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His Master's Voice
|Copyright © 2007 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
June 1, 2007
Lies, Cursed Lies, and Deceptive Silence
We all hate being lied to. It makes our blood boil. The more the lie impacts our life, the lives of our family members, or our spiritual service to the Lord, the worse our gut aches at the experience of being deceived.
Active lying is one thing. That is when a person intentionally tells a tale other than the true facts of the situation so as to deceive and mislead another person. An example of active lying is when oneís boss asks, "Did you finish that report?" and even though the report is still hours from completion, we respond, "Yup, itís done." This type of lying is what Peter did three times when asked if He was a follower of Jesus. It was an unhappy set of incidents for Peter, especially judging by Peterís own reaction when Jesus came out of the trial and looked his direction (Luke 22:62).
Another way to lie is to blame-shift. When asked, "Did you eat that fruit?" and we respond, "That other person made me do it" we are attempting to shift the blame to that other person. It is our way of trying to get the focus off our own culpability. This form of deceptive misleading is what Adam first tried with God by blaming the episode on "the woman that You made"--God was not much amused and it did not go well with Adam.
Yet a third type of lie is the withholding of relevant information, by which a false or misleading impression is intentionally given to another. False impressions sound innocent, but are they? Ananias and his wife Sapphira wanted to look good in front of other Christians, only thing was, the other Christians were giving away all they had so that those saints who had been persecuted could continue to eat and buy shelter (Acts 5). Ananias and Sapphira concocted a plan: they would sell some excess land, keep back some of the money, and pretend they were giving all they owned to the Lord by handing a partial sum to the apostles. God revealed the deception to Peter. The Holy Spirit was not much amused and it went badly for the couple (Acts 5:10).
Withholding truth, so as to convey a false impression, is deception, the core of a lie. For example, if you smash the front corner of your fatherís car into a wall, then park the car on the street, and leave it to circumstance to allow your father to come to the conclusion that the car was damaged by a hit and run driver, you have lied. It was your responsibility to actively seek to tell the truth and to alleviate your father of the financial impact resulting from your poor driving actions.
Other deceptions by silence that have actually occurred in churches are: the elder board becomes aware that the senior pastor has become addicted to drugs and never informs the congregation (after 5 years the pastor simply resigns into a form of early retirement with only a few being the wiser); a church elder rapes a grade school child and the pastoral staff does not inform the parents, the police, or the congregation for an entire year (the child finally informs the parents after a year of fear-filled suffering and the elder is arrested); a popular pastor convinces the congregation to go into millions of dollars of debt to remodel the sanctuary without telling them that he has already taken another job with another ministry and will soon leave them with no senior pastor; and an elder board sends the senior pastor on a church-paid vacation overseas during which they reorganize the ministry leadership in key areas without his knowledge.
Somewhere, somehow, we have gotten the idea that if we just do not say something to the people to whom the truth makes a relevant difference, it is not deception. But the fact is, if the truth that remains unspoken would make a difference to another, would help another by removing a doubt, would alleviate someoneís anxiety, would help someone make wiser and more godly decisions, would help resolve a conflict instead of whitewashing one, then the truth withheld is a lie, a cursed lie, a deceptive silence.
To be sure, not all truth must be spoken. Our opinions need never be shared, and that harms no one because opinions are not fact, they are assumption-based conclusions we draw based on feelings more often than on fact. Other times, withholding facts may be for the purpose of humility, also a very acceptable and commendable motive for silence (2 Corinthians 12:6).
At times, we withhold the truth because we think we are averting a conflict. Yet often, we are merely delaying the inevitable disagreement, and actually making it worse via the deception of silence which we employed. Those tensions which might have been easily handled with an honest and open discussion can evolve into an irreconcilable discord. Often, quite often, this is because we have prejudged anotherís heart and spirituality, convicted them in absentia of "probably going to react badly" to unpleasant news, and executed sentence by not consulting with them prior to some event which will impact their lives. Naturally, such persons will find out about the event and the deception of silence, realize that they were prejudged as untrustworthy and unteachable, and will sever relationships with those who have acted deceptively.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, (Ephesians 4:14-15)
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet, do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:25-27)
In theFour Guidelines of Christian Communication, the first Guideline reads, "Be Honest." This means telling the truth, the entire and open truth, to those to whom it is owed or to whom it will make a difference. This includes repeating the truth of pure doctrine or revealing the falseness of unsound doctrine (Ephesians 4:14-15). It also entails telling the truth to preemptively resolve conflict, even if the other person becomes angry for a day (Ephesians 4:25-27), for to withhold the truth to whom it is due is to give to the devil free reign within Christís church--Satan being the father of lies.
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)
I do not recall having yet read, "and if you conceal the truth, the deception will set you free." Praise the Lord that He is the truth, and He has set us free!
June 6, 2007
Sharpening One Another
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
A dull chisel becomes a hazard to the wood against which it is meant to shape and to the craftsman handling it. Sharper instruments and knives are safer than dull ones, because dull ones cannot accomplish the job for which they were created, but worse, they tend to become misdirected, bind, and kickback, endangering the hand of the user.
A file is designed to give a sharp edge to cutting tools. Similarly, a forgerís hammer and anvil are sure implements to fully restore the temper and edge to any old iron cutting tool. In my mindís eye, I can imagine the rasping of the file and pounding of the hammer are temporarily unpleasant to a dull tool, but afterward, it yields a result that makes the tool useful and desirable again. If a dull tool is ignored, it becomes unwanted, placed on the "shelf of damaged tools" and is never used again. That is an insult and a disservice to both the tool and its creator.
Friendship and brotherhood are the very core of Christian relationships--see 1 John 4:21. At times, it takes a brave and loving man to look at his friend and brother and tell him a sharpening is going to occur. "Friend, here is Scripture that indicates you have something you need to improveÖ" "Brother, the Bible says you must stop doing thisÖ" Far easier to simply ignore the situation, let the brother with the problem remain unaware and allow him to be put on the shelf rather than for his friend to become the file or the hammer, or so the faulty reasoning process goes.
Love, as defined in the Word (see Vineís dictionary and not Websterís), is: doing good to another for their benefit. Sharpening another is love. Leaving another to become ignorant, dull, and put on the shelf, is selfishness and self-pleasing, a form of hatred that kills the church (Revelation 2:5). Let us revive our love for God, for the church, and for our brothers and begin again to sharpen one another with the truth. The truth undisclosed is like a light hidden under a basket, it illumines no one.
If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. (Ecclesiastes 10:10)
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
June 12, 2007
Understanding the Nature of Deception--Follow-up Questions
In a blog essay posted June 1st of 2007 which was entitled Lies, Cursed Lies, and Deceptive Silence, I noted some examples of committing a lie merely by staying silent. Two of the examples were an elder board which covers up a pastorís long time drug addiction, or a pastoral staff which chooses not to tell police or parents that a minor child has been raped by someone on the staff. And the challenge: How is it that these two examples are genuine lies? Could there not be legitimate reasons for keeping these sins undisclosed?
At the core of that question is likely a sincere heart of compassion for the drug addicted pastor or the morally-sick elder who committed the rape. In both instances it is commendable that the elder boards would like to get the pastor detoxification therapy (so as to help him kick his drug habit) and to get the rapist into counseling (so as to again make him a productive member of the Christian community). How can such compassion be considered lying?
Pastors/elders are obligated to be "above reproach" and "not addicted to wine" (Titus 1:6-7). And not merely obligated, these are requirements for holding the office. Once the requirements are no longer met, the man becomes unqualified (or unfit) for service. Presumably, once a man overcomes a problem, he may become qualified once again, but that is beyond the scope of the question under consideration.
Assuming we are not going to hold to the letter of the law but adhere instead to the spirit of Titus 1:7, we must admit that pastors may not be addicted to any use of a chemical substance, be it the drug alcohol or narcotic drugs which can, under controlled use, properly be used to relieve pain. Once the addiction is confirmed, the man is no longer qualified to lead, for both his mental abilities and his moral stance have been compromised.
It is a fine idea to enroll such a man into rehabilitation, but at the same time, he must be withdrawn from leadership. To keep him in leadership as a pastor/elder, and to hide his addiction from the congregation, is to tacitly tell the congregation, "This man is still fully qualified according to the Scriptures to be the pastor of this church." That is simply untrue, and is therefore a lie.
Similarly, an elder who has committed rape does indeed need counseling, however, his conduct is no longer "beyond reproach." Further, a married elder who has raped a minor child has committed a sexual deviancy of the sort that may cause the wife to invoke the clauses regarding infidelity, a happenstance that further raises questions regarding the manís qualifications to remain on as an elder. Finally, rape is a violent crime, and such a crime that requires removing the man from contact with other children. This cannot be done until the crime is made known to the congregation. We will not even discuss the immorality of not contacting the victimís parents, or, for that matter, the police as soon as the matter is found out.
Such a man is immediately disqualified because he is no longer "above reproach." That phrase, "above reproach," means that no unconfessed sin, unresolved morality issue, or ongoing wrongdoing remains for which that man may rightly be accused. No man is utterly sinless, but one who is above reproach has handled such sin through confession, repentance, paying restitution, or even serving prison time. In other words, the debt of his misdeeds are fully repaid and are no longer a valid issue to bring up in the future.
A rapist holding the office of elder, whose crime is covered up, is not above reproach, for he has not confessed his sin, has not made restitution, and has not paid his civil penalty. Worse, he may still be given access to the children of the church, in contradiction to common sense and biblical mandate. Such a cover up is an attempt to make public claim that the man is still biblically qualified to continue to serve as an elder, though obviously he is not. That is an intentional lie communicated by simple silence.
When one church used silence as a means of giving sanctuary to a public sexual sinner, the apostle Paul called them to account for their arrogance (1 Corinthians 5). He called for their mourning over their lack of interest in pursuing holiness among their own congregation. Pretending such persons are innocent is a lie, a cursed lie, a deception by silence.
June 16, 2007
All I Wanted was a Cookie
Watching a child steal a forbidden cookie is often intriguing, if not downright humorous. My own son, who was not yet old enough to talk, found a way to communicate with a child his own age, also not yet a talker, to commit a master sugar heist. He and his friend went into the kitchen, where the cookies were safely out of reach by the sink. They found a one-step stool we kept in the kitchen by which we could reach the upper cabinets. The friend climbed up the stool while my son literally used both hands to push against and support his legs and his balance. The friend managed to grasp the edge of the countertop and snagged two cookies from the open container while my son helped him back down from the stool. They picked up their blankies and waddled into the living room, never knowing I was watching the whole stunning enterprise (yes, I let them keep the cookies).
A couple who became recent acquaintances to my wife and I came over for dinner last night. The wife asked, "Why did God put temptation into the garden? It was like he put a cookie on the table in front of a starving toddler and told him not to touch it."
But that is not how it was. God had given every vegetation that grew on planet Earth to Adam and Eve for food. Everything! There was not yet any curse and so, no death, therefore, animals were strictly off the menu. But all plants, all fruits, all vegetables were laid out like an endless feast in front of Adam and Eve. Anything they wanted to eat, they could eat. In fact, there were also no laws to obey. None. No way to do anything bad or wrong.
Ok, in fact, there was only one rule in all the Earth, "Donít touch the rat poison." They could do anything they pleased, or eat anything that was edible. All except for the fruit from the one tree. God told them, "It is poison to you. Eat the fruit from that tree and die. It is rat poison, donít eat it."
It would be like your parents setting a vast feast for just two kids. The children are given all manner of cakes, food, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chocolate milk, and then told to eat as much as they like. Then the parents add one rule, "There is rat poison in the kitchen cabinet, donít eat it or it will kill you." And what do the kids do? They pull up the step stool, ignore the cookies and other good things, and eat the rat poison.
So it was with Adam and Eve. God did not tempt them. He gave them every good enticement to avoid sin. And sin was reduced to breaking only one single rule. And it was an incredibly easy rule to avoid breaking. God did not tempt mankind. God demonstrated to mankind that he was incapable of being holy on his own. Ever. Even in his most perfect state and perfect corporeal situation that could ever exist.
Before the world was created, God knew man would sin. So He planned a means of salvation and even selected His adopted children prior to their creation, before the ocean currents flowed, and before the first breeze wafted by. God did not tempt man, man simply always chooses to sin, even if the sinning requires work and great cost. And every man works quite hard to commit sin.
Praise God He loves us anyway, and through His love, gave us the gift of faith and salvation. God did not merely give us the good feast, but He provided the rat poison anti-dote for His precious rebellious children.
June 21, 2007
ÖA Terrible Thing to Waste
On a warm summer day some years ago, from inside our house we heard the strains of "Pop Goes the Weasel." My kindergarten age son piped out, "Ice Cream Man!" He and I had done the ice cream truck thing a couple times, and I decided to indulge us all and quickly pulled out some bills, telling him to get something for everyone in the family. He darted out the front door, with me following at a discreet distance.
As he exuberantly ran down our drive way clutching the money, the ice cream truck pulled slowly away. Since he was not normally permitted to cross the road alone, he looked back to me. I called out, "Go on, go catch him." He looked both ways, ran across the street and down the block, right on the heels of the truck. My son ran his little heart out, rounding first one corner, then the next, calling to the truck driver over and over, "Wait!" as he competed with "Pop Goes the Weasel."
He managed to run two full blocks (I could not even keep up with him), often closing the gap, but never quite catching the truck. I donít know if the truck driver was too focused on finding a big group of kids to boost his sales to be bothered stopping for one kid, or whether he was too inattentive to see and hear my son chasing him, or if it was the end of the work day and he just needed to complete his driving route so he could say he had finished his job. Whatever the reason, my son soon reappeared, slowly walking down the sidewalk. We met still some distance from the house.
He looked at me with his big eyes, bravely fighting back the urge to cry, though to me his eyes seemed watery and his lower lip trembled perceptibly. His hand reached out toward me, it held the unspent money, "He wouldnít stop," was all he managed to whisper. My heart ached for him as I asked, "Do you feel bad?" He only nodded, his head bobbing against my shirt. I was growing conscious that my shirt was becoming wet.
Our gracious Heavenly Father has allotted to each one of us spiritual gifts to be used for the common good of the body and His Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 contain wonderful lists of the types of things the Holy Spirit has enabled us to do for others and for Him. And as His children, we delight to spend our gifts in His service and in the service of others.
Yet, a person who is unable to utilize his spiritual gift inside a Christian community reminds me of my son trying to buy ice cream for the family. The spiritual gift is like the money, it is intended to be spent for the good of the community. But for whatever reason, the child of God is left standing on the roadside, money still in hand, desperately wishing to benefit the community, but no one will allow him or her to do so. The ice cream vendor does not realize the size of the contribution to his bottom line that one child is about to make, or he simply is preoccupied with things other than the heart of a child, but in the end, no one benefits from the childís offer.
That child of God must turn to the Lord, holding out his hand still clutching the spiritual gift he desperately wanted to spend for Him. Does the Father grieve for such neglected children?
Within a Christian community we must be always diligent to nurture the gifts of all Godís children. That is a mighty undertaking, to be sure. To accomplish this, we must not only know the names of all those around us, but we must be familiar enough with them to find out their gifts and then actively seek means by which such people can spend their gifts profitably. Yes, it is true, many of Godís children will not bother to come out into the street with their gifts ready to be spent, but that means that those that do should never be forsaken for they are all the more necessary.
As my son and I walked back to the house, I went to the freezer and brought out the remains of whatever ice cream we had on hand. It took a while before we bothered to again answer the siren call of "Pop Goes the Weasel." Trust is a hard thing to recover in the face of a discouragement. Yet, I think maybe my son learned something from the episode. As we ate our ice cream from the freezer, he said to me, "I would have stopped for a little kid." Having watched my son grow into a teenager and consistently volunteer for VBS duty or babysit during Sunday School gatherings without being asked, I believe him, he would have stopped for a child. And though good resulted from that summertime incident, I am haunted by its memoryÖa spiritual gift is a terrible thing to waste inside the church.
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