If you’ve ever tweeted a quick comment and then found out later that you didn’t quite have all the facts right, you realize that it’s one thing to tell a false story to one or two. It’s another to do it before millions.
False news—it’s become a powerful tool in today’s politics, and many act as if it’s some new phenomenon. The vastness of the audience reached through the Internet and social media is new, but the technique was used two thousand years ago.
The most misleading news is a story that’s close to the truth, and this was the deception used to get Stephen stoned. Like Jesus, Stephen did preach that the Temple would be destroyed and that the oral tradition of the Pharisees didn’t track with the intent of the Mosaic Law. Check out how Stephen’s enemies used false news to stir up opposition to Stephen, and the lies they told about him before the Jerusalem Sanhedrin.
“Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. And some of the Synagogue that is called ‘Freedmen’ --Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others from the provinces of Cilicia, and Asia-- rose up and argued against Stephen.
The truth is that they could not resist his wisdom and the spirit that empowered his public speaking. So secretly, they got some men who would claim that they heard Stephen speaking blasphemy against Moses and against God. They stirred up the people and the elders and the experts on the Law.
Then they approached Stephan, seized him, and led him to the Sanhedrin. The false witnesses came forward and started their accusations, ‘This man does not stop speaking statements against this Holy Place and against the Law. For we heard him saying that Jesus, the Nazarene, will destroy this Place and change the customs handed down to us from Moses.’
And all those sitting in the Sanhedrin scrutinized him and saw his face. It was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:8-15
Want to get in serious hot water? Stand before a religious court accused of speaking bad about their most sacred shrine and seeking to change their religious traditions. In fact, Stephen never said Jesus would tear down their Temple. What Jesus did say was that the Romans would tear it down. And in AD 70 this is exactly what happened. Jesus never spoke against the Mosaic Law. He brought out its true intent and He exposed how the external obedience, pushed by the first century Jewish leadership, missed God’s intent in the Law. Stephen argued like this, and it got him killed.
Today I live in culture where erroneous news is used on both sides of the political and religious spectrum and it looks like it works. But I’m not going to side with the enemies of Jesus and Stephen by using the manipulative techniques that got Jesus and Stephen killed.
LORD, help Mary and me as we seek to use modern technology and face to face to speak your truth and to help others learn how to accurately track your Story of redemption in Christ. Help us fact check what we teach and never to believe that the end justifies the means.
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