Friday, September 17, 2004

BE RIGHT BEFORE YOU ACCUSE

Bearing false witness is a sin. Jesus said a fact is confirmed on the testimony of two or three witnesses. The testimony of one person cannot convict another person without the corroborating facts or testimony. By having two or three witnesses, the "he said, she said" impasse is avoided. In legal matters, the witness is usally another person; but it might also be physical evidence or even the accusers' own good reputation which precedes him or her [as when a criminal investigator asks the accuser 'what facts do you have?']. If a Christian brother is sinning, it can only be told to the church on the testimony of two or three witnesses (i.e., two or three people, Mt. 18:15-18). Timothy, the preacher, is told not to receive an accusation against an Elder "except on the basis of two or three witnesses" (1Tim. 5:19). God's people have always been careful to follow this commandment.

I was reminded of this by something I read today in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Friday, September 17, 2004). The opinion article points out the questionable nature of some documents Dan Rather used to soil the reputation of the President of the United States. The article states,
"Such sourcing is always risky for a news organization. But when the object of the reporting occupies the White House, the consequences of being wrong are immense. And scarcely had CBS aired its report before reams of document experts were punching holes in paperwork that looks, even to the untrained eye, far more like the product of Windows than of a Smith-Corona."
We all respect our God-given freedom of speech and, by extension, the freedom of the press; but don't we also expect that these people check and recheck their facts before accusing a man [whatever his party affiliation]? It is a sin to bear false witness and we should demand that every fact be confirmed--even by, nay, especially by the powerful news brokers. The consequences of reporting lies about the President might backfire and harm the reputation of everyone involved. In God's view, the consequences are even worse: they could be eternal.

Following this principle is very important to followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus said every fact is confirmed on the testimony of two or three witnesses because--besides the harm it does to the other person--there is risk to your soul if you are wrong.

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