by James M. Kushiner
The story of the world is one of deception. We’ve been duped. The serpent is wise and man is foolish. While the first serpent needed to nuance God and His Word in order to tempt and deceive the woman, the tempter of today’s new man needn’t bother with the strategy: There is no God, the fool says, not only in his heart, but in public places, and in his actions. There is no God in government.
Adam and Eve, abandoning communion with God, choosing to see good and evil for themselves apart from Him, became susceptible thereafter to all manner of deception concerning evil: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” I note that other translations use “sick” as in “incurable” for the Hebrew word anush instead of KJV’s “wicked.” The heart of man suffered this grave, incurable injury, given his separation from the God whom he was meant to worship and commune with.
But what man cannot cure on his own, God was able to heal. The text for the Orthodox Feast of Epiphany asserts that God the Son
“ … came upon earth, taking the form of a servant, being found in the likeness of mortals. For you could not bear, Master, in the compassion of your mercy to watch the human race being tyrannized by the devil, but you came and saved us.”
We are thus gifted with the opportunity to put on the mind of Christ and regain spiritual sight. But the Scriptures insist, and Jesus affirms, that the human race has an implacable adversary, the devil, who still seeks to devour us. He is a tyrant. Jesus speaks of him as the father of lies (John 8:44).
We must ever be on guard against lies. Public lies, private lies, lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves and about other people. We should pray always for the enlightenment of our hearts, that he “correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds” (Prayer of the Hours), so we give no quarter to falsehood. This should begin with our own selves so that we may in time see more clearly, not excusing our failures of love, so that we no longer have a beam of falsehood in our eye, so that we may see more clearly.
Today, we face perhaps an unprecedented onslaught of lies. The lies are old, but the delivery systems for them are highly enhanced: ubiquitous media and appeals to consume and buy and eat. One cannot listen to a ballgame on the radio without hearing, even between pitches and plays on the field, commercials. You cannot drive far on the highways without encountering words telling you what you must buy or do. Apparently we can live by bread alone.
These are mild compared to the lies about morality. I won’t make a list. Let’s just say that sexual delusion is in flood stage, while man ignores the carnage and destruction, yet worries about levels of carbon dioxide. Men knowingly promulgate lies and produce propaganda to protect their interests. Do they sometimes even believe their own propaganda? Isaiah described Israel:
“ … you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter’” (28:15).
Lies divide. Adam and Eve lost their unity by their acceptance of one. Societies can be divided by lies. We cannot fit in with modern society, for we refuse to say black is white. The Christian who lives true to the teachings of the Lord will suffer from the edge of division that the Lord said He came to bring. This clearly applies:
“And in all this [sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry], they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4).
Malign (blasphemeo)—they denounce as evil not only your refusal to sin with them but your implied disapproval. Either the behavior is sinful or it is not.
We cannot lie about it. Nor can we affirm it. That’s because we know the goodness of the Lord and His commandments and cannot deny him. Unlike the devil and those who would force you to speak lies, He is no tyrant, but the Liberator. That Truth makes us free to say, “No.”
James M. Kushiner is the executive director of the Fellowship of St. James (fsj.org).