What insights do the following verses give us about spreading rumors without clear, substantiated facts?
Matthew 12:36: But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
Pretty powerful, don't you think? I fear I've spoken a great many empty words in my life and I've passed along misunderstandings and exaggerations without thinking much about it. These verses warn us that our words matter to God and to others.
Luke 6:31: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
One reason I try to be careful about passing along information, even from seemingly reliable sources, is because I have been the object of slander several times in my life. Once you've had a respected person say something false about you or misrepresent something you've done, you never look at these matters quite the same.
If we choose to judge someone's conduct without clear evidence, without checking our facts, without giving them the benefit of the doubt, and without giving them mercy, we "judge the law." Basically, we judge the law by saying we are above the law and need not follow God's commands to speak truth and show mercy.
Obeying this command is most difficult when we dislike someone, perhaps a politician or Christian speaker. But Scripture tells us to show respect to those in authority, whether parents, church leaders, or government leaders (see It's the Law Study & Insights). This doesn't mean we agree with everything they do or blindly obey them. It means we treat them respectfully and never slander them.
We are supposed to judge genuine heresy and discern between right and wrong, but we must be careful not to exaggerate a person's bad conduct or "extrapolate" on the facts.
To extrapolate means we say that fact A = assumption B. For example, we may hear that a Christian leader invited a Muslim to speak at a conference at his church. We research it and find it's true. It becomes fact A. Then we decide that since this pastor invited this Muslim to speak, he now supports a religion that is a mixture of Christianity and Islam (Assumption B.) Even though the assumption isn't necessarily true, I see this type of reasoning used repeatedly in Christian critiques.
When we judge a person based on assumptions, we judge the law which tells us to speak truth and verify our facts. See Matthew 18:16.