Sensationalism. Scandal-mongering. Name calling. "News." ––It seems that yellow journalism is back with a vengeance.
Maybe we can blame the 24-hour news cycle that fills the airwaves with, uh, something . . . even when it has nothing to say.
Maybe we can blame the rise of video for making us all more interested in a 45-second clip of anything even when it has nothing to do with something.
Maybe we can blame an increasingly polarized political situation in which the other guy is wrong because, well, he's WRONG, okay? He just is. Never has a politician been so anti-American and backwards as this guy! Only fools and monsters would vote for him!––thus distorting our sense of proportion and demonstrating our inability to follow well-reasoned arguments to reasonable conclusions.
This is bad for our political climate, bad for our policy-making, bad for our neighborliness, bad for our critical thinking, bad bad bad.
It's bad in the world, but it's far worse when it's in the church. Sermons and blogs and "news" stories in which we underhandedly denigrate believers who believe differently than we do, in which we defame by exaggeration or misrepresentation, in which we thinly veil our slander under the guise of journalism or righteous reformation:
this is the body of Christ eating itself, one bloody bite at a time.
The Father, Son, and Spirit weep at the sight of these things.
Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, "You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord." But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
Let your word be "Yes, Yes," or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [matthew 5:33-37, nrsv]
Jesus told us to "swear not at all." For those of us not really in the habit of making oaths and swearing by things, what's the message for us? >> The exact truth should be the law of speech.
In a world of multiplying divisions and deepening divides, where words are wielded to wound and the "other" is an enemy, this message of Jesus is an eminently relevant one: SPEAK ONLY THE TRUTH. When you speak of your brother, speak only the truth. When you represent the beliefs of your sister, speak only the truth. When you disagree with that preacher publicly, speak only the truth. When you need to criticize an author, speak only the truth. The exact truth should be the law of speech.
"Jesus proceeded to lay down a principle that would make oath taking needless. He teaches that the exact truth should be the law of speech. 'Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one.' . . . .
"If these words of Christ were heeded, they would check the utterance of evil surmising and unkind criticism; for in commenting upon the actions and motives of another, who can be certain of speaking the exact truth? How often pride, passion, personal resentment, color the impression given! A glance, a word, even an intonation of the voice, may be vital with falsehood. Even facts may be so stated as to convey a false impression. And 'whatsoever is more than' truth, 'is of the evil one.'
"Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight. Truth is of God; deception, in every one of its myriad forms, is of Satan; and whoever in any way departs from the straight line of truth is betraying himself into the power of the wicked one. Yet it is not a light or an easy thing to speak the exact truth. We cannot speak the truth unless we know the truth; and how often preconceived opinions, mental bias, imperfect knowledge, errors of judgment, prevent a right understanding of matters with which we have to do! We cannot speak the truth unless our minds are continually guided by Him who is truth.
"Through the apostle Paul, Christ bids us, 'Let your speech be alway with grace.' 'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.' (Colossians 4:6, Ephesians 4:29)"
(Ellen White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 67-68.)
Christian, as you speak, tweet, post, or share, remember:
the exact truth + alway with grace.