My teens and I were discussing how we, as Christians, should not “bear false witness against our neighbors“. We’ve probably all messed up in that way…I know that I have. It is especially easy to do in today’s political climate and social media crazed lives. So — who is our neighbor?
That question has been asked before. When Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself”, someone responded by asking, “Who is our neighbor?”
In response, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. This was a HUGE deal because of the bad blood between the Jews and the Samaritans. (If you don’t know the story or history, here’s a good place to start: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV)
Note, Jesus doesn’t say you have to like your neighbor, but he did command us to love them. And if we use the Samaritan story, then to “love someone as yourself” means that we are to show kindness, even if there is a deep chasm. We are to help heal the wounds that have been caused by other people. And one of the biggest things? Sometimes we have to be willing to put our own time and money on the line.
Let me be honest – that whole parable is hard for me and most people that I know. Yes, I believe we are supposed to live our lives by that command and the example of the Samaritan. But imagine if the person by the side of the road had been someone who had hurt the Samaritan’s child? Or ruined his reputation by lying? Or done any manner of ill will toward the Samaritan and the people he loved. If I put myself in his place, would I be as willing to “love my neighbor” with the same intention and obedience as the Samaritan did?
Back to the commandment about “bearing false witness” (i.e. lying). It doesn’t say, “Only tell the truth about the neighbors you like” or “the ones you have helped you.” It doesn’t say to “steer clear of bearing false witness…unless they deserve it.” Nope, it is clear that we are not to tell lies about any of our neighbors, whether we like them or not. This includes all politicians (even the ones you might despise) and really rich people who get their names thrown into conspiracy theories on a daily basis.
An essay on this very subject hit me hard (listed below). I don’t like to be told to repent… I don’t know anyone who does. That doesn’t negate the fact that I need to do it. Please note that the article I’ve listed is from several years ago, and though you might not agree with his political leaning, he doesn’t use it at as a crutch. If anything, he’s calling out everyone in his party. He references older memes, but the point is still the same. If you’d like to read it, here is the link: https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/may/christians-repent-conspiracy-theory-fake-news.html
Here are some words from the article to consider: “When we bear false witness, we establish a reputation for blindly succumbing to unverifiable or groundless stories. How can we effectively witness when we have negligently borne false witness? How can we then claim to be the body of truth itself? When we spread conspiracy theories and fake news, we discredit ourselves, and we allow the gospel to be discredited as well.” (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today)