Repeating Information

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  March 8, 2014

            Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is resigning!
            On an otherwise quiet Thursday morning a professor for criminal law at Georgetown University started his class with the stunning announcement. With a room filled with budding lawyers, the class was shocked to learn from their professor that health concerns would be leading to the abrupt resignation of Chief Justice Roberts. Aside from that brief announcement, nothing further was said about the shocking news.
            Law Professor Peter W. Tague then proceeded on his planned lecture, a lengthy discussion of source credibility. He went on to explain how it is critical that no information be considered credible, even if the source is one that you would automatically trust. From the perspective of the Law, Professor Tague told the students, their reputation as attorneys were far too valuable to squander by not validating sources and verifying information prior to spreading it.
            At the conclusion of his class, he illustrated the significance of his argument by stating the announcement pertaining to Chief Justice Roberts was complete fiction. He made up the illustration to make clear to the students that even an established authority figure such as a distinguished Georgetown University Law Professor would need to be verified for credibility.
            While the professor was presenting his students with a classroom lesson on credibility, a life-lesson was taking shape beyond the classroom at epic speeds! With the internet and instant communications, news of the fictitious resignation immediately leaked out. Within minutes, major news organizations picked up on the buzz and preliminary reports anticipating the resignation were hitting the websites of major news organizations while the class was still in session. By the end of the news day, the truth behind the bogus news story was clearly known and various news organizations were scrambling to justify their erroneous reporting of what was essentially unsubstantiated gossip.
            The rather humorous story of a law professor’s classroom example gone awry illustrates the incredible power of what we say, assume, and repeat. One solid rule for governing information we share is to ask ourselves the question of Ephesians 4:29. In repeating information, from prayer requests to the latest news happening around us, and the little things we hear about others in daily life; in repeating the information are we truly building up the Body of Christ, or simply building up our own ego and desire to show ourselves as “in the know.”
            In praying for an individual or a situation, we do not need to know every detail as if it is our personal responsibility to brief God on the specifics of the situation. God already knows. When learning of information we may find it tantalizing, even exciting to be aware of something important, but by spreading that information are we merely showing our own personal excitement or truly adding to the quality and integrity of the Body of Christ? When someone spreads information, even if they are someone that we can assume to be trustworthy, do we take the time to spread that information solely on the basis of the credibility of the person who told us?
            This is not to say we should never communicate relevant, important, or necessary information. A Christian, however, is not necessarily the first person to speak up and share unless, through prayer and our assurance from the Holy Spirit, it is necessary for building up the Body of Christ. Otherwise, no matter how exciting it may be, it is likely only sinful gossip.