I want to begin by telling two stories. Both may be familiar to you. But I'll summarize them before drawing out a few implications for preachers and teachers.
The first story features CBS anchorman Dan Rather. In September 2004, Rather aired a report on 60 Minutes alleging that when President George W. Bush served in the National Guard, he received special privileges while often shirking his duty. This revelation was based upon newly released documents, reports written by Bush's supervisor in the Guard. Rather's story, coming only two months before a presidential election, appeared to undermine Bush's credibility and electability.
Within hours, skilled experts chimed in, contending the documents were fake. Rather's story was discredited and his reputation as a journalist took a hit. What caused Rather's stumble? His failure to check his sources for their truthfulness, passing on falsehoods as if they were true, because he just didn't do his homework.
Stories I'd rather not tell
My second story concerns a young man named Teddy Stallard, who has mistakenly been called Teddy Stoddard by some who relate his tale. Teddy was the kind of kid who strained the mercy of any teacher. His messiness and unpleasantness quickly worked their dark magic on Miss Thompson, who just didn't like the little brat. In time she enjoyed giving Teddy bad grades on his consistently poor homework.
But when Miss Thompson checked Teddy's permanent records, she discovered he had been a fine student until his mother died of a terminal illness a couple of years earlier. Miss Thompson's shame over her misjudgment of Teddy grew when, at Christmastime, the hurting boy gave her some perfume that had belonged ...