The Love, the Truth, and the Life

Illustration by Asia Cunningham

Illustration by Asia Cunningham

As a kid, I was always confused by the ways of Satan. Wouldn’t he be so easy to figure out if he was just “the father of lies” like the Bible said he was? Couldn’t Adam and Eve had just said “no” to Satan’s forbidden fruit when there were plenty of other trees in the garden? Couldn’t Jesus have just shooed him away in Matthew before the temptation had even begun? How is it that someone so obviously deceitful can trick us into sinning more often than we can imagine? Are we really that gullible?

It was not until I was in high school that I discovered something about Satan, something that is true about all the best liars – they never completely lie. Consider the times in the Bible when the Devil tempts people. To Eve he says, “You will become like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 2:5). He was right. In the sense of cognizance of her wrongdoing, Eve certainly became like God after eating the forbidden fruit and sharing it with her husband (Genesis 2:7). When the devil began to tempt Jesus, he noted that Christ could turn a stone to bread to satisfy His hunger – also a complete truth. Today, companies dupe customers into buying their product based on a few of its positive qualities while their advertisements downplay the negative aspects. Pharmaceutical company ads list side effects for their pills at warp speed and expect the customer to understand the risks and rewards anyway. Politicians make promises in campaigns, win elections, keep half of their promises, then go back and campaign again saying that they kept all of the promises. Good liars speak a lot of truth.

Thus, when Christ calls Satan “the father of lies” (John 10:44), He does not mean that our adversary cannot project some semblance of truth. In fact, it often means that a portion of the truth will be projected in what he says or propagates. It’s the distortion that makes him so diabolical; the duplicity that makes him destructive. He does it today, telling us that the sin we want will feel good for a moment – which it certainly will – while conveniently passing over the part where it will lead to serious consequences in the long run (and sometimes in the present as well). But his lies go far beyond the individual situation; indeed, they are often repeatedly and publicly spread.

In his brilliance, Satan even uses the Bible itself to perpetuate his falsities, for which he is literally hell-bent. He has construed from positive intentions of Christian people a great lie that saturates our cultural psyche. He has preyed on the human foibles of the 20th century – all the injustice, genocide, and bloodshed – and created for himself an entire sect of the population. Nefariously, the devil has taken hold of the debate of Human Rights. We see his hand in burning, ransacked convenience stores in Ferguson, Missouri, and we see it in state legislatures all across this country. With a broader perspective, however, we can understand how Satan has twisted our benevolence to wage an unremitting war on God’s Word itself.

Consider, if you will, the scope of things to which the phrase “Human Rights” can apply – equality in places where masked racism has proved prevalent, the wearing down of gender roles, and even the tantamount relationship between homosexual and heterosexual marriages in many of the states of this Union. People from diverse belief systems, from God-denying Atheists to God-affirming Evangelicals, have agreed on many of these issues because of a pervasive morality which sprung up during World War II and augments to this day. “Equality is the new wave of evolution!” says the Atheist. This should not surprise anyone; non-believers have been susceptible to the devil’s schemes since original sin. The shocking conclusion that has been reached on these issues comes from the other side of the coin – Christians who believe in the Bible and say that “Jesus loves everyone equally so we should accept everything people do equally!”

The roots of this idea, of course, are entirely positive. No gay man should be chemically castrated for his openness about his sexual orientation as A.M. Turing (the protagonist of the Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game) was in 1952. Indeed, we should not impose our religion on the entire populace, for nothing in the Bible allows humans to write such laws. A qualified black woman should be paid the same amount to work the same job as an equally-qualified white man; there is no gray area in that dichotomy. However, Satan has taken this good thing and made it into a widespread lie. We have driven the national discussion to the point where the Bible is personified as a book which accepts every human activity because God loves humans, a greatly misconstrued view of God’s Word. Our society zeroes in on God’s love and ignores an equally-important quality: His truth.

Satan has, in effect, created a half-truth of the Bible in our minds. He has developed the theory that an individual can endorse what they like and ignore what they do not. The Bible explicitly denies that option. Paul, the most educated writer of the New Testament writers, states that “All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, [and] for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The opening word to that verse is not some or whatever the reader likes. You must accept the Bible entirely or deny it entirely. When Romans considers homosexual sex “unnatural” and a mark of human depravity (Romans 1:19-28), we cannot simply remove that from the Bible. When Ephesians commands a wife to submit to her husband as she does to God, and for a husband to love his wife so deeply that he would endure torture and death for her protection (Ephesians 5:22-29), we cannot remove that either.

Why, however, is this the case? Why can we not simply adapt the words of God to our cultural norms? The answer is in the character of the Deity who inspired it. Just as Satan is the father of lies, God is the Father of truth – the very thesis to Satan’s antithesis. Everything He says is unequivocally and absolutely true. When He says that something is good and beneficial, that is absolutely true. When He says that something is abhorrent to Him, that is absolutely true. That His representatives on earth would pass over that to “love people” is hubristic and out of touch with the ways of God, but Satan’s half-truth has convinced many modern Christians otherwise.

Moreover, what is love? John says that God Himself is love (1 John 4:8). So when Paul says that “love does not delight in evil” (1 Corinthians 13:6), he really is echoing what the Bible constantly points out – “God does not delight in evil.” According to the Bible, those two statements are equivalent. So whenever we accept and celebrate that which God calls evil or disdain that which God commands, we are not “loving” anyone, because God is love and our actions are of God. However, our society has warped our definition of love to the point that it means unconditional acceptance. They say “what would Jesus do?” when Jesus called religious leaders “sons of hell,” and “wicked” (Matthew 23) and told notorious sinners to “sin no more!” (John 5:14; John 8:11). God has not changed (Hebrews 13:8). He would say the same things today to those who disregard or distort His word as He did to the Pharisees back then – namely, that they have grieved the God they claim to serve with their actions (Matthew 23:24-26).

Here exists the divide between two segments of the church. The aforementioned “side” tends to love others and ignore sinful lifestyle choices; that faction is not “rejoicing with the truth,” but suppressing it (1 Corinthians 13:6). Many believers, leery of abandoning truth altogether, run to the other side, one which skews towards a condescending philosophy. Such behavior is not the answer of the church either, because it is neither “patient” nor “kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4) to immediately turn a person into a pariah because of a series of immoral decisions. We all have issues with which we struggle, and as long as we celebrate Christ and exhibit consistent obedience to His word, it should not matter which sin we struggle with. If an individual is making an honest effort to repent, we must positively reinforce the attitude of contrition and repentance.

The blossoming of this lie that love means unconditional acceptance calls true believers to action. Satan is waging a war all around us. A dire need exists for combatants and for the proliferation of truth. Television and social media have shrunk our world so that word spreads exponentially faster than it used to, so the lie can cross oceans with the click of a mouse. God seeks legitimate truth-seekers, truth-believers, and truth-fighters to address these issues as His Bible did, not as today’s culture does. The fact that you read that last sentence means that He may well be calling you.

What does this mean? It means that each and every truth-believer ought to be able to “rightly divide the word of truth” and to defend the Bible itself as the legitimate word of God (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 3:15). So get reading; talk to your pastor or spiritual mentor; set your heart on knowing the absolute truth of God. Jesus describes Himself as “the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Indeed, Truth and Life come through the same individual – seek truth and life will be thrown in.

The greatest attack Satan employs is his misuse of the word “love,” which is the most frustrating irony in his lie. Love, like Truth and Life, can be found in the absolutely authoritative words of the Bible which Satan tries to disparage. Only when we combine all three can we see the heart of God, and only when we see the heart of God can we truly pursue souls for Him and help bring eternal life to those we love. Satan has clouded the definition of love, so we must fight for God’s truth with fervor. With the whole Truth on our side, however, we can undoubtedly win.