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When Spin Is In
From the Florida vote count to the Washington, D. C., press conference, now is a time when spin is in. CNN features an entertaining program called "The Spin Room," on which you can hear the latest political "Spin of the Day." We all know from the nightly news that something is deathly wrong in America. Where have all the brave men gone? What is happening here in "the land of the free?" We no longer believe our politicians. Can we discern when our preachers also engage in "spin?" Deep down we know when leaders are "lying," or at least we feel it when they are "spinning" the truth, even when we don’t know all the facts. Brother and sister, what is the difference between an outright "lie," and "spin," whether it comes from the white house or from the church house? Have you ever been personally present, when spin was in? Did you understand what was happening? What must a Christian do when he or she feels that somebody is being roasted by the flames of the subtle, forked tongue, when spin is in?

by Jerry Gentry

"I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me" (Ps. 39:1).

The accusing tongue of Pilate and the raucous Jerusalem crowd "spun" out of control as they smote Jesus with their words. He answered their accusations with silence. How masterfully they cried, "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King" (Luk 23:2). The Bible and church history have proven that Pilate and the noisy accusers were dead wrong. Even so, it was their "spin" by which Jesus was crucified first. It was by their bitter words that they judged the savior to death. Only after their words had "spun" out of control and maligned the truth did the actual crucifixion follow.

We read our savior’s response. "Jesus yet answered nothing" (Mark 15:5). He knew and practiced the ancient Proverb: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him" (Prov. 26:4). The Bible says that those who put their own purposeful and untrue "spin" on the truth are fools. Jesus knew what was happening to him. He knew when to be quiet. He had inspired that ancient proverb, which is followed by a counter-proverb: "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit" (v. 5). Christian, when will you "answer not a fool," and when will you "answer a fool?" The Bible commands both. Do you know the difference? Do you know when to speak and when to be silent? If not, then read on. The Bible gives us all some clear answers as we seek to learn what to do when we reasonably suspect that spin is in.

The tongue is a dangerous member of the human body. The Bible teaches us to watch it carefully, because "the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8). One kind of deadly poison that pours from the tongue is the "spin" that some people place on what they say. Something deadly is happening, when spin is in. We must take care not to be sucked into the back draft of such roaring verbal flames, because. "the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell" (James 3:6). These are strong words, brother and sister! The Bible equates the "spin" of an uncontrolled, or willfully deceitful, tongue with the "fire of hell!" What a sobering thought this is! Yet, intentional misrepresentation seems to abound everywhere nowadays, even in the most unlikely places!

Seldom will Christians defend a man or woman who uses physical violence to smite a brother. If a Christian were to walk up and slam his fist into the jaw of a brother or sister, who would not condemn such an offense? Every Christian will rightly condemn such improper behavior. But when such a smiting happens, Jesus gives us the proper Christian response: "whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39). Though none of us practices this teaching perfectly, we all get the picture quite clearly. We do not justify such a hurtful invasion against ourselves, but we must be careful not to return the gesture in kind, lest we too become fools ourselves!

There are people who sometimes smite fellow Christians with seeming impunity, but not with their fists. Such people smite with their words, very much like Pilate and the maddened crowd smote Jesus with their accusations. How must we respond when others smite us with their words? Is there a time when we should ""Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit?" We must discern the answer from the circumstances. We must above all answer "spin" with truth. When we speak "the truth in love," (Eph. 4:15), we are always on safe ground!

To understand the picture of how words of "spin" can smite others, look at the experience of the ancient prophet Jeremiah. Here was a man, called of God to bring forth an unpopular message, a call to national repentance, first to the priests and levites, and later to the people at large. Jeremiah warns the priests against impending judgment, even captivity by the king of Babylon. He pours out his heart and life with warnings. The priests respond. They bring on their "spin" against Jeremiah, who dares to be God’s messenger of truth.

"Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah. . . let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words" (Jer. 18:18).

Jeremiah wonders at the result of such verbal assaults, when spin is in, issued by religious leaders who should have known better. Did they know better? Of course they did! Jeremiah appeals to God:

"Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them" (v. 19-20).

Jeremiah had prayed and poured out his heart to God for his fellow Israelites. He knew their only chance for deliverance was through turning back to God in heartfelt repentance. But the rulers of the temple said, "No!" They issued another agenda with their "spin." They preferred Jeremiah to go away. "Let us live in the comfort of our iniquity and transgression. Do not upset our comfortable apple carts," was the true essence of their words.

Only now, after having thoroughly warned the priests, does?Jeremiah pray a different prayer:

"LORD, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger" (v. 23). Jeremiah prays this imprecatory prayer against the heartless, offending, unrepentant preachers of his day!

What followed was judgment from God. Jeremiah was required to personally deliver the message of judgment to come, with no spin attached. He did not mince words:

"Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. . . I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth." (Jer 19:3, 7).

This issue initially began with words, when the priests began to "smite him with the tongue. . . [and] not give heed to any of his words," or humble themselves in repentance. Jeremiah issued true words of warning. The priests responded with negative "spin" against Jeremiah. They smote him with their words of rejection and condemnation. They answered his call to repentance with their maligning "spin."

Do you see any parallel in your life today? Do you know any prophet types in your church who have delivered an unpopular but true message to religious leaders? Did those leaders receive such unpopular but true messages? Or did they issue false words??Did they spew forth their negative "spin?" If you know of such cases in modern day, then the message of scripture is the same for now as it was anciently. For surely the words of Jeremiah the prophet "are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1Cor. 10:11). No one is immune from these words of God, certainly not ourselves, nor are our preachers immune from these words. Who will heed the words of the LORD? Who is on the LORD’S side? Brother and sister, I pray that we all are on the LORD’S side, but I am afraid that some are not. Those who are not on the Lord’s side always identify themselves openly to those who have eyes to see, by the "spin" they place on the truth. "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear" (Mark 4:23).

Those who place a negative "spin" on the truth are often men "who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). They are just like the ancient Pharisees, whom Jesus speaks of when he tells us:

"All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not" (Matt. 23:3). You see, the ancient Pharisees did a great job of "spinning" the truth, of "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7). They felt they were above the clear commands of scripture. They knew the law and the prophets, but they refused to follow their own pulpit message, which was mostly a good message. They issued their "spin" in it’s place. Yes, they knew and preached the truth. But in their private associations they maligned anyone who told them the truth about their actions. They brought on their "spin," just as they did to Jesus. "Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God" (John 8:41). They reduced themselves to calling Jesus a bastard! As then, so today. The true messengers of Jesus are maligned for the truth they speak. Just as Jesus, they too are "persecuted for righteousness’ sake" (Matt. 5:10).

And what are the persecuted truth speakers told to do when maligned?

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Mat 5:11-12).

The plight of true men of God who dare speak the truth is always persecution in this life, but in the next life "great is your reward in heaven."

Brother and sister, can you discern, when spin is in? Will you yield to it’s violent influence? Will you be destroyed by it? There is a time to answer such foolishness with silence, as Jesus did, when He knew it was in the greater will and purpose of God for Him to go to the cross. Under those circumstances, He ""Answer[ed] not a fool according to his folly, lest [he] also be like unto him." At other times during his life, Jesus spoke up with great boldness and power, which shut the mouths of His enemies:

"Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. . . I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine." (Matt. 22:29, 32-33). Jesus often answered his enemies boldly, always cutting the fine line of truth and exposing their error:

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness" (Matt. 23:27). Jesus rebuked the Israelite religious leaders of His day. He pulled no punches in answering the truth to their false charges. When he was accused of having a devil, "Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me" (John 8:49).

When he was accused of Pilate, "Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin" (John 19:11).

Jesus confirmed with his life the ancient proverb that teaches: "A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Eccl. 3:7).

Christian, you and I must "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him" (Pro 26:4). We must also "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit" (v. 5). When our hearts are tender, the Spirit of God will lead us in discernment between these two opposites.

Yes, brother and sister, there is a time to be silent. And there is a time to speak up and defend the facts, the truth, especially when spin is in. Even the truth you speak will often be recast by the enemies of truth as "spin." You must discern the difference, and either "keep silence," or you must "speak. . . the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15), when spin is in.

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