The chatter these days is of the problems with “Fake News.” A friend recently asked if anyone knew what “Yellow Journalism” was, perhaps to remind us that “fake news” has been around for a long time. When you look up what yellow journalism is, it is interesting to note that this “prize” was a result of a circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer and Randolph Hearst. News back in the 1890’s was sensationalized to gain readership. Today, we have click bait sites. (As a side note, a friend told me once that he felt that having to click to read my devotional was like clicking a click bait site.) News that is unsubstantiated or false is put out on the internet and because it’s on the internet, it’s true! (yes, that was sarcasm) At the same time, many people point out that “respectable” news organizations don’t always report everything that’s happening fairly. When this belief arises, people fall prey to fake news.
Lest we be too hard on ourselves, there was a lot of fake news about the life of Jesus. Did you know that there are other accounts of the life of Jesus that didn’t make it into the Bible? Why are these stories thrown by the wayside while we believe the accounts in the Bible? Many of those accounts were sensationalized – and often contained wild stories about Jesus. The gospels we have today were chosen because the stories had a connection with the disciples and the stories were documented. Luke described his writing journey. “With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4)
It’s natural to want to make stories sound better. You know the story about the fisherman who caught a five-pound bass, but by the third time telling it, he dislocated his arms showing people how big it was. Fake news abounds because we want that story to be true. In the most recent political event we had, headlines blared that one candidate or another was finished because… but you had to click to find out. Based on a rough guesstimation, Secretary Clinton had 521 reasons she was going to jail, President-elect Trump was finished because of legal problems 347 times. To add to the fun, President Obama’s impeachment was imminent 421 times. Perhaps you might have come up with different numbers, but you get the idea. These sites thrived because people clicked on stories they wanted to be true. When they clicked, they were bound to be disappointed, but maybe the next time the story would be true.
If you wanted to set up a “click-bait” site for Christians, it would be simple. Predict the end of the world. Your headlines would scream: “Why Jesus is Coming Back in Three Months” or something like that. For those in the early church, the stories that often captured attention were the stories of the miracles and many of those other gospels have stories of miracles that were either unsubstantiated or completely untrue. The early church made a point of weeding out those false writings and left us with the gospels we have today. Because of that we can be confident of two things: 1) The stories we see in the gospels are true; and 2) We don’t have all the possible stories of Jesus. What we do have in the gospels are the truths that are necessary to bring us to salvation, to lead us into a relationship with God through His grace and mercy. We know that Jesus was born of a virgin; lived among men; was crucified, dead, and buried; rose from the dead; and will come again. We have a Bible that we can trust to guide us in all spiritual knowledge needed for our relationship with God.
Lord, in days when fake news continues to bombard us, remind us of the truth of Your word. Remind us of the salvation we have in Jesus Christ because of Your grace. That is the true, good news.