Paul has identified 2 ways that we bring division to our societies: 1) unrestrained sexual thinking and behavior (Col 3.5), and 2) unrestrained hatred (Col 3.8). He turns now to a third way: disregard for the truth.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices (Col 3.9).
I’ve written on this topic before. It astonishes me—though it probably shouldn’t—how much falsehood is being circulated in our society by people who ought to know better.
The people I’m noticing ought to know better for several reasons—
- They’re generally older and more experienced in life, and we used to think that age and experience brought wisdom.
- They were educated in a day when the education system was less relativistic—that is, when educators generally thought that there was such a thing as “truth” and that it could be determined by careful observation and analysis. They were supposed to have learned how to do research and how to recognize unreliable sources.
- Most important, these are people who claim—and I want to accept their claim—to have walked with Christ, who is the Truth, for many years; to have learned from his Word; and to have sought to follow it.
It’s not fair to expect such people, or any people, to be right all the time, but it is reasonable to expect them to take care to discern the truth, especially before they propagate it.
So why the misinformation?
I’d suggest several contributing factors:
- Desperation. The loudest voices in our culture these days seem to be people who think we’re about to fall off a cliff culturally, and that it’s up to us to prevent that fall. While it’s certainly right to seek the welfare of the community where God has placed us (Jer 29.7), and to exercise our privileges when we live, by God’s kind providence, in a participatory governmental system, God’s people must do so in a way that trusts him for the outcome rather than living in fear of undesired results or in desperation to benefit at any cost. Desperation is a fundamentally unbiblical attitude.
- Confirmation bias. We humans think we’re right—we would be acting insanely if we didn’t—and we enjoy having the rightness of our views confirmed. That’s natural. But if the Scripture tells us anything, it’s that “natural” is not a synonym for “good” (1Co 2.14). The Lord tells us to distrust our inclinations, to be suspicious of our natural ways of thinking (Jer 17.9). As we can easily discern when we consider anyone who disagrees with us, confirmation bias is just a form of pride: it’s our seeking for approval through the praise of our own thinking and conclusions. Admitting that you’re wrong is a humbling experience.
- Tribalism. By this I don’t mean having a circle of like-minded people; we all do that, and it can be lived out in a healthy way. I mean the tendency to withdraw into such a circle and to exclude those outside. These days this problem is exacerbated by social media. The algorithms of Facebook and other social media platforms tend to shrink rather than expand the number of ideas we interact with. We get offered “friend suggestions” of people who think the same way we do. We’re channeled, like cattle, into herds that are capable only of reinforcing the ideas we express most passionately. In that situation, our ideas will likely not be challenged in any kind of thoughtful way, and the only expressions of opposing ideas will be simplistic and cartoonish, just so we can dismiss them without serious thought.
And so we express ourselves by passing on some claim that we got from someone who agrees with us, and we don’t check it because it’s obviously true. And within minutes scores of our “friends” congratulate us for being so brave and insightful and smart, and the rush of endorphins propels us like a Waikiki wave on to our next absurd oversimplification—our next lie.
Rather than sensing the quiet voice of the Spirit in conviction of our carelessness, we revel in the praise of “friends” we barely know, just because there are so many of them.
And the division spreads.
We sow, and we reap.
We have no one to blame but ourselves.