Have you ever tried to convince someone they were lying and they genuinely did not believe you? This may be because their definition of lying was reduced to, “Intentionally sharing information that is known to be false for the purpose of deceiving another person to gain some type of advantage.” I believe that is a very good definition of lying. It captures much of what is prohibited in Exodus 20:16, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” from the Ten Commandments.
But let us ask another question. Does the above definition capture everything that Jesus said we are to pursue in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”? I believe Jesus’ call to live in the truth is more than the avoidance of intentional, premeditated false statements.
But what else is there? There are all of those facts and realities that we just wish were not true. Maybe it’s a particular insecurity we feel, the effect of eating too many desserts, a fact about our family we wish were not true, an ability we wish we had but do not, a gadget we cannot afford but want anyway, or something else that we wish that was which is not (or vise versa).
How many of us choose to ignore one of these truths and then become a slave to the choices we made as we ignored them? This is what Jesus went on to say in John 8:34, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” The contrast to sin and slavery in this passage is not righteousness and choice, but truth and freedom.
How does this relate to our original question? When you live falsely it becomes very difficult (if not impossible) to speak truthfully. However, because you have ignored certain realities, you do not hear yourself lying. In fact you may not be intentionally sharing information that is known to be false for the purpose of deceiving another person to gain some type of advantage. You may be sincerely seeking to get someone to understand your point of view.
BUT, this “point of view” is one that has ignored certain key realities. Therefore, the sincerity cannot be equated with honesty or truth. While what is being said may not fit our Exodus 20 definition of lying, it falls short of our John 8 definition of living truly.
The conclusion of this matter is that denial is deception. It is self-deception that as we interact with others we expect them to buy into (and often become offended if they do not). The application of this material has to do with how to disciple someone in this situation. In order to “win your brother” (Matthew 18:15) in this situation, you must help them see their denial. Until they recognize or acknowledge what they are denying, they will not be convicted of the falseness (of folly) of their statements.
Ultimately, we cannot convict another person and we cannot give someone “eyes to see.” This is the job of the Holy Spirit. But you now know how to pray for them. You understand the situation in a way that makes their sin less of a personal offense (and ultimately between them and God – Psalm 51:4). You also know how to cooperate with the work of God in your friend’s life.