Christians, we need to be careful about what we post, share, and retweet on social media. I’ve seen many brothers and sisters in Christ post stories, quotes, and images that are misleading, at best, and false, at worst. If you have done this, please be assured I am not writing this to shame you, but for all of us to be instructed together.
A typical pattern starts with a story or post credited to a celebrity to enhance appeal and circulation. Often the language is incendiary and/or the details are graphic. When I see these, I google a few key words with the name of the celebrity and often several versions of that same post are top hits with reputable fact-checking sites reporting there is no record of that person ever having said that, but a similar post has been circulating for weeks, months, or even years. I follow golfer Bubba Watson (we’re both adoptive dads) who recently had to issue a statement addressing a widely circulated post attributed to him, but it was not his.
Promoting false or misleading information is especially problematic for Christians for at least two reasons–there are more, but these are the big ones. First, it’s bearing false witness to attribute something to someone who never said it. It’s a violation of the 9th commandment (Exodus 20:16). Exodus 23:1 is succinct: “You shall not spread a false report.” Be careful, friends. I am sure you mean well, but these things are sins against God and others. Proverbs and several lists in the New Testament have many admonitions against slander. Even if it’s just a forward, you are contributing to spreading lies about another person. Christians should not do such things. We are people who love the truth, because our God is the One who reveals all truth.
A second reason is that it discredits our witness when making bold claims central to our faith. The virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus are based in history and logical to believe in. However, to the naturalistic worldview, they seem improbable. If we have a pattern or develop a reputation for spreading sensational stories or falsely attributed quotes, it will harm our credibility when we try to share the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with people. People will think we will fall for anything. The Pharisees tried to make the first Christian’s claims of a resurrected Jesus sound like a crazy conspiracy theory. The reason they failed was because the resurrection really happened and the disciples gave a credible testimony corroborated by many other first hand witnesses. The same thing is true today, the resurrection of Jesus really happened, we have a credible testimony, so let’s be careful not to muddy the waters by engaging in stories that are easily shown to be false. Frankly, it makes a person look foolish and others lose trust quickly when that happens. If you can’t find a verified social media account or reputable news site to check the post, err on the safe side and don’t repost it. Try searching for a key phrase and see what comes up. Better yet, focus on the core tenets of our faith. If you want to make big claims, make them about the incarnation of God the Son and salvation through him.
I want to close with a final word of encouragement if you have posted something that has been shown to be false—don’t beat yourself up. Just delete it or comment under it to acknowledge your mistake. Few things build credibility like admitting your error. People will keep reading your stuff if they know you are actively trying to honor others and promote truth.