Grace and peace to you all!
God commands us to speak truthfully and charitably about our neighbors so that others view them in the best possible light. As Christians, we are expected to improve …
Grace and peace to you all!
God commands us to speak truthfully and charitably about our neighbors so that others view them in the best possible light. As Christians, we are expected to improve and protect the reputation of others so that people will think well of them. We all want people to think well of us.
Martin Luther said, “We fear and love God by not speaking about others in ways that harm them. Harmful speech includes slandering our neighbors by rushing to judgment, complaining about them, or spreading rumors.”
What would Martin Luther say about this commandment in the 21st century? I’ve chosen this topic for this article because we have become accustomed to people saying whatever they view as true without discovering what is fact and what is fiction. There are times when the reason for the different beliefs is because of interpretation, but when the “proof is in the pudding,” we need to be diligent and know we are speaking the truth.
It seems that lately whether it is social media, a newspaper (opinion articles), or news stations, stories are reported before facts related to the topic are investigated. You shall not give false witness against your neighbor.
People have become accustomed to making statements such as, “someone else can do the fact checking.” Recently I read an article where an elected official who wrote a letter based on misinformation said this in response to what she had done: “I didn’t have any interest in carrying on an investigation or anything like that,” she explained. “I figured various media news outlets would do that.” You shall not give false witness against your neighbor. My response, “Hmmm.” This just doesn’t sound quite right. My interpretation of this statement is that we can say what we want and leave it to the listener to discover if it is true or not, regardless of whose reputation may be damaged.
Who is your neighbor? Everyone. In God’s kingdom we are to speak truth; to love our neighbor and be honest. We honor God and God’s children by being respectful, kind, and truthful with them.
What is missing from these situations is the person “owning” their behavior or mistake and making it right. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, please consider doing the “right” thing by owning what you’ve said, if necessary, apologize, and the next time you want to publicly point out what you think may be wrong, do your homework so you know the information you are sharing is accurate. You shall not give false witness against your neighbor.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body (Ephesians 4:25).
(Donna Putney is the pastor of Hope Lutheran Church.)