want to know the facts. News shapes our own emotions, our thinking, and our choices. The more traumatic the events, or the closer we believe they will enter our own lives and impact us, the more attention we give to each detail.
This is a constant flow of action and reaction. Without deliberate choice, we participate in making, spreading and interpreting news. It is an important part of our lives. Even when we may feel inclined to run away from current events, we cannot escape life. We have a responsibility to share what we know to be true and stay truthful in the details.
There is a danger when we allow news to be too important in our lives. Do we really have to stay up with what the world is focusing on? We all know we must exercise restraints in our reading and keep our focus on the eternal Word of God which though centuries old, still directs our lives in more relevant ways than the latest news bulletin.
Fake News. While news in itself may be non-moral in nature, how the news is interpreted and rebroadcast is very much a moral issue.
This is what has created the present stir of “fake news.” Fake news is closely related to gossip on a large-scale level. Fake news begins with an element of truth but is colored by the listener/commentator’s viewpoint. The present phenomenon of “fake news” is possible because of the advance of technology, social media, and mass media. But technology doesn’t distort truth; it is the human heart that does.
We definitely face temptations with fake news. We need to allow God’s Word to speak into these areas.
Some are intrigued with conspiracy theories, that secret organizations are plotting the overthrow of present-day governments. Echoing the Chicken Little (Henny Penny) theme that “the sky is falling” they can see chaos around every corner. The problem with this viewpoint is countered with the assurance – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2Ti 1:7) Christians will not feed on fear theories but on the “exceeding great and precious promises.” These promises give the Christian hope and frees him from these fears because he knows that God is in control.
Others gravitate toward the conservative voice and get caught up with patriotic viewpoints. They advocate a strong nationalistic viewpoint, and make references to “our troops” at war or “our government.” Jesus statement to Pilate should be a clear answer to this fallacy, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. (John 18:36)
Still others have Biblical convictions undermined by the noise made by the liberal left. Sometimes in our times of receiving prayer requests, we hear the echoes of the flashpoints made by those advocating liberal reforms in immigration, etc. For these, we encourage to meditate on verses That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Eph 4:14). There are values advocated in our present-day liberal media which we must totally reject such as promotion of abortion, and LGBT positions. There are other areas where we simply disagree, such as socialism and let them in God’s hands for His disposal.
Gossip. For some of us, when we learn something negative about someone, it seems like we just have to go tell someone else! We can hardly keep it to ourselves. We really need to stop and evaluate what it is in us that would cause us to act that way. Why do we want to gossip?
Our lives and relationships within the church are greatly affected by gossip. Gossip may be defined as information about the behavior and personal lives of other people, especially talk about problems or faults over which we have no influence nor responsibility. Gossip usually includes some exaggeration of details. It also often includes slander or putting a person down in reputation.
The Bible addresses gossip in terms such as talebearers and tattlers. Some verses that deal with this are He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore, meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips. (Pro 20:19) and For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. (2Th 3:11)
There are a number of virtues compromised in gossip. One is love. Can you speak in a derogatory way about someone you treasure and are hoping the best for? Another is humility. If you are trafficking someone’s faults, are you really conscious about your own? And what about brotherhood? How can we be perfectly joined together in one mind. (1Co 1:10) and participate in discussion about someone’s failures or inconsistencies in our church?
Do we think if someone belongs to another church group this gives permission for slander or gossip? Is Jesus’ body divided? How does He judge our situation when we spread derogatory information about each other?
Another thing to remember is, “How will you feel when people sit on Sunday afternoon and talk about your failures or problems the way you speak about others?” Or how will you feel when they talk about your husband, wife, son or daughter when the worst of the news comes out of their lives? Do we really have to say the thing that wants to burst out of us?
Bearing witness. This area is almost the opposite of gossip because it involves instances when we learn distressing facts and hardly know what to do with what we know.
Let’s bring two scriptures into focus from the very beginning.
And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. (Lev 5:1)
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. (1Jo 5:16-17)
What do we learn from these passages? If we see error in our brother, we have responsibility to do the right thing. If it is a sin not unto death, we should pray. John does not say we should go and spread a report to everyone one. We should go to our prayer closets and ask God for His mercy and blessing on our brother. God is able to arrest the course our brother is taking. Perhaps He will move in our hearts to share our concern face to face as described. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. (Lev 19:17)
But what about a situation where we are first-hand witness of gross sin in a brother’s life? If we know something of this nature, we are not to just pray for the brother. God will not grant life to a person with hidden sins that are unto death, on the merit of our intercessory prayer. In this case, we need to do something more.
The ideal would be to go to the brother and tell him what you know. Tell him that you want to accompany him to make confession for his sin. It is not an option to both keep quiet. If he will not concede and go with you, then inform the fallen brother that you will be going to bear witness alone. You will not suffer his soul to continue on in this sin unto death. It is not optional whether or not we will go inform. We must have a church fellowship purged of leaven.
And when the bishop receives the confession, he may not simply cover the sin. If there is only one witness, he may not receive the accusation. This does not mean he does not believe it. It does mean he may not act upon your report, and definitely that he may not spread rumors around on the basis of what you have said.
But if there are two witnesses or circumstantial evidence that confirms the testimony, he may not be silent. He has been vested with the responsibility to help the individual find forgiveness and restitution before God through the church. It is possible he will also need to go and share what is known with the state. Our leaders are committed to being a part of the Kingdom of Light in contrast to the darkness of this world.
Yes, things happen. People make choices. Sometimes the choices are really, really, bad (or good). Events come together and accumulate. Current events turn into history. News is made. And how we relate to the development of news, fake news, gossip and bearing witness is a moral choice, a character issue that leaves a testimony of life shaped by godliness.