The most dangerous force in the world today is misinformation. Misinformation can cause civil unrest, riots, and other conflicts. Misinformation can lead to violence and even war. Misinformation can be manufactured by people or by “bots”, by artificial intelligence or by human reporters. Misinformation can be promulgated in the mainstream media, through social media, through advertising or editorial content, and, of course, through individual conversations.
Misinformation is easy to create and hard to dispel; and whether broadly viral or specifically targeted, misinformation results in negative outcomes for those who accept it.
Why? Because misinformation is not true, misinformation is not factual, and misinformation misleads and persuades people to believe, choose, and act in ways that better information would oppose.
So, what does God think about misinformation? God specifically condemns it.
“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” – Exodus 20
No ifs, ands, or buts. No exceptions for political figures or supposed enemies. No caveats or nuance. Misinformation is simply NOT a tool in the belt of a believer. Period.
In fact, just to ensure that the reader is clear, the Bible repeats and expands upon this commandment just a few chapters later, in Exodus 23,
“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.”
In other words, just because it is popular to hate someone, doesn’t mean that you should.
Just because everyone is talking about something, doesn’t make it true.
Just because you agree with something, doesn’t make it fact.
And yes, you are responsible for what you post, re-post, tweet, re-tweet, publish, republish, share, repeat, or in any other way communicate.
“You shall not spread a false report”
The fact is, if you are on God’s side the truth is all you need. So, if you feel compelled to share negative information about someone you oppose even though it is not true, then even if you are supposedly opposing evil, still you may discover that you are not on God’s side.
One of the many confusions in the world today is that a common enemy makes friends. It does not.
Consider this — Capitalism and free markets and free people, in the form of the United States of America joined forces with Marxist Communism in the form of the Soviet Union and both together fought Fascism in the form of Nazi Germany in World War II. They had a common enemy, but as the rest of the Twentieth Century demonstrated, that did not make them friends. Capitalism and free markets and free people are just as opposed to Communist oppression and control as they are to Fascist oppression and control.
A common enemy does not place people on the same side. In the same way, opposing evil does not make you good. Being good does!
If you oppose lies with lies, you are not telling the truth. If you oppose hatred with hatred, you are not bringing love into the world. The list goes on.
Joining the enemy is not a method to defeat the enemy.
Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8
This statement of Jesus is a more in depth and complete restatement and fulfillment of the law, “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor”.
Now, in case you aren’t yet convinced, consider this, when asked if He was a king by Pontius Pilate, with His life hanging in the balance, and His death impending, Jesus summarized His entire life’s purpose by saying,
“You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” – John 18
Jesus knew how unique and powerful this mission was. Jesus knew that misinformation enslaves the people who believe it, and so His summary purpose was to break the bonds of that slavery and show people reality as it actually is and call people to love the truth just as He loves the truth.
And, in fact, even His enemies knew this at some level, choosing to preface their theological arguments with Him with such acknowledgments as,
“Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully.” – Luke 20
In today’s political and social context, it can seem attractive to cast aspersions, spread rumors, and deal in half truths and total falsities if the target of your attack is someone you don’t like or want to see fail. The moral fallacy goes like this, “you have to fight fire with fire” or “everyone else is doing it, nobody expects more from you” or “wrong justifies wrong”.
The fact is, God is asking more from you. God is looking for all those “who love the truth”. God is spreading the good news that the truth actually is the answer, the truth actually resolves the conflict, the truth actually heals, restores, and sets you free. The enemy can’t offer anything more than hatred, violence, slavery, and defeat. The choice is clear.
Left, right, or center — if the truth doesn’t defend your position, your opinion, your feeling, or your belief, maybe it’s time for you to reconsider where you are standing on that issue or in that situation.
It’s time for believers everywhere to take a stand against falsity, and take a stand on truth. It’s time for believers to,
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7
Choose to become a fact checker. Choose to join God’s quality assurance team. Consider the source, discover the reality, uncover the facts, and guarantee that you are sharing the truth before you open your mouth to speak or hit “send” or click the “post” button.
Don’t join the enemy in doing evil or spreading lies. Instead draw a line in the sand and declare that misinformation stops with you right here, right now.
Do we live in a post-truth world? No.
So, get out there and speak the truth. Together we can put an end to false witness, like Jesus said,
““If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” – John 14