What do you do when you hear something, a big claim which if true has massive implications but for which there is no evidence, it is just someone’s claim? Surely the right thing to do before you start to spread the claim is to check your facts. Is there evidence or are you spreading a rumour, a conspiracy theory or false accusation and slander.
What do you do if you hear someone spreading a rumour that you either know to be completely false or without evidence? Again, surely the right thing to do is to stop the person and to correct them.
“I’m really sorry but that is not true.”
Notice, you don’t say “oh that’s interesting.” You don’t nod in agreement and nor do you say “Well they have a different perspective on it.” You categorically say “ have to correct you and to ask you to stop saying that. It’s a lie. It’s slander and it’s an ungodly thing to spread it.”
What do you do when you realise that you have allowed a story to be put about that isn’t true or at a minimum is completely unfounded and without evidence? Or if you’ve allowed a rumour to continue by your silence? Surely again, the right and godly thing to do is to quickly go back to those you have told and say “I’m sorry but that wasn’t correct.” Indeed, I would dare to suggest hat you go further, once you discover that the story has travelled further, you go and find out how gfar it has got. You take responsibility.
“I’m sorry but that story is untrue. It’s my fault that the rumour went around.”
The other day, this tweet appeared on social media.
The thing about he tweet is that it is completely untrue. Ministers are not banned from visiting during COVID-19 in Scotland (or England), they are classed as key workers and essential pastoral visits are exempt from restrictions. Of course that is not an excuse just to be doing a tour of the parish popping in anywhere and everywhere for a cuppa because pastors want to be responsible during a pandemic, just as they were several hundred years ago during the Black Death.
Yet, despite several people urging the person in question to withdraw or correct his tweet, it stays up. Indeed, even if he takes it down the damage has already been done. His 60,000 followers have all seen it and many have retweeted it on to their followers who no doubt have passed it on again. That’s how a rumour goes viral.
What was of greater concern was that when the untruth was pointed out that other people were quite happy to allow the message to stand. Why? Well because whatever they thought about the claim, they were happy to agree with the chap’s conclusions. Whether or not this specific claim was correct, they were certain that yes, governments were up up to no good and just using COVID as an excuse. It seemed that the veracity of the claim did not matter because it suited an agenda.
Encouragingly, there were many who responded to challenge the tweet. To explain that it was factually wrong and to ask for its removal. There are plenty of people who still care for the reputation of the Gospel. And this is what all of these things come down to, not your reputation or mine, not your feelings or mine but when believers are careless in their attitude to the truth, that is brings dishonour to the Gospel.
So, I want to encourage you today. First of all with comfort for those who have been on the receiving end of false accusation. We worship the Lord of truth and he will bring things into the light but because it is not just about you or me, he will do so at the right time and in the right way so that his name is honoured and the Gospel goes out. Secondly, with a challenge, if any of those examples at the start convicted you, what will you do to put things right and ensure the truth is heard?