Friday, 18 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 6

Photo Credit: Bianca Bueno, Flickr Creative Commons
I have become an iTunes fan over the last couple of years. I love the idea of sitting on my deck with my laptop, yapping with friends online, or perhaps working on a blog post such as this, and all the while having my whole music collection right at my fingertips. I've come a long ways from my old 8-Track collection. (For those of you too young to know what an 8-Track was, here's some history for you.)

At the opening of their classic song, “What If I Stumble,” contemporary Christian band DC Talk include an interesting quote reportedly taken from American priest Brennan Manning:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
I’ve often reflected on that quote. Certainly none of us would want to be responsible for “deliberately” causing the atheism of another, and yet, we all do stumble from time to time. Obviously, though, an occasional stumble is very different than a deliberate intent to deceive.

Continuing the series on “The Things the Lord Hates,” we find ourselves with the sixth thing the Lord hates, and that is, “a false witness that pours out lies.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV).
A sufferer of Pinocchio-itis? Hmm
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
As I thought about a false witness, my mind went first to a courtroom scenario where a witness has just lied on the witness stand. In legal terms, it would be said of this witness that he “perjured” himself; that he deliberately lied in order to mislead.

“Perjury” is defined as: “the deliberate violation of an oath or affirmation, either by saying that something is true which one knows to be false or by omitting to tell something that one has promised to tell” (Gage Canadian Dictionary).

As I thought further on this “false witness that pours out lies,” I wondered how often we Christians perjure ourselves in our every day lives. What am I getting at? As believers we have publically given affirmation that we are sons and daughters of God, but I wonder how often our walks line up with our talks, and thus falsifying our witness.  For more on this, see my earlier post called “The 'Jesus is Lord' Lie.”
“Do not deceive one another” (Leviticus 19:11)
This is about more than just being a liar. This is about being a deceiver, and ultimately, even about deceiving our selves (James 1:22). Who is the prince of deceivers? We all know the answer to that, don’t we? Eve said, “The serpent deceived me” (Genesis 3:13). The prince and father of deceivers is none other than Satan himself. My question then becomes, why would we want to be associated with him?

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Deliberately lying, or deceiving, makes us guilty by association with the devil. We could even go so far as to say that we then become his “accomplice.” The Apostle Paul said, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Could we then say that a professing Christian who deliberately deceives others by lying is also masquerading as a child of God? Does my suggesting that offend you? Does that sound harsh and judgmental?

I judge no one in a condemnation sense, for only God can do that. However, I believe that we are called to judge in a discernment sense. “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). If there is no spirit of truthfulness discerned, what does that say?

Remember, we’re not talking about a stumble whereby we slip up, recognize our error and repent. After all, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Rather here we’re talking about perjuring ourselves before God and man by deliberately and unrepentantly “pouring out lies” in order to deceive. This the Lord hates! Unfortunately deliberate deception happens all the time, even in the church.
“The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:31).
"Gold Tooth Gargoyle"
Photo Credit: Andrew Sorensen, Flickr Creative Commons
I remember a fiasco in the church some years ago where people were claiming that God blessed them with golden teeth. Even prominent church leaders were deceptively doing this. I was both amused and saddened by one such case where a leader on a Canadian Christian TV station announced that he too had received a miracle golden tooth where none had existed before. He was busted as a liar when his dentist publically announced that no, it was no miracle. The dentist himself put that golden tooth in some ten years earlier. Was he truly sorry and repentant, or just sorry that he got caught? Hmm, I wonder.

Some time later the same church leader was dethroned in an adulterous relationship. Not to rehash the dirty laundry of another, but the point that I am trying to make is that lying is deception, and many of us, by our strange lethargic attitudes, seem to be OK with it. What I find amazing is how many people continue to flock to these defrocked church leaders who, just as in this situation, soon turn up somewhere else with yet another church plant. Does that mean the masquerade and deception continues? Maybe he's learned his lesson, but as someone once said, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
But lest I get too prideful, in truth, there but for the grace of God, go I.
Photo Credit: Joost J. Bakker, Flickr Creative Commons
The bottom line is, I am no better. I can echo the Apostle Paul's words in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." If I am wise, perhaps I will learn from the stumbles of others. If others are wise, perhaps they will learn from my stumbles.

Just as a child is told to "Look Both Ways" before crossing the street, perhaps we too would be wise to look again at our walk, lest we too get broadsided by finding ourselves doing "The Things the Lord Hates."

Perhaps the reason God hates "a false witness that pours out lies" is because of what it does to human relationships; namely the violation of trust and honesty that He expects us to have with one another. When we deliberately lie, we deliberately mislead, and in so doing we harm the other person and we harm the fellowship of the Body of Christ.

Photo Credit: Julie McLeod, Flickr Creative Commons
Is our earlier quote true? Is “the greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle?”  Maybe it is. I suspect that, at the very least, such sloppy Christian walks do have a role to play in the way the church is perceived by the world. Perhaps it even plays a role in how the church is sometimes perceived by other Christians. How sad. 

When the world looks at Christians, what do they see? “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Perhaps if we really did that, the non-Christian world would sit up and take a genuine interest in the true Gospel message that we claim to embrace. But until then, maybe we are ironically promoting atheism instead through our perjury on the witness stand of the world. 

God forgive us. God help us. Thank you, Jesus.

Anyway, that’s the way I see it. Peace.
In our seventh and final part of this series, we will consider “a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

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