“Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:25-27, NIV

Misinformation and disinformation are two words that are not new, but understanding the meaning of these terms is more important now than ever. This knowledge can help us make wiser decisions about what we choose to accept as accurate, what we share and contribute to the search for truth amid confusion.

In a time when there seems to be a move to minimize important American historical facts, I would guess that some remember when television signed off at midnight and signed on at eight in the morning. There was a time when there were three stations: CBS, NBC, and ABC. Walter Cronkite was one of my favorite news anchors. He reported the news without voicing his opinion and with no apparent hidden agenda. He ended the news with his famous saying, “And that’s the way it is.”

Fast forward to our present-day reality, and the landscape has drastically changed. Advancements in technology changed how we live, work, shop, bank, communicate, travel, and attend church. The internet allows us easy access to information anytime and almost anywhere. With the emergence of the digital age, there is a continuous barrage of information that can contribute to difficulty in making decisions based on careful evaluation of facts rather than the opinions of others.

The increase in false and altered narratives about people and almost every current or past issue in the news and social media has created mass confusion. People are grappling and searching for the truth. However, some are motivated to be constant instigators working against truth to promote personal agendas or beliefs. I do not believe I am alone when I disconnect and go offline for a time, because so much information is confusing, exhausting, discouraging, and sometimes scary.

While often used interchangeably, misinformation and disinformation have a significant difference, and that is intent. Misinformation is “false information spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.”  In contrast, disinformation is “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narratives.” False information that spreads to cause harm or damage is disinformation. In our culture, we have witnessed firsthand the weaponization of information to hurt and sway another person’s opinions or belief system.

So how do we find truth amid the confusion?

First, remember that in our humanness, we will make mistakes and sometimes communicate information believed to be accurate but discover it is not. Therefore, in addition to carefully examining the source of information for reliability and accuracy, we should always explore our intent for sharing.

In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds the church that believers should walk in unity and holiness. We are new creations in Christ. Therefore, our conduct should reflect the righteousness and holiness of God.  Ephesians 4:25-27 tells us that lying, deception, and communicating false narratives have no place in the life of a believer. Truthfulness is essential to unity in the body of Christ.

Daily, we encounter stories of untruths trending in the news that cause our anger to rise. Expressing righteous indignation (anger) is not a sin, but allowing the devil’s schemes to use our anger can cause us to sin. The challenge of the Christian walk is not just knowing what is right but doing what is right and pleases God.

Remember that misinformation and disinformation are sides of the same coin of false information. The Holy Spirit empowers the believer in Jesus Christ to control our response and our witness. 

In the words of news anchor Walter Cronkite, “That’s the way it is!”