Defeating Fictions

Written on: July 1, 2024

Article by: Matt Wallin

You have probably seen the black and white photograph at some point in your life: a triumphant Harry Truman, aglow in the joy of his presidential victory, holds up a newspaper that falsely declares ‘Dewey Defeats Truman.’ The paper in question, the Chicago Tribune, had been so sure that Truman would lose his election that they printed many of the Dewey victory papers before the results were in – and by the time it became clear that Dewey was not, in fact, the victor, it was too late to retract many of the published pieces. The error did no real harm (save for some wounded pride), but the paper’s reputation was severely damaged.

I do not imagine any of us have ever had a chance to misrepresent something so important as a United States presidential election. Still, I fear that if our own record of speech were reviewed, we would find ourselves just as lacking as the Tribune. Modern media has made sharing falsehoods as easy as clicking that little ‘share‘ button and even Christians have proven all too willing to join the fictional parade. But lest we think this a new problem, gossip and slander have always been a thorn in the side of the church.

Paul, writing in 2 Corinthians, worries that, when he arrives in Corinth, he will find false reports rampant among them:

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20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” (2 Corinthians 12:20)

The world might not care much about fidelity to the truth anymore, but as followers of Christ, we are called to a higher standard. The veracity of our speech is of grave importance for a believer. The law which God gave to Israel is filled with commands to refrain from falsehoods:

  • (Exodus 20:16) “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
  • (Exodus 23:1) “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”
  • (Leviticus 19:11) “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.”

An idea is pressed upon God’s people: to deal in falsehoods is to dishonor God. Yet, far too many in the church have become comfortably numb to the sin of a false report. It should not be so. To be a Christian is to represent Christ to the world; how tarnished is that witness when we peddle half-truths? We declare a message to a lost world that they must put their faith in Christ’s saving power, but to believe this message, they must know Christ is trustworthy. How will they have such faith if they find Christ’s followers so willing to deal in fiction?

If someone held up a photograph of the newspaper of your life, what would it read?

Resolve that the headline will be one of truth: Jesus Saves and you can count on it!