The headline said, “Breaking News: Hillary Clinton is dropping out of the presidential race.” The Internet news report, which turned out to be completely false, was followed by another, “Breaking News: Donald Trump has died,” also completely false.

In this age of Internet news sources, it can be very difficult to discern truth from fiction, factual things from false things. Someone once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before truth has put its boots on.” Today, a lie can travel ALL the way around the world, before truth has put its boots on.

In this 24-hour, social media saturated world, it’s important for Christians to exercise patience, discernment and responsibility. This means keeping in mind at least these three things.

/// Don’t trust untrustworthy sources

Since 1912, the Baptist Messenger has sought to be a trusted news source for Oklahoma Baptists and other people of faith. While we have had our faults, misprints and mistakes, people know they can rely on The Messenger to print and publish responsibly and in a Christ-like manner. That is not necessarily the case for many news publications, especially in the world of blogging and digital publications.

In Old Testament times, the people of God were to judge a prophet by his accuracy (Deut. 18:22). In a modern sense, journalists are a kind of prophet. No, they do not foresee the future or speak forth directly from the Lord God, but they do speak into what’s going on. If you find a news source online that turns out to be repeatedly inaccurate, it’s time to stop clicking and linking to their articles.

/// Wait longer

People have an innate desire to be in the know; they also want to be the first to know. When combined with the instantaneous nature of social media, this becomes a dangerous recipe. When people share news online right away, rumor is reported as fact, unnamed sources become experts and hearsay becomes headlines.

For Christians, we are called to a life of patience. This applies to our stewardship of news and communications, as well. So the next time you hear major news that seems incredible, don’t spread the outrage. Instead, wait for the story to be verified before you comment and share.

/// Work toward truth, in love

The 2016 election has been as harsh as it has been entertaining. In their desire to win, people are hurling personal insults against others with whom they normally would share fellowship. LifeWay blogger Trevin Wax said that what Christians need to offer, during the election cycle, is “space and grace.”

What Wax means is that we are not all going to agree with how we should vote on all of the views about the news. What we can all do, though, is to believe the best about each other. That person who is voting a different way than you, perhaps they too want what’s best for America (even if their approach is faulty). The person who’s bashing your favorite candidate; maybe they, too, worship the Lord Jesus Christ. If we can give that grace and space in our online behavior, we will be better Christians and a better society for it.

It would be nice if there were someone out there who was keeping track of all these news stories and headlines; someone who will sort out truth from fiction.

Even if we do not have that in the here and now, we can rest assured in the fact that God knows and will set all wrongs to right. And we can march forward in confidence that the Good News is always true, that Christ died for us sinners and offers forgiveness and new life to all who repent and believe in Him.