Some sermons are more entertaining than others. Some make us laugh; others make us cry. A female worshipper whom I had not seen in church for a while told me that she was attending another congregation. She told me that her preacher “says things I like to hear.” That description stuck in my mind after our conversation.
I kept thinking about the words of Paul in II Timothy 4:3: “… the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but … heap to themselves, teachers, having itching ears …” Maybe Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message makes it a bit clearer: “… there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food — catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They will turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.”
Reading a friend’s book, this phrase jumped out at me — we choose gentle lies over hard truths. Perhaps that describes not only the state of many pulpits today but also our national appetites in the political realm. For so many, it seems easier to repeat a short “sound bite” than to dig for the whole story. Repeated often enough, that “gentle lie” can become a reality in our thinking. Then we have no stomach for the hard truth.
We may not be severely affected by some political gentle lie, but if we are deceived by a spiritual lie, the consequences may be much more devastating. When Blaise Pascal, the 17th century inventor of the calculator, was challenged about his faith in God, he responded: “If I believe in God and life after death and you do not, and if there is no God, we both lose when we die. However, if there is a God you still lose and I gain everything.”
Among other penetrating quotes, Pascal also said: “Don’t try to add more years to your life. Better add more life to your years.”
Gentle lies — those that explain away truth or dismiss it as being unrealistic — may be more tolerable in our society today. But the reality is that the truth is the only eternal measure by which we will each be judged. Jesus did not say that a lie will make you free, but he did say, “You will know the truth, and it will make you free.”
I place my confidence in the truth — as hard as it may be at times — and not the gentle lies that are more easily swallowed! What do you believe?