We either love life relatively and lose it; or hate life absolutely and gain it.
Imagine a world where everyone speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? What kind of world would that be? Would we even want to live in it? It does not matter if we are Christians, atheists or agnostics; we don’t like the truth. What differentiate us from one another are relativities: the extent to which we tell lies. We all tell lies every now and then, but some of us consider ourselves to be righteous because we don’t tell “big” lies.
But can we tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? The classical answer to that is: “so help me God.” Would we even want to tell the truth at all times? I think not. Telling the truth would get us into too much trouble. We would lose our friends. We would lose our jobs or not be able to get a job. Our marriages would collapse. To be perfectly honest, it would be too costly.
This world is a world of lies; it is not meant for the truthful. The quickest and surefire way to succeed in this world is to sin. The psalmist says: “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” (Psalm 73:12). Therefore, a voice from heaven says: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins.” (Revelation 18:4). Therefore, Jesus invites us to come into the righteous kingdom of God.
I write articles pointing out the contradictions and fallacies in the epistles of Paul. When I do, some Christians write to me asking for my objective. Do I need any other objective than the need to expose a lie? Clearly, they don’t think so. They believe a lie should be permitted if it is for the good of the gospel. Paul himself asks: “If the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?” (Romans 3:7).
Martin Luther also says: “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”
Christians are fed on lies systematically and procedurally. For example, Bishop David Oyedepo says: “For over 25 years that I have been married to my wife, it has been tension-free, peaceful and serene.” That is a big lie. No marriage can be like that for 25 years unless both husband and wife are physically dead. Several years ago, at a dinner captioned: “A Day Out with the G.O.” held for financial sponsors of one of his annual “Holy Ghost Festivals,” Pastor Adeboye boasted that the time would soon come when the Queen of England would plead to join the Redeemed Church in order to work as an usherette. The audience rejoiced in the lie. They responded with wild applause and shouts of “Amen!”
Paul is a master of the relative and he offers us a way out of God’s absolutes. He does not just tell us to speak the truth. That would be too absolute. Instead, he says we should speak the truth “in love.” (Ephesians 4:15). That conveniently qualifies the truth. For Paul, speaking the truth is only good if spoken in love. In effect, there are times when, according to Paul, it is not good to speak the truth. If the truth is likely to be hurtful to someone, it is better to tell a lie. Thereby, Paul re-opens the door shut by Christ for Christians to continue telling lies.
Instead of asking Christians to avoid evil, Paul says we should: “abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). In effect, Paul is not against evil per se. He is more interested in appearances. His primary concern is public opinion. But while appearances may convince and satisfy men; they will never satisfy God who searches the hearts and minds of men.
For Paul, truth is relative. Where we stand depends on where we sit. Paul is fundamentally against God’s absolutes. On the issue of not eating food sacrificed to idols, he says dismissively: “He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.” (Romans 14:6). Paul even manages to give a malicious slant to the absolutely godly injunction that we should love our enemies. He says: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20).
He ends up with this principle: “All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient.” (1 Corinthians 6:12). In effect, even murder is lawful according to Paul, but it might not be expedient. If it becomes expedient, we would have no qualms in committing it. Paul says: “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” (Romans 14:22).
God of absolutes
But our God is a God of absolutes. With him, there are no compromises. No grey areas. No white lies. God cannot lie. He speaks the truth in all circumstances. He is the embodiment of truth. His word is truth. His Son, Jesus, is “the way, the truth and the life.” His Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth. Therefore, when we learn at the feet of Jesus, we discover that a lie is a lie is a lie. A lie is never justifiable. There is nothing like a good lie or a white lie. God is absolutely the enemy of liars. He says categorically: “All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).
God raised one man to confound all man’s relative truths. That man is Jesus. He never spoke a lie. He absolutely never committed sin. And yet he is a man. What manner of man is Jesus? He is the manner of man God expects all of us to be. Therefore, Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We must follow his footsteps.
Jesus does not give man’s relative commands. Moses says: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” This means if I don’t love myself, I am free not to love my neighbour. But Jesus says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). Jesus is the single absolute yardstick for God’s righteousness and he confounds all our relativities and rationalizations of sin.
Jesus reveals the love of life is the absolute root of all evil. Therefore, God has made the hatred of life in this world the primary prerequisite for the attainment of eternal life. Jesus says: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25). No relativities here. We either love life relatively and lose it, or hate life absolutely and gain it. The choice is ours to make.