Recently I received an e-mail forward about a 15 year old who had been abducted. I prayed for the boy, but as I don't make a habit of forwarding e-mail, I deleted it. End of story.

The next day, I received the same email, from someone else I know. Then, suddenly, I began receiving dozens of emails, from nearly everyone in my address book, and the subject was "RE:" this abduction case.

Upon opening a few of these e-mails, it became apparent to me that everyone in my address book had received a copy of this email, and horror of horrors, they had all originated from one of my e-mail addresses!

A few of these stated that the story was false and directed me to an Internet site where I could check it out. A few chastised me for not checking it out before sending the forward. A few complained that the e-mail had gone out with every address in my address book in the "To:" line, visible for everyone to see, giving access to my entire address book to anyone on the net. As a result, my name was taking off of the mailing lists of a couple of my faithful Nugget authors.

I was horrified!

I did eventually find out what had happened. I had allowed someone the use of my computer. This person had received the e-mail from someone else, and with a heart totally filled with love for that 15 year-old boy, had forwarded the email to everyone in my address book. Needless to say, this person is now aware that forwards must be check out before being passed on, and that when sending to the entire address book, the "Bc:" field must be used. And this person has now been thoroughly instructed as to the privacy of a user's address book!

There are many lessons that we can learn from this little "mistake". First, and perhaps most importantly, we should always check things out before passing them along. Repeating something that isn't true, even if we are unaware that it isn't true, is gossip. It is like passing along a lie.

This is especially important in the realm of religion. We often pass on what we've learned as "truth", but do we always take the time to check it out with the Bible? Take Mary, for example. How many of you knew that the Bible never states she rode to Bethlehem on a donkey? And then there's the wisemen. How many knew that they weren't at Jesus' birth, but came as much as two years later? And what about Jesus' birth in a stable? How many knew the Bible never states this?

The point is, most of us accept whatever our parents, pastors and teachers tell us, and even more dangerous, what we see on T.V. or read in books, as "Truth"! Our responsibility is to check out what we've learned by taking it back to God's Word: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.'" (John 14:6 NIV). Only then can we be sure that what we are passing along is really Truth! This, my friends, is a major safeguard against falling into the traps of religion!

Another important lesson to be learned from this email forward is that whenever we pass something along, whether it be a lie or whether it be truth, we take the chance of hurting someone. For example, I may tell you that I saw Billy at the corner donut shop with Suzy, and Suzy is not Billy's wife. This is the 100% truth. But should I be passing it on?

No.

Why not?

Because despite the fact that there may have been a very legitimate reason for Billy to be with Suzy at the donut shop, people will automatically think that Billy and Suzy are having an affair. What you've done by telling the truth that you witnessed, without checking out all the facts, is you've passed along gossip. "… gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." (Prov 11:13 NIV)

This principle can be deadly in the religious world. So many of us are or have been so locked up in various religious beliefs that we no longer know what Truth is. Most of these beliefs have their roots in Truth, but often these "Truths" are only presented half-way! Bible texts are taken out of context, and entire church doctrines are built upon them! It's dangerous business, my friends! It is our RESPONSIBILITY to not only check into the ROOTS of Truth, but to allow God's Spirit to define for us what God is really trying to tell us through His Word! We must make sure that what we've learned can be backed up by the ENTIRE Bible!

One last lesson can be learned from this email accident. When we present Truth to people, we need to be careful how we do it. We need be respectful of others and we need to show love: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone … But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV) Only when we follow this advice can we have any hope of them accepting Truth.

And how can we be respectful?

But letting God do the talking: "do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit." (Mark 13:11 NIV)

Friends, the next time you are in the position of sharing your faith, remember my email forwards: Check it out first to make sure you are passing on only THE Truth, the WHOLE Truth, and NOTHING BUT the Truth", and then be respectful about how you pass that Truth on by letting God's Spirit speak through you!

In His love, Lyn

Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .