I find I’m not alone. Others receive the same emails from Christian friends — emails that are full of lies. They berate the government, the culture or individuals in the news. But when I check the veracity of what is sent I find that the information is usually false. It is made up, created to make some person or group look to be evil by their words or their actions.
When I contact the sender, I find that he never checked his content before broadcasting the email to all his contacts. He assumes the vicious attack is true because it is about a person or group he doesn’t like. These urban legends are not true, but the Christians who email them don’t bother to find that out. It is almost impossible to stay ahead of the lies that keep coming.
It is a new day for Christians. Lying seems to be an acceptable way of life. One day, when I was teaching doctor of ministry students at a conservative theological seminary, I brought up the subject of ethics and lies. Almost with one voice, those students let me know that “it is OK to lie, as long as we are lying for Jesus.”
All I could do was quote what the Apostle Peter taught: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
That’s a problem among believers. Once Christians become known as people of the lie instead of people of biblical truth, we make our witness to the saving work of Jesus something to be mocked. Then we may think we are being rejected for our faith in Christ. In reality, we may be rejected because of our propagation of lies that others know are lies.
The Unbeliever Doesn’t Know
When we mix truth about Jesus with lies about other things, the unbeliever doesn’t know the difference. We get nowhere when we teach, “When I talk to you about the culture or the government, I may be lying. But when I talk to you about the Savior, I am not.”
Each week I meet with a group of people, mostly secular, who discuss current events, issues of the day and trends in our world. Every now and again someone refers to those “religionists.” He mixes angry terrorists with angry Christians who, to him, are all the same. That person will go on to say, “Religion is the main problem in our world. The world would be better off if we had no religion or at least if the religious people would be silent about their views and let us, the clear-thinking, truthful people, work on some of the problems that are around us.”
When we are seen only as angry, hateful or lying “religionists” we can’t claim that we are being persecuted for our faith in Christ. Usually Jesus never even enters the equation. The persecution, the anger at believers, is not so much based on what we believe that is biblical but for what we believe and teach that is not biblical.
Adding What Is Untrue to What Is True
Tomorrow I will probably receive another hateful email from a Christian friend. Tomorrow I will need to check again to see if there is any truth in what is said or if it is something made up. I will probably find that what that Christian is saying is not true. He received the information from another Christian and simply passed it on to his friends. Then I have to try to explain why what he is stating is a made-up lie. It is hard to convince a friend who is already certain that he has sent me the truth.
I want to tell others the good news of Jesus. I want the people who live around me to know the Savior as their personal Lord and King. I want to see them come to certainty about new life now and eternal life as well, but I keep running into unsaved people who have met lying Christians, the professing believers who have added what is not true to the gospel that is true. To the unbeliever to whom I want to give the saving message of Jesus, I may be seen as just another Christian who fabricates what he is saying. My words, even when I quote God’s truth in Scripture, are brushed off as more of what Christians are saying that is not God’s truth.
God’s word shakes me. I read “they take delight in lies” (Psalm 62:4). What is it about those lies that so attracts believers that they delight in passing them along?
One of the six things God hates, according to Proverbs 6:19, is “a false witness who pours out lies.”
Solomon, offering to us the wisdom of God, explained, “An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies” (Proverbs 14:5).
As those urban legends get passed along from Christian to Christian, and then are given out to unbelievers, it is like a repeat of what Jeremiah saw: “Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth” (Jeremiah 9:5).
When those who live around us remain lost is it because of what we have done? Is it because we have “eaten the fruit of deception” (Hosea 10:13)?
The Apostle John explained to believers, those who claim to know the One who is truth, that “no lie comes from the truth” (1 John 2:21).
And it frightens me to read, “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house” (Psalm 101:7).
I may want to bring biblical truth to those who don’t know it, but first I have to overcome the perception that Christians are people who do not tell the truth. Those who say that about us do not lack proof. They have listened to the Christians they know who repeat the lies they have heard.
A fellow believer may shrug and say, “Oh, well, that lost person is rejecting the gospel.” He may be rejecting the gospel. But too often what he has to overcome to believe the truth about Jesus is all that he has heard from Christians that is not the gospel and is not true. Maybe he is not rejecting Jesus at all. Maybe what he is rejecting is the clutter of urban legends that we have attached to Jesus. The light that should be high up on a lampstand is being hidden under a bushel.
Roger Palms, a former editor of Decision Magazine, is the author of 16 books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.
- Have you ever believed a hoax or false rumor that you’ve heard from your Christian friends?
- Why do you think Christians are susceptible to believing and sharing incorrect information?