Duct Tape - Use SomeThe accusation that somebody is telling a lie has been thrown around a lot lately.  You have likely seen it on TV between cable news channels, between politicians, between cable news and politicians (including the white house staff), on this website (by authors and commenters alike). Some of you have probably even seen it in church.

I started thinking about the validity of accusation of lies when my first child at the age of 4 began to realize that sometimes we would say one thing (often involving her getting something she wanted) and that thing not come to pass.  I can’t remember the events surrounding the first accusation, but I do remember her getting upset with her parents and pouting and telling us that we lied to her.  I made her come back into the room and calmly explained to her that we did not lie because besides the fact that getting upset and pouting about not getting your way is immature and that even at such a young age we try to teach her how to handle situations maturely, she was just plain wrong.  I believe that in that particular instance, the situation had changed preventing us from following through with our previous claim.

I think that most of the accusations flying around (here and “out there”) are wrong as well.  There’s a difference between telling a lie and being wrong/ignorant.  A lie has the intent to deceive.  Deceit is the thing which makes something that is false or untrue a lie.    Technically, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary does say that a lie can be “b. an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker.”  But that is referring to the noun (the untruth itself) and not the accusation that a person is a liar or telling a lie.  In fact, the dictionary definition for the verb “lie” always contains the element of deceit.  But besides that, when personal accusations go flying, the people making the accusations rarely mean that the accused gave “an untrue or inaccurate statement… believed true by the speaker.”  If they thought that, they’d call them wrong, ignorant, stupid, etc.

For years people believed that the Sun revolved around the earth.  We don’t think of them as liars, just ignorant.  When you sign your tax return, you aren’t saying that there aren’t any errors, just that there aren’t any that you know of (you aren’t intentionally or consciously giving them false information).  We also don’t call out scientists as liars when they come out with a statement that something we’ve been teaching in 5th grade text books for 40 years is actually not true.*

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. (NLT Ga 5:19-26, Emphasis mine.)

*I considered siting references for all of my examples, but I realized that I would be doing it because I dislike ignorance, laziness, and false information almost as much as I dislike lying.  The point of this post is not to point out individual errors but to expose our immature penchant for accusations.

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 5th, 2009 at 3:43 pm and is filed under Devotional, In Tone and Character, grace. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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12 Comments(+Add)

1   Brendt Waters    http://www.csaproductions.com/blog/
October 5th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Liar

2   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
October 5th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

That’s constructive, thanks Brendt.

3   Joe    
October 5th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Christian,
I think this piece brings up a good point. I also think that in the internet world there are people who are given to sprinkling false information into their “apologetics” because they feel it bolsters their opinion. Sometimes people are lying, and I think it’s OK to call it that.

4   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
October 5th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Joe,

I have no problem pointing out when somebody is lying. My problem is when we don’t distinguish between an intent to deceive and people just being wrong.

I’ll also throw out a third category which I think covers many of the people that do what you are talking about. Laziness or purposeful ignorance. I put these people between those intending to deceive and those who just don’t know better.

5   Neil    
October 5th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Lying, I believe, implies both the knowledge that what one is saying is false and the intent to deceive.

What is sometimes called a lie, people who are sometimes called liars – actually believe that what they say/write is true.

In cases like this, calling them liars (when they are actually just wrong) does not good.

Now – all that said – when someone defends these false comments by posting partial quotes, twisting the obvious meaning of a quote, or arguing from silence – it does muddy the distinction.

6   troy    http://www.sheepandgoats.blogspot.com
October 6th, 2009 at 10:53 am

For a group who claims to live by the greatest commandment, we sure like to tear each other down. As Bob Dylan once whined: “They talk about a life of brotherly love, show me someone who knows how to live it” (from Slow Train Coming)

7   Neil    
October 6th, 2009 at 11:06 am

Troy,

I am not sure of what you speak… tearing each other down… at least in this immediate context. It seems to me the whole point of this post and the comments that follow is to address that very issue.

8   troy    http://www.sheepandgoats.blogspot.com
October 6th, 2009 at 11:15 am

Neil,
That’s my point. You commonly hear “grace”, but rarely see it. As Chris stated, it’s coming from both sides. I wonder if many aren’t sitting behind their keyboards, wringing their hands waiting for someone to “mis-speak” so we can attack with “LIAR!”

9   Brendt Waters    http://www.csaproductions.com/blog/
October 7th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Christian, you know I was kidding, right? You kinda grooved the pitch — I had to swing.

Frankly, I think it’s a great article.

10   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
October 7th, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Yes, I know Brendt. I couldn’t figure out how to roll my eyes through the computer, though.

11   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
October 8th, 2009 at 7:59 am

Sometimes when you call someone a liar, or ignorant, you are slandering them.
just sayin

12   Brendt Waters    http://www.csaproductions.com/blog/
October 9th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I agree, PB. You ought to post that reminder as a comment over on Apprising and C?N.

Oh, wait …..