Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.
And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
When is lying okay? This a question I have asked many times over the years to students in different youth groups, from Nevada to Alaska to California. Typically, the first response is the good “Christian” response of: never. Then I ask, “What about if someone asks you if an outfit makes them look overweight and you do think it does? Then what?” That gets them thinking. Then I follow it up with, “What about if it is a matter of life and death? Should you lie then?” That really gets them quiet. Maybe the issue of lying is not as cut and dried as we think.
A few years ago, an article appeared in the Huffington Post asking the question “When Is It Okay to Lie?” Their answer was basically: do whatever brings you closer to the person you are talking to. If the truth will do that, then tell the truth. If a lie helps, then that is the way to go. On the other hand, if you are trying to end a relationship, they suggest lying as much as is necessary to end it. There seems to be a general principle in our world that if a lie will protect the person you are lying to, then that has to be the best way to love that person. For many of us, that seems like sound logic, and from a human standpoint I would agree.
Yet, as believers, we choose to cast aside our own logic for the truth revealed by God. We know ours can be faulty, but His never fails. In 1 Timothy 1:10, those who lie are listed with sinners, murders, and the ungodly, and declares lying as “contrary to sound teaching.” Titus 1:2 and Hebrew 6:18 remark that a fundamental principle of God’s character is that He cannot lie, and we are called to imitate Him (Galatians 5:1). Christ is the best example on this subject, since He lived as human in real social situations. There were so many times throughout His ministry that He could have told a little white lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings, but He consistently spoke the truth in love. This is exactly what we are called to do (Eph. 4:15). Love is really what is at issue here. We claim to hide the truth in an attempt to “love” another, but that is not love at all, at least not the brand of selfless love that we are called to. I think, if we really looked under the surface, our attempts to protect someone or spare their feelings are actually quite self-serving.
In Colossians 3, Paul says it very plainly, “do not lie.” His reasoning behind it is one of identity. Lying is not a part of the new person we are in Christ. We have been created to be like Him in righteousness and holiness. The very first thing that we are asked to stop in Ephesians 4 is lying (falsehood) and to begin to speak the truth to each other. Truth makes us uncomfortable to speak at times and can sting the hearer, but it is just this sort of love that God calls us to and Christ lived as an example for us to follow. This shouldn’t give us license to speak without thinking, but it should cause us to be willing to speak truth as needed regardless of our own comfort or safety.
May we, today, choose to follow God’s path of love through truth rather than love in our own estimation.