By Stephen Allred, Esq.
Winning is about the only thing that matters these days, it seems. Winning the argument. Winning the debate. Winning the election.
We’ll do whatever it takes to help our candidate win, whatever the cost, even if it means sacrificing the truth. In other words, truth doesn’t really matter anymore.
At least that’s what it feels like in America these days.
Politicians have always lied – some more than others. What concerns me more is the fact that most of us don’t care. In fact, we – the citizens – participate in their lies by repeating them and spreading them far and wide in our conversations, our email forwards and on social media.
But why does truth matter? Who cares if we tarnish a little more the reputation of that dirty politician we hate or repeat an untruth about them?
Back in college, I remember my Philosophy 101 professor telling the class how civilized society can only survive when its citizens maintain a certain level of mutual trust. If there is no truth telling, who can you trust? If you can trust no one, society falls apart.
But, you say, that meme I shared on Facebook is absolutely true! It came from my favorite alternative news website! Never mind that the website is built on flimsy conspiracy theories, it agrees with me, so, therefore, it is true.
And here is where things get sticky. Especially if you’re a follower of Jesus (like I try to be).
You see, Jesus warned us about this very mindset – the mindset of if it agrees with me and I like it. Therefore, it must be true. “Be careful,” Jesus said, “that you’re not deceived.” (Matthew 24:4)
Deception is a tricky thing, in that those who are deceived are completely unaware that they’ve been fooled.
In His last sermon before He went to the cross, Jesus specifically pointed out that there would be a lot of deception floating around in our world in the days before His second coming (Matthew 24:4). Why did Jesus care so much about truth and honesty? Because God’s truth – like the laws of nature – isn’t arbitrary. It’s just the way things are. Falling from a rooftop, I can close my eyes and deny that the law of gravity exists, but that won’t stop the fall. God’s truth is also rooted in laws that are foundational to the universe. When we ignore His truth, we do so at our peril. And, we reject Jesus himself who is the embodiment of all that is true and the source of eternal life (John 14:6).
You might agree with me that God’s truth matters but wonder how spreading half-truths about a politician you consider evil makes a difference in your life. Hear me out. If we’re dishonest with ourselves in one area of our lives, won’t it eventually bleed over into other areas of our lives – including our ability to see and understand God’s truth about bigger and more important things? Also, the Bible agrees with my philosophy professor: lying tends to the breakdown of the community (see Ephesians 4:25). And then there’s the issue of lying lips being an “abomination” to the Lord (Proverbs 12:22). God takes dishonesty pretty seriously.
The Apostle Paul coined a term that can function as our lifeline in today’s duplicitous and cutthroat world: the “love of the truth.” Most of us care about our comfort – psychological or otherwise – over learning truth that may disagree with us. We’d rather maintain the status quo, even if it is based on misinformation, than read a well-researched study that debunks our cherished idea. I know, because that’s how I naturally am (and so are you – see Jeremiah 17:9).
Paul, however, gives us a warning: failing to love truth can prove fatal. He wrote that the majority would be “lost in sin because they did not love the truth that would save them. For this reason, God will allow them to follow false teaching so they will believe a lie.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NLT). In other words, it’s not enough that you don’t intend to believe a lie; you need to love truth even if it doesn’t agree with you. If you don’t, you’re asking to be deceived. Apparently what we tell ourselves ends up, to a profound degree, shaping who we are and deciding our destiny.
Telling lies to ourselves is a big deal, but spreading them to others might be even worse. One of the seven abominations that God hates is – you guessed it – spreading lies. (See Proverbs 6:16-19).
So, here’s a challenge for you and me: Before we push the send button, ask: Is this email forward completely true?
And don’t just go with your gut when you see that Facebook meme, because your internal truth compass is naturally messed up. Do some responsible, thoughtful, clear-minded research. Ask other objective, thinking people what they know. Use responsible sources, not just the ones that agree with you. Avoid websites that are filled with hate-filled conspiracy theories (more on that here), because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Get some context and perspective before you reach a conclusion and share that video or article. Ask for the impartial wisdom that is given from above (James 3:17; 1:5).
And then there’s another question I’ve been asking myself recently before I tweet or post: Is it loving? How many times does Jesus tell us to love one another? Too many times. There’s also that command that most of us tend to ignore: Love your enemies. That’s right, even the scumbag politician we tend to hate. That’s not to say that love doesn’t speak truth to power and call out injustice. It does, and so should we. But Christians ought to be able to do that without being nasty.
So if you really want to win, love Truth.
Stephen Allred, Esq. is an estate planning, probate administration, and employment discrimination attorney in Auburn, California. He blogs at SacredConscience.com and is a member of the ReligiousLiberty.TV advisory panel.
Illustration: DepositPhotos.com / © everett225