By DEBRA WHITE SMITH
— QUESTION: I have a friend who stays on a tangent from one issue to the next. She is always quoting some new e-mail that is predicting gloom and doom and alluding to end-times half- truths, laced with Scripture. For several years, I have just not commented much and let her have her erroneous beliefs that never come true. But lately, I’ve begun to think I should speak up to her. After researching her latest fear-based panic episode, I am seriously considering presenting her with the facts. But I would like to do so in a way that convinces her of her problem while leaving our friendship intact. Do you have some suggestions?
ANSWER: Your concern for your friend is valid and worthy of respect. I especially appreciate the fact that you want to preserve the friendship and that you love your friend, even though she has these issues. I don’t believe it’s healthy for Christians to stay in a panic mode over every national or international hiccup. I am reminded of the Scripture, “…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ…” (Ephesians 4:14-15). In context, this passage is referring to erroneous biblical teaching, but we can also glean meaning for your situation as well. Being blown back and forth by external influencers is not God’s will for us as Christians. Mature Christians, who have spiritually grown up, manifest a spirit of stability that does not easily bend to the whims of trends in doctrine, fear, or hearsay half-truths.
With this in mind, I suggest that you first make a list of all the things your friend has been fearful about over the last several years that did not come true. Next, I would document the sources that she is buying these errors from. Sometimes, the sources can be varied, such as the false e-mails from different people you mentioned. Sometimes, the sources can be narrowed to a few media personalities. Then, I would prepare to gently suggest that she recall the scare fads she has allowed to dominate her in the past. If she cannot remember them all, don’t be shy about kindly joggling her memory. Once she has recognized that she is in a pattern of living from one scare fad to another, pinpoint the sources that are catapulting her into this frame of mind. Then ask her, “If these sources were wrong about all these other issues, why do you continue to believe everything they are telling you?”
At the very least, this should stimulate her thinking. Even if her cycle of behavior doesn’t immediately end, you are setting the stage for future talks.
The world is full of folks who actually enjoy being scared to the point that they will latch onto anything that will give them a fear thrill for the week. Christians who live like this throw bits and pieces of the Bible in the mix to add an element of authenticity to their fear. Unfortunately, the end product can be questionable documents such as mass e-mails that are forwarded from one Christian to another. Personally, I have researched numerous Christian based e-mails that hold less-than-factual information about world events, political issues, or out-of-balance scenarios that simply are not happening.
My admonishment to all Christians is that we take the time to research the facts before repeating stories or pressing the forward button on any e-mails. Personally, when I receive a supposed factual e-mail that I can tell has been forwarded multiple times, I immediately question its contents. More often than not, there is a good bit of factual error and unfounded rumors laced with seemingly correct biblical allusions and warnings.
I applaud you for the direction of your thoughts as well as your concern for your friend. God is interested in bringing us to a point of stability in our soul, mind, and emotions. Blindly gobbling up one scare fad after another is no indicator that Christians are wholly leaning on the Lord…or engaging the power of reason He has given them.
The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit www.debrawhitesmith.com. Got a problem? E-mail Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org