Colossians 3:9 (ESV)
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
What is lying? I would define lying as the deliberate attempt to convey what is untrue when you ought to convey what is true.
Let me give you an example of what Paul is NOT talking about. If somebody broke into my house with a gun, tied me up, and asked me where my wife was so he could kill her, I would have no trouble lying to him. In that situation, there is no moral “ought” that would compel me to tell him the truth about where she was. Honestly, there are better options than lying. I could refuse to tell him. Or I could say, “I don’t know” and justify in my mind, “Well, since I know she is in the downstairs bedroom but I’m not exactly sure what part of the bedroom she’s hiding in, I can honestly say that I don’t know where she is.” That is probably a better option than saying, “She’s not in the house.” Regardless, I don’t owe this criminal the truth about anything at this point, so I don’t think Paul has that kind of a scenario in mind.
When he is talking about lying to “one another,” he is talking about the necessity for Christian relationships in the local church to be grounded on the truth. First, there is theological truth. What is true about God, who he is, what he expects of us? What is true about man, who he is, and what he needs? And there is the truth about Christ, who he is and what he’s done. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). There are true answers to all of these questions, and for every person who is “in Christ,” these truths must characterize our worldviews. This means we must constantly be searching the Scriptures to grow in our understanding of the truth.
There is more to the truth though than just doctrinal exactness. We must live true lives. What we say we are, we must be. What we really are is what people should know us to be. There is more to “Do not lie to one another” than simply not telling little white lies, or big black ones for that matter. We are members of one another and should be slowly but surely changing into the image of Christ. Jesus never lied to anybody about anything, and he wants that to be true of us as well.
Lying is so devastating because in the end, the only thing we have to go on is the promises of God. Can you imagine if the Gospel were just a sick joke, a lie that God made up? Can you imagine if Jesus really was God in the flesh, and he came and told us a big fat lie? Can you imagine dying and coming to know the truth about God, only to find out the truth is the opposite of what he told us was true? What a horrible thought to think I was headed to heaven only to find out I’ve been consigned to hell! Well, it’s horrible as well to find out that the people you are supposed to know and love the most have been lying to you. We depend on each other, and you can’t make any progress if you can’t trust the people you depend on. Think of having to walk across the Royal Gorge. You can either go across a solid, cement bridge with sufficient cables and structure to support you and several hundred others. You could run across such a bridge together. Now think of trying to cross the Gorge on a rickety bridge of wooden planks that just may not support 50 pounds let alone your body weight. Some of those planks may be sturdy enough, some not. And you can’t tell by looking at them. How much progress could you make across such a bridge?
If your relationship with me is like the first bridge, you can make a lot of progress with me in getting things done for God’s glory. If your relationship with me is like the second, you’ll probably make little if any progress. Trying to cross the chasms of life with a bunch of lying church members just doesn’t end well. You can’t trust them anymore than you can trust the next rotten plank. You’ll never really make any progress. God will never be glorified directly by our actions if we don’t make the truth a high priority.
Jesus lived the truth and then died with every lie that his people have ever told, white or black, stapled to his body by the nails of the cross. He took those lies and buried them in the depths of the ocean of God’s forgetfulness so that we’ll never stand before God as condemned liars again. What an amazing truth! Jesus knows enough about lying to help us all learn to be truer people. We all know the worst about each other already. Each of us is responsible for Jesus’ death. I am! You are! Why should I be so ashamed if you know lesser sinful struggles I have when you might be able to help me make significant progress toward Christlikeness if you knew and were willing and able to help me grow?
So to whatever degree your life is a lie, since you’ve been raised with Christ and put off the old man and put on the new man, stop lying to your fellow church members. Instead, think about the truth, live the truth, and tell the truth.
God, please help us to be true!