Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Issue for the Christian of Slander and Gossip in the Social Media Outlets

One of the problems with social media on the internet is that too many times it is an advanced method for spreading gossip. Between Twitter, Facebook, websites, and blogs there is a dissemination of information with a speed that boggles the mind, with events becoming part of a national, and sometimes international, conversation within a matter of hours.  And too many, way too many times, people regurgitate information from blogs or pass along links without questioning or investigating whether the people quoted are credible, have first hand information, have the proper motives, or even have any business passing along the information in the first place.  And, speaking of information, most people don't bother to check and find out if the information is true before they pass it on or link to it.

I am not saying certain information should not be shared, but it should be shared with the right motives, and after the proper vetting.  I am not referring here to issues of Theological concern and disagreements, or issues of false teaching.  What I am referring to is information shared or linked to that is directed at the person, that which has to do with a person's moral character and integrity.  There are many instances where posts have been made and information dispensed with malicious intent against the person, not their theological position or teaching; and when these posts are jumped upon, then passed around and linked to, the people doing so are not only guilty of gossip, but are participating in the malice, slander, and evil intent of the original poster.

The biblical references to gossip always connect it to slander and malice (Proverbs 20:19, II Corinthians 12:20, Romans 1:29-30, I Timothy 3:11 & 5:13, II Timothy 3:3, Titus 2:3); so, in effect, nothing good is ever said about gossip, but it is always connected with evil.  And we see that evil being spread around in the various social media outlets.  What pains me is how much of this takes place on Christian blogs, and how many Christians participate in it through Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets.  Brothers and Sisters, it should not be this way!

As Christians, what should be our response, how should we handle information and issues that we think are important?  Well, first, we know, absolutely know, that we should not participate in gossip, period; and I think the Scriptures mentioned above have adequately made that point.  Secondly, we are called to judge righteously, not self-righteously; and it seems to me much of what gets passed along is done so with an aura of self-righteousness by the poster (Proverbs 16:2, James 4:10-12, Matthew 7:1-5). Thirdly, we need to respond to gossip, to information that is passed along or run across in a way that is both Biblical and consistent; and I believe we have the Biblical guidelines in Philippians 4:8.

Even though this passage is aimed at how and what we think, there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act.  The principles given in this verse should not only guard our mind, but guard our tongue as well.  So in considering any information we first need to ask, is it true, and if we cannot determine that it is true, then we should discard it. Secondly, even though it is true, is it honorable?  In other words, is it honorable to pass it along; and this would involve a check on the motives for passing it along.  Then, is it right?  Is this the right thing to do, is it appropriate?  Then along comes purity, which would involve what is said and the reason for saying it (the admonition in Colossians 4:6 to season our speech with salt, the purifier, would be applicable here).  How about lovely? Well is it?  Then we have what is of good repute and excellence (Ephesians 4:29 is applicable here as it instructs us to let no unwholesome word escape from our mouth, but only that which is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that its result will be to give grace to those who hear).  Finally, is it praiseworthy?  Would the result of posting or passing the information be considered praiseworthy?  Also, the most universally applicable verse in the Bible, the golden rule found in Matthew 7:12 would be an overriding consideration in all of this.

So, my Christian friends, let's be careful, very careful about what we post, link to, and pass along regarding others in our social media.  Let us not compound the sin against someone else.  Let us not participate in sin against someone else; but let us be holy in all our behavior, even our internet behavior.

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