Re-post: About Telling the Truth

A church member offered to teach Sunday school. For orientation, he sat in a boy’s class to help keep order as the teacher taught.

The first Sunday he was startled to hear the teacher say to the boys, “We all lie.” Then, shooting his own hand into the air as if to include himself, the teacher asked, “How many of you told a lie this past week?” 

The boys glanced at one another hesitantly and a few hands were raised guardedly.

For a Sunday school teacher to tell a class of growing boys that he lies, that he admits it, and that he knowingly told a lie during the past week must have been quite troubling. It would sound to them as if lying was nothing out of the ordinary for Christians.

Christians do believe that because all humans are “born in sin” (Psalm 51:5) we are all by nature disposed to lie. We do this very early in our lives, even as toddlers, and before we know clearly what we’re doing or have a conscience about it.

Children don’t have to be taught to lie; to always tell the truth is what they have to be taught.

Lying, according to a well-worn definition, is “a misrepresentation of the truth with the intent to deceive.” We can lie in many ways, not only by words but also by silence or a gesture. Representing part of the truth as the whole truth, intending to deceive, is also a lie.

When, by the grace of God, the Gospel penetrates our defenses it reveals to us our dishonest ways. That’s why the Gospel calls us to repent. That is, to renounce all dishonesty and turn from deceptive practices.

Opening ourselves to the Gospel brings a great assurance of forgiveness. Our sins are blotted out. And at the same time the Holy Spirit enters our lives in renewing power and begins to construct a new life. It is called regeneration (Titus 3:5-7). In this new life there is no place for deceptiveness, manipulation, or hypocrisy. These sins have to be confronted, and truth must become our new badge.

This commitment to truth is a necessary mark of Christian conversion, for when we are saved, Jesus — who is very truth itself — lives in us (John 14:6). Moreover, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, whom he promised to send into the world, is “the Spirit of truth” (John 15:26). Therefore, his call to truthfulness is serious, and the Spirit is patient but firm about it.

In our weakness or fallibility we may slip. We may be overtaken by a “sin of surprise.” We dare not forget that for Christians in whom the Spirit of Christ lives sin is never necessary but always possible.

Here’s the prescription written for Christians who lie or deceive in such a moment: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1John:1:9). 

This does not mean we are casual about a moment of dishonesty that overtakes us. In fact, we should grieve sincerely when we fail. But we are quick to confess and throw ourselves on God’s forgiving mercy.  

Here are some reinforcing scriptures we can hide in our hearts:  

  • Zechariah 8:16,17:  “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.
  • Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one another.”
  • Psalm 51:6: “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

This is what we should be teaching boys in a Sunday school class.

Image info: Orin Zebest (via flickr.com)

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