Many of man's inventions have been used for both good and evil. The telephone allows us to dial 911 in cases of emergency where our lives may be in jeopardy, but that same device can be used to spread gossip and lies around the world in a matter of minutes. Firearms were used by early pioneers to hunt for food to feed their families and to protect them from hostile forces, but they were also used by thieves and murderers to assist them in their crimes. A number of medicines that are used to treat illnesses and diseases are abused by some and become addictive.
In like fashion, the Internet has been an amazingly helpful tool in the fields of education, communication, commerce, etc. Yet, it has also been an effective tool in the arsenal of Satan. He uses it to spread false teaching, to promote pornography, to spread rumors, and even to get some folks so addicted to its use that they neglect their family or spiritual duties.
The World Wide Web is the more graphical side of the Internet with which most of us are more familiar. It was started in the early nineties by Tim Berners-Lee. I remember well the first day I installed a web browser on a computer at John Tyler Community College in Virginia to introduce the Web to that institution. I used Microsoft's Notebook software program and HTML coding to create the College's first web site. The growth of the Web has certainly exploded in these last eleven years.
As Christians, we have the responsibility to determine whether something is good or evil. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 the apostle Paul wrote, "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." The Hebrew writer recognized the need for us to have our "senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). John also exhorts, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
As an educator who works in a K-12 school system, I have to monitor students' use of the Internet in order to be eligible for federal funding. Thus, I am in a position to see some of the things students are attempting to view over the Internet, and the type of information they are providing about themselves to other people over the Internet. Parents, I beg you to be aware of your children's computer use. Warn them of the dangers of completing online forms, surveys, etc. that may reveal personal information. Teach them of the dangers of gossip and spreading rumors about their classmates and others.
The Internet can be a great teaching tool, both in secular education and in spiritual instruction. People speak of "surfing the net." Maybe we need to be "sifting the net." We need to separate the wheat from the chaff, the good from the evil. Under the heading "Sifting the Net," we hope to examine both the good and bad of the Internet in future issues. Be sure to log on! 2004 Little Stream Run, Owensboro, KY 42303-1891, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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