People don’t trust the news anymore. We live in a day where opposing viewpoints are quickly labeled as “fake news.” Fake news is all too real, unfortunately, but amid all the competing voices, it’s often hard to tell which news is actually fake. You can find support for practically any position by a quick search on the web—or maybe just by opening your social media accounts. This has been the case for a while, but it’s been exacerbated by the dominance of the COVID-19 crisis. There are no shortages of reports from people that confidently assert that they have the inside scoop on what’s going on, and everyone else is just wrong. Distrust is rampant.
For Christians, there is another element to our analysis. We have a different set of values, ones not reflected by the news outlets. There is more to our existence than survival and hope for prosperity. The most frightening news need not shake our ultimate confidence in Christ. Jesus exhorted us not to be afraid of those that kill the body.¹ When we hear of calamity, it shouldn’t take us by surprise, since we know that such things must come to pass before the end.² Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke these comforting words:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.³
Our peace in Christ far surpasses any worldly assurance of safety or wealth. When disaster strikes—and we should expect it—we can confidently anticipate our final redemption. Paul succinctly expresses our rightful attitude:
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.⁴
Clearly this attitude gives us confidence in facing life’s most severe challenges that the world cannot afford. So when we read the news, we come with a different perspective. If there’s war brewing, a pandemic, or a natural disaster, it shouldn’t shake our security in Christ, even while others around us are panicking. But with this understanding, we face practical questions. How much should we allow the news to affect us? How closely should we follow it? How will our Christian perspective change our processing?
Frankly, I think this is an area that has caused confusion in the church. Many times talking about the news is discouraged since it doesn’t seem to be something of spiritual importance. Naturally, though, we still follow the news to some degree or another, often forming strong opinions of our own. We’re going to relate to the news. But how can we do so responsibly?
1. We should balance our diet
The news is not very comforting. Headlines disproportionately tilt towards negative stories because they sell. But they also reflect the continuing devastation in our fallen world. Too much preoccupation with the news easily fosters discouragement or even panic. Right now, this is especially true. It’s irrespective of political views, too. No one is saying, “Hey, cheer up! We’re living in a time of golden opportunity like never before.” Of course there’s a wide variation of what is blamed as the cause of our woes—and which ones are most serious—but most people are worried. Could a long run of peace and prosperity that we’ve experienced as Westerners be about to crumble? It’s possible.
Even for the most mature Christian, it’s unsettling. If we feel the worry of global turbulence more keenly than our promises in Christ, we’re in trouble. We’ll forget that God’s promises outlast all physical setbacks, regardless of severity. Even if we don’t consciously lose faith in God through worry, we risk hindering our enthusiasm and effectiveness for Christ. If we are not spending more time feeding on God’s Word and exhorting one another than we spend checking the news, then our outlook will inevitably be skewed towards doubt.
In short, our awareness of God’s goodness must always supersede our awareness of the news.
2. It’s good to be aware of what’s happening in the world
If the news is frequently disheartening and a source of distraction, should we consider ignoring it altogether, or at least distancing ourselves? Some, who have found themselves too preoccupied, have taken a break from following the news, using that time to strengthen their walk with Christ. That’s admirable. It’s probably not the best long-term solution, though. There are advantages to keeping reasonably up to date with what’s happening in the world; there is no advantage to ignorance. As Christians, we want to have a good understanding of the challenges the world faces, including the challenges of those outside our immediate environment. Knowing the social climate around us enables us to be better prepared to relate with others. There are unique opportunities for ministry that come from this awareness.
3. We are going to get our information somewhere
In a day when there is so much accusation of bias in the media, it’s becoming stylish to shrug off news reports. Media bias is a real issue. But with rising skepticism, there’s an increased gullibility in believing counter-narratives that can be even more biased and less factual. This isn’t to say that any time someone questions a news report that they are wrong—far from it. But it’s not enough to question the news. If you’re not going to believe the news, what are you going to believe? Sometimes in the critique of questionable reports we accept information that’s even more dubious.
Too often, our personal and political views color our perspective. We find data that agrees with our position, often without realizing what we’re doing. It’s human nature. This becomes a serious issue when personal biases are conflated with spirituality. Someone might say, “We don’t know if what the media is telling us is true. But we do know that the Word of God is true.” All fine and good, of course, but often there’s a viewpoint smuggled in that has problems of its own. “I don’t get what the media is all fired up about. I heard so-and-so say that…”
I don’t think it speaks well for us as Christians when we are quick to fall for questionable stories that fit our opinions. It’s even worse when God is thrown into the mix. We should be more concerned about accuracy, not less.
I’m planning a follow-up post where I’ll delve more specifically into how we should process and discern the news we read. This is an important topic that we’d do well to understand.
¹ Luke 12: 4, 5
² Matthew 24:6
³ John 14:27
⁴ Romans 14:8
2 thoughts on “How Do We Respond to the News?”
yes, please keep moving forward with a passion but at the same time keep your eyes focused on Jesus and not being ignorant of the signs of the times, God Bless tape Mose
This is an excellent post! I especially appreciated your first point on balance. I work for a publishing company that is working on publishing a book on COVID-19. My assignment is to collect news articles for it. Besides needing to sort through copious amount of articles trying to find factual and unbiased ones, I’m finding that such a heavy diet of news has a definite effect on morale.