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Having all the facts

Well, it happened again. Almost immediately after 24-year-old gymnast Simone Biles walked away from the team competition at the Olympics in Tokyo, the talking heads began chirping.

Some praised the gymnast for her selflessness in stepping away in order to give her teammates a chance at a medal. They lauded her courage in admitting that it was a “mental health” issue. Others mocked or derided her for abandoning her teammates and quitting on the world’s biggest stage.

I honestly don’t know which of the two opinions is more valid. I wonder if it might be a complicated mix of the two. In the end, it is not my place to judge. I definitely don’t have all the facts.

Not having all the facts, however, hasn’t stopped people from opining. From the moment Biles left the arena, the media began speculating and editorializing. Social media blew up. Everyone had an immediate opinion—either supporting
or condemning the young gymnast.

Yet, very few—if anyone—had all the facts.

It’s easy to see how we’ve gotten here. The media is driven by ratings and the almighty dollar. They need to get the scoop. They need the talking heads to say controversial things to get people to watch.

For us, the megaphone allotted us by social media allows us immediately to shout to the world what we think. Our pride leads us to make snap judgments and to feel as if the world desperately needs to hear our commentary on current events.

Allow me to share with you two encouragements from the Bible and one from a famous theologian.

In James 1:19, Jesus’ brother encourages us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak.” That verse, by the way, is underlined in my Bible. It’s a truth I often forget.

Whether it’s politics or vaccines, masks or Olympic gymnasts, we are all tempted to speak with authority concerning things about which we are not experts or do not have all the facts. The old adage is true. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Before you speak or post on social media, ask yourself humbly: Do I truly have all the facts?

And even if you are sure you do, being right is not enough. In Ephesians, the apostle Paul encourages us to speak the truth “in love” (Ephesians 4:15). So often, we spout our opinions in pride to feel superior to others. As Christians, we should ask ourselves, “Is what I am saying productive and encouraging? Will it help others, or will it just be my unloving opinion?”

One of my favorite phrases that I use as a pastor was coined by Martin Luther. In his explanation to the Eighth Commandment, Luther encourages us to take our neighbor’s words and actions “in the kindest possible way.”

Don’t assume the worst of people. Put yourselves in their shoes. Let grace and mercy season your thoughts and opinions.

As I write these words, I realize that I have not always done that. We have all spouted ignorant or misinformed opinions. Thankfully we have a Savior who kept his mouth shut as they hurled unfounded accusations at him. We have a Savior who humbly suffered our punishment in our place.

Thankfully, because he did, we are forgiven.

My prayer is that his forgiveness fill our hearts, that his wisdom guide our words, and that his grace season everything we say.

Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 108, Number 12
Issue: December 2021

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