TRUTH:THE GREAT CASUALTY IN THE WORLD OF SOCIAL MEDIA

“…truth is perished”

Jeremiah 7:28

The comment has been made that truth is the first casualty of war. As the wheels of the propaganda machines begin to turn, the aim of a Government in a time of conflict is to manipulate the facts in order that the morale of the home front will be boosted and to attempt to erode the confidence of the enemy. The propaganda battle is an important and necessary aspect of any war effort.

The danger of the propaganda war, however, is that it renders the truth to be a precious commodity. During the Second World War the Nazis and their sympathisers seized upon this with their own distorted view of the times. My grandfather used to tell us about his mother, an old woman sitting by the fireside eating a piece of meat, with the plate on her knee one evening during World War Two. The radio was switched on and the family started to listen to the infamous Lord Haw Haw, who used his broadcasts to lower the morale of the British people. In this particular broadcast, William Joyce, who used the alias Lord Haw Haw, talked about the suffering of the British people, their lack of food and resources, highlighting the foolishness of the war with Germany. My great grandmother took the piece of meat from her plate and stuck it up against the radio speaker with a air of defiance and shouted, take a bite of this “ye ole rascal”. Human experience is often the great antidote against the poison of lies and misinformation!.

Wherever there is news, there is the constant danger of false news. The term false news hit the agenda after President Trump took office, as he was involved in a constant struggle against the mainstream media, whom he accused of misrepresenting him. It is true, however, the social media explosion has been the catalyst accelerating the growth of false narratives on all kinds of issues. Where the print, television and radio journalism is subjected to scrutiny and potential litigation, social media knows no restraints. An individual can become a broadcast journalist sitting in their living room with the world at their finger tips, and often there is little scrutiny nor accountability.

Many people today derive virtually all their news through social media. With all kinds of ideas and thoughts being disseminated the danger of reading and becoming infiltrated by that which is false is acute. This has become all the more relevant during these months of pandemic. The alleged facts around the pandemic have been the subject of much scrutiny and dispute. The Government response to the pandemic and the vaccination programme have been subjected to criticism with a few conspiracy theorists advocating their own opinions. Those who get quoted are often described as experts, which immediately gives the claim some authenticity, even though we have no idea who the individual really is.

The real problem is, there is so much mistrust in the Government and the mainstream media outlets. One prominent BBC former journalist raised some eyebrows not very long ago when he said the organisation he worked for was institutionally left wing. I heard another journalist say that most people in journalism are of that inclination because they are trained to question the establishment. Therefore, if organisations which are not as impartial as they appear to be slant news in a certain direction, of course people will seek their news from another source. I understand that, but in so doing we must be careful that truth is not sacrificed. I read an article a matter of weeks ago where the writer reflected a opinion from an expert that the COVID booster jab would kill all who received it within two years, because the wealthiest people in the world are working on a master plan to reduce the population of the world. No facts, no back up evidence – just an outlandish claim which potentially could cost people their lives and which has the potential to stir up much fear.

Such is the amount of misinformation that is circulating not just on the virus but on number of issues that truth is perishing as Jeremiah descriptively puts it in our text.

Truth is not just the casualty of the 21st Century social media generation. Jeremiah wrote these words because in his days truth was perishing. He lived during days of national and international crisis. The world was rapidly changing as the Babylonian Empire was constantly becoming stronger and richer. Judah too was a changing place, but not for the better as the people persisted in forsaking God. There were those who believed that God would look after the nation and all they had to do was resist the march of the Babylon. Jeremiah saw things differently recognising that the land was now ripe for judgement particularly after the death of godly King Josiah. The people swallowed a message of lies that did not stress the importance of repentance

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these…Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?

Jeremiah 7:3-4, 8-10

They had been subjected to a message of misinformation and lies that refused to address the grave reality of the situation:

For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

Jeremiah 8:11

As the truth was sacrificed in Jeremiah’s day, a nation was led into destruction. The sheer volume of false narratives, of opinions which claim a factual basis, of ideas which pretend to have a Scriptural basis today should cause us all to be alarmed and should cause us to exercise care.

This is not a sermon advocating a particular political ideology or a particular opinion of the pandemic and the responses to it. We all are entitled to have our opinions as long as we don’t claim our opinions are the mind of God and Scripture; and certainly opinions are not facts nor should they be advocated as such. I am not concerned about what our opinions are on matters which are not grounded on theology but I am concerned when we sacrifice truth. Every Christian should have vested interest in truth.

In this social media world truth is perishing.

THE SUPREMACY OF TRUTH

There is nothing in the world more powerful than truth. The concept of truth is worth living for and dying for, it is worth proclaiming, teaching and defending. Lives are changed, societies are improved and history turns because of truth.

Truth is so important because it is an essential ingredient of the nature of God. There are no lies in God, no half truths, no hidden innuendoes:

And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth

Exodus 34:6

But as God is true,

2nd Corinthians 1:18

As a consequence the Scriptures are a book always characterised by this nature of God.

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Psalm 19:8

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

John 17:17

When we were converted the Spirit of truth entered our hearts joining us to God through the person of Christ, who described Himself as “the truth”.

Therefore on this account we should always tremble at the sheer possibility of advocating what is untrue and false. The Law forbids the bearing of false witness for this very reason. If we love God, we therefore must show forth His character and love His commandments.

THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH

Truth is a precious commodity, like the nuggets of gold that the prospectors invested their time and money into during the great American gold rush. We too should invest our time into searching for the truth on all kinds of issues.

We should never accept a fact without looking for evidence to corroborate those facts. God certainly expects such an attitude from us.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7

Education is a virtue. Our lives are spent being educated, thinking, questioning and discerning. Our credibility, our usefulness and our lives at times depend upon this search for knowledge.

There is a balance to be struck between an arrogant scepticism and an unhealthy gullibility. We are right to question and to criticise yet we must be careful lest we criticise for the sake of criticising and where we are of mistrusting of everyone. On the other hand we must never be ignorantly led along a certain path believing it is wrong to criticise. There is a balance. Scepticism can be sensible, positive and constructive in the search of for truth, while at the same time we must learn to trust in sensible propionate fashion.

I believe God expects us to make important decisions during the course of a lifetime based on wisdom – building our futures and that of our children upon what we can be reasonably sure is truth. This kind of wisdom will lead us to a certain political point of view, as it led our fathers 100 years ago when they helped to create Northern Ireland, bequeathing us a British heritage, This wisdom in turn will lead us to make important decisions when we enter the ballot box and make our selections. It will assist us in business planning, in providing for our families and for our retirement and in deciding what kind of medical care that we require. Joseph had such an understanding of his times when he advised Pharaoh to prepare for the lean years, and that advice saved not only a nation but an entire region of the world from starvation.

This search for truth, however, teaches one solemn fact – that among men absolute definitive truth does not exist. Men are fickle, they change their minds. Science is in a continual state of flux. What we understand of history may be undone by one discovery. We read, we listen, we watch and we learn and as we do so we must avoid get avoid being carried away by the teachings and opinions of men and women. We are all a depraved people who never get it right all of the time or most of the time for that matter.

The search for truth brings us to God and the Word of God because that is the only place where truth absolutely resides. The fact of sin, the purpose of God in redemption, the necessity of the new birth and the reality of eternity are the only truths that can change the world and alter the course of human society. They are the only truths worth living and dying for.

Let us not get carried away on the stream popular or political opinion. The kingdoms of men will rise and fall but the cause of Christ will continue and which is more important? COVID-19 will go as it came, the mask wearing and the restrictions will vanish but the contagion of sin will remain as potent as ever and the power of the cross will continue as the only remedy.

If only we put as much into witnessing and praying as we can invest into other matters! Let us not sacrifice this truth by devoting more time than we should into that which we can never be absolutely sure of.

THE SUBMISSION TO TRUTH

Sometimes, however, in life we are so busy creating our own version of truth, or too keen accept another person’s fabrication of truth simply because we don’t want to accept the real truth which is staring us in the face and looking into our eyes. Prejudice is the great enemy of truth. As Christians we must learn to accept truth, even when it is a bitter pill to swallow because God in His sovereignty guides us into difficult places for His own glory.

This was what was wrong with Jewish society in Jeremiah’s day. The people would not accept the truth – that Nebuchadnezzar was the world leader of his day and his power was irresistible. They would have been so much better recognising that God in His sovereignty had brought them into this situation and faced it from that perspective, Instead they wriggled like a fish on a hook planning and scheming how they could escape. Rather they should have accepted the reality, God was in charge. People who suffer greatly will tell you that accepting what we cannot change is the first step on the path to peace.

If only Judah had listened to Jeremiah? They would have recognised that God was dealing with them, they would have repented and prayed that God would intervene. Instead they swallowed the lie, truth perished and they also perished.

One hundred years ago, Ireland took a step towards becoming a republic while Northern Ireland was born. Those were tough and uncertain times. Over the course of the last century many thousands of lives have been lost as result of battles fought over this patch of ground.

Brexit has altered the politically landscape considerably in ways that no-one could have anticipated. Where it all will lead us we know not. But this can be sure of – God is in control leading and guiding. The future is in His hands as the past was moulded by His wisdom. With peace we rest on Him.

The only fact regarding COVID I can be confident of is that God is ruling and reigning. He has led the world into this pandemic and he has chosen us to be his witnesses during this period of history. With peace, let us recognise the reality of these times, times which are in His hands.

This is always the real truth behind every event, it is the only truth that counts. This truth will led us to exercise what I have heard called sanctified common sense. The wisdom to react appropriately accepting the times in which we live, is both blessing and a gift.

The men of Issachar had such a spirit which uniquely fitted them for the hour.

And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do

1st Chronicles 12:32

Let us pray today that God’s spirit would grant each of us such an understanding for these times in every decision we make, in every opinion we form and that our focus would constantly be upon the great truths of God and of eternity in all of our dealings.

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