Updated: Oct 31
If you haven't noticed, it's election time here in the U.S. The air waves are filled with political commercials. What a colossal waste of money! Do any ads actually change a voter's mind? Hopefully, we're all wise to the ways of candidates. If they aren't natural-born liars, politicians soon become very adapt at it. This is nothing new; half-truths and falsehoods have plagued American democracy from the very beginning.
There is a much worse kind of lie we need to be on-guard against. There is a more dangerous lie we frequently fall prey to than one spouted by any candidate.
What is the worst kind of lie? They're the ones we tell ourselves.
In his novel The Brother's Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky writes: "Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love."
Dostoevsky is right. The problem is, we lie to ourselves all the time. Sometimes we do so wittingly, sometimes unwittingly. The prophet Jeremiah declared, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?"
Many of us are familiar with the Disney song which includes this refrain, "Always let your conscience be your guide." Sorry, Pinocchio, this just won't due. Don't listen to the cricket! Our conscience is a big part of the problem. As God reminds us through his prophet, our hearts are deceitful above all things.
Let's go back to politics. A candidate may start off with the purest of intentions. Soon, in the heat of battle, they're encouraged by their advisors to stretch the truth ever so slightly. After all, the opposition has been guilty of egregious falsehoods.
The truth be told, we do the same thing all the time. We seek to cut corners when it come tax return time. Perhaps we do so in our business affairs, if given the chance. We have a perfectly good reason, we tell ourselves. Everyone else does the same.
I need to stop and preach to myself at this point. I need to take a good look in the mirror. I need to see what lies I've been telling myself. However, my conscience is not a reliable mirror. But God's word is. The Law (think Ten Commandments) shows me the truth when I want to lie to myself. I have not loved God with all of my heart, soul, and mind. I haven't loved my neighbor as myself. I haven't let God's love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. This doesn't happen on rare occasions. This doesn't happen every now and then. It happens all the time. It happens on a daily basis. I'm only fooling myself if I believe otherwise, which is why I take such great comfort in something that Martin Luther wrote in his explanation of the Third Article of the Creed: "In this Christian church he daily and richly forgives my sins and the sins of all believers."
Speaking of Luther, tomorrow many Lutheran churches will celebrate the Reformation. Here is a link to a great video clip of what was at stake.
"Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it." Blaise Pascal's words remain very much needed in our day and age.
With penetrating insight, Soren Kierkegaard reminds us: "The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you." He also noted: "There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true."
"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
"Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.
Thus without the Scripture, which has Jesus Christ alone for its object, we know nothing, and see only darkness and confusion in the nature of God and in our own nature.”