The Greatest Commandment

The Greatest Commandment
Vol: 170 Issue: 10 Tuesday, November 10, 2015

”Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” (1st John 2:22)

So the devil is the father of lies.  Jesus equates lying with murder and said that liars belong to the devil.  Liars do the work of the devil, regardless of the liar’s intent.

But most (and I suspect, all) Christians tell lies. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably agree with me.

Take the following scenario: It’s your anniversary and you’ve a special dinner planned at an expensive restaurant.  Your wife (who is sensitive about her weight) has put on a few pounds in all the wrong places.

She buys a new dress for the occasion that shows the bulges but that she obviously thinks it looks great on her.  You think it makes her look fat, but you know that would hurt her feelings.  Or make her angry.

She says to you, “How do I look?”

And you say, “You look fat. Put something else on a couple of sizes bigger.  We have dinner reservations in 45 minutes.”

Because you don’t lie.  (Plus, look at the money you just saved on that expensive dinner.)

It seems innocent enough; still you should have told the truth.  Your lie served as an enabler for your wife’s possibly-unhealthy weight gain.

In the strictest interpretation of right and wrong, your little white lie served the enemy that seeks to destroy us, not the God that seeks to save us.

Need a proof text?  James writes, “Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) It is not good to be overweight.

You sinned by lying to your wife in the first place.  Then you sinned again every time you helped your wife pretend she wasn’t gaining weight, since it isn’t good to be overweight and to enable someone when you know better fits the very definition of sin.

On the other hand, suppose you told her the unvarnished truth and broken her heart?

And unless you like having your own heart broken, you’ve just violated the Golden Rule of doing unto others in the manner in which you would have done to you.  Which is ALSO sin.

The example is a bit simplistic and the points stretched to their limit to serve my analogy, but you can think of all kinds of scenarios in which circumstances would force you to lie, unless you either lived around flawless people or lived all alone all your life.

I’m not talking about deliberative, manipulative lies such as those emanating from the halls of Congress or the White House.  Or defensive lies to cover up other misdeeds.  I’m talking about when you say something comforting to someone who needs comforting, rather than the truth.

Like when you comfort the widow of a guy you couldn’t stand by making up something nice to say about him even when you can’t think of anything nice that is true.

I’m a story-teller — I like to make my points by telling an illustrative story.  I don’t make the stories up — there are too many real examples, but I try to make them entertaining.

And since I am relating real situations, in some cases, as they used to say on Dragnet, “the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

But in the simplest and most basic understanding of the text, it also makes me a liar.  Even if the basic story is true, changes or embellishments make the story untrue, in the logical sense that if any part of a statement is not true, the entire statement is not true.

“A little leaven spoileth the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9)

We all try to tell the truth. And to hide behind circumstance is simply situation ethics, which renders the ‘ethics’ part meaningless.

“Situation Ethics: a system of ethics by which acts are judged within their contexts instead of by categorical principles” — Merriam Webster Online

It is a conundrum.  How can one be a Christian and repent of his sins and continue to commit them?

I chose ‘lying’ to highlight because of the multiplicity of verses condemning it as sin and because of its direct linkage to the devil by no less an authority that the Lord Himself.

Assessment:

How can one still be a Christian if one still tells lies?  White lies, black lies, purple lies — they are still lies.  They are sin.  James says “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

The Pharisees once set a trap for Jesus, hoping He would fall into it.

“But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:34)

Do you see the trap?  They were trying to get Jesus to single out the worst sin.  No matter which commandment He chose, it would serve to subordinate all the others, creating categories of sin.

The Pharisees correctly saw that as blasphemy.  If one sin is worst, the rest are minimalized by default.  God is now a respecter of persons — and sin is no longer just sin.

If one is to be judged by the law, he is to be judged by the whole law, and not just part of it.  Or else part of it is law, while the rest are merely recommendations.  No man can serve two masters.

Jesus recognized the trap and avoided it.

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

This isn’t simply an interesting story or an example of how Jesus confounded His critics.  There is an illustration here.  One can become trapped in the minutiae of the Law, and once entangled, it is impossible to get free, even if one is saved.

The following verses are often cited as a proof text that one can lose one’s salvation.

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” (2nd Peter 2:20)

In the first instance, what is under discussion is a Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thus aware of his sin.  Once entangled in sin, his latter end is worse than his beginning.

The beginning here can only refer to when he was first saved.  Before that, he was lost.  And lost is lost – there are no degrees of being “more” lost than someone else.

Logically, a saved person who gets mired in sin is much worse off than a sinner freshly washed in the Blood of the Lamb.  He knows sin for what it is and knows when he is grieving the Holy Spirit.

A lost person would be no worse off being lost now than he was when he was lost before.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

It is IMPOSSIBLE because if they need renewing unto repentance, it means His sacrifice wasn’t enough to keep you, putting Him to an open shame.

OR, it means that if you lose your salvation, you are forever lost and can never get it back.  You were saved by grace, but now you are lost forever by your works.

It MUST be one or the other.  Is it impossible to fall away?  Or impossible to renew? Something is impossible — we can’t pretend it means both or neither.

The Bible makes no distinctions between sin — Jesus equated anger with murder, lust with adultery and lying with an alliance with the devil.  When asked to distinguish between sins, Jesus recognized it as a spiritual trap.

All sin is sin, and even one sin is enough to keep a person from entering heaven.  But the Blood of Christ cleanses us from ALL sin.

A person who lived an exemplary life, never did anybody harm, but told his wife she looked good in a dress that made her look fat, would be barred from heaven by that one lie.  Yes?

So how is it that a Christian can tell a white lie and not lose his salvation?  That makes no logical sense.

UNLESS it is true and that the Blood of Christ really DOES cleanse us of all sin.  All sin.  Not just the big ones before we are saved and the little ones afterwards.  It must be either all or none.

Or it doesn’t make any logical or spiritual sense.

Originally Published: December 15, 2009

Featured Commentary: Apologetics ala Animus

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