when people lie about us: 1 Corinthians 1

1 Cor. 1.  My friend John had just become famous.  He was driving through a rural area relaxing to the only radio station when it became a call in show whose sole purpose was to describe how terrible John was.  Caller after caller dialed in.  They told lies.  They twisted everything my friend had ever done.  Steam billowed from John’s ears.

“Turn it off,” John’s friends begged him.

John yanked the dial and jammed up the volume.

“Change the station,” John’s friends cried.

“There IS no other station.”  John pounded the dashboard.  “These people are LYING about me!!”   Finally, he couldn’t take it any longer.  He flipped open his cellphone and called in.

“Wow!” the radio talk show host said.  “We have the man himself!”  John started defending himself.  The host cut him off and took more callers.

The next day the story hit the national news.  John now says that calling in was a rookie mistake.  He says that if he’d kept quiet, the only people who would have heard those lies were the 40 people who happened to be listening to that one little tiny good for nothing rinky dink radio station.  Because John tried to defend himself, the lies went viral.

That’s so often how it works, right?  Trying to defend ourselves can make the lies spread faster than wildfires in the west.   So what are we supposed to do when people say bad stuff about us?

Clearly the only solution is to call up the liars and tell them their mothers wear army boots.

Okay.  Probably not.  But honestly?  Aren’t we tempted in our hearts to do something like that?  Don’t we lie awake at night hatching evil schemes of revenge?  Don’t we despise them in our hearts?  We picture all the bad stuff we know about them and recite it to ourselves.  As a pastor named John Yenchko said in a sermon once, we take a virtual snapshot of the liars at their absolute worst and keep it handy in our breastpocket.  That way we can pull it out whenever we want a quick fix.  Who among us would have the strength to do nothing if, like my friend John, we listened to a channel tuned in only to bad stuff about us?

The thing is, we all DO have a channel tuned in to only bad stuff about us.  It plays 24-7.  It’s inescapable.  There’s a voice of accusation leveled at every one of us all day long.  The Biblical explanation is that we have an enemy who does nothing but accuse us, and everything that enemy says is a lie.  Rev. 12:10 and John 8:44.

No WONDER we feel so defensive.  No WONDER we feel vulnerable when other humans tap into that same channel.  No WONDER our blood boils.  No WONDER we can’t just let it slide.

We’re used to hearing all that bad stuff the enemy tells us about ourselves. We all have our ways of trying to drown out that voice.  But we don’t want the volume any louder.  And we certainly don’t want anyone ELSE to hear it.  We don’t want anyone else to hear about how we’re failures, selfish, self-centered, lazy, good-for-nothing, pathetic, wimpy, indecisive, cruel, unloving, uncaring, careless, thoughtless, unloved, unlovable, lying, cheating … okay.  I’ll stop.  But that’s the voice of Satan.  It’s loud.  It’s cruel.  It’s relentless, and it’s untrue.

Is it untrue?  Really?  Because hey, aren’t we all those things some of the time?  Absolutely.  But a grain of truth doesn’t make a lie true.  It just makes it insidious. It makes it, well, diabolical.

So what’s the antidote?  What do we do when our enemy comes up alongside us snickering and tosses a box of kryptonite in our laps?  And what about when the enemy gets our friends in a weak moment, and our friends lie?  Or what if our friends think it their duty to share the worst rumors they’ve heard about us: “I’m only telling you this because I LOVE you SO MUCH, but you should know that so and so is going around saying you’re X.”

Honestly?  Do we really want to even know???  Wouldn’t we have been happier not knowing?  Couldn’t they have found enough love in their hearts to NOT tell us the mean gossip?

We know we shouldn’t pay attention to false rumors.  We know we’ve said bad stuff about other people that we didn’t really mean.  We’ve said things we haven’t really thought through, that we didn’t have a strong foundation for.  And the moment we said it, we probably forgot all about it.  So why should we pay much attention to what other people say?

The Bible is full of practical wisdom like that about why we shouldn’t pay attention to lies.  There’s fortifying verses about how truth stands the test of time.  Lies are exposed.  God protects the reputation of those who love Him.  God is our vindicator.  The only people truly interested in slander are liars.  I’ve stacked those verses up like dominoes at the end of this post.

That kind of shrug-if-off approach can work some of the time for some of the rumors.  But what if the rumors are just plain mortifying?  What if they get us fired?  What if they make our spouses walk out?  What if our children suffer unfairly?  What if the unfair lies dominate our thoughts and block out every shard of common sense we ever had?  What if we get obsessed with revenge?  What if we bore ourselves silly talking about something and yet find ourselves unable to stop?  What then?

Here is where we get to slide into 1 Corinthians 1 and rest there, the way disco dancers sliiiiiddddddde into a split, grin, and say, “Hey, baby.”  Yes, that kind of a slide.  Because this chapter of Paul’s is full of the kind of restful truth that makes us say, ahhhhhhh.  Ready?  Paul says that God “makes foolish” the wisdom of the wise, and that he makes wise the foolish.  Paul says God gives wisdom to the “despised” of the world.  Paul says Jesus will keep us “strong” to the end so we’ll be free from all blame when Jesus returns.  He says that God’s “weakness” is stronger than the greatest of human strength.  He chose things “despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.”  God didn’t choose people the world thinks wise, powerful or wealthy.  He chose things the world considers foolish to shame those who think they are wise and powerful.  Paul says that God in His wisdom knew that the world would “never know him through human wisdom.”  He says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who think they are wise.  So He chose to bring his message of salvation through Jesus through people the world despised.

That means that there is something really, really wonderful about recognizing that we just don’t have it all together.  And whether it happens because we have thwarted desires, or friends betray us behind our backs, or strangers lie bald-faced about us, it doesn’t matter.  One way or another, every one of us discovers that we’re not as wise as we thought.  We discover there are things we can’t fix.  We find that things like our reputations are completely outside our control.

Because frankly, there really isn’t ANYTHING we can do if people are determined to launch a smear campaign.  Defending ourselves backfires.  Litigating to prove our innocence can take years and cost us our house, our possessions and our relationships.  Revenge exacts a high cost.  And the more we talk about lies, the more fuel it adds to the flame.  Once lies go viral, we really can’t defend ourselves.  We’re stuck.  No matter how wise we are, we’re not smart enough to outsmart evil.

Which brings us to the wonderful, liberating, beautiful place of launching ourselves into the arms of God, the way we did when we were little.  Because in God’s world, really?  These lies are so irrelevant.  God knows the truth.  Jesus “is” the truth.  Lies, smear campaigns, gossiping, none of it matters to God.  He knows what’s what.

Here’s what God knows.  He knows the worst possible stuff about us.  Worser than worse. He knows stuff we don’t even let OURSELVES know.  God knows the worst things we’ve ever done, thought or said and still loves us.  Nothing we can do can lessen His love.  He is love.  So to all that bad stuff, God wept.  He died.  He suffered.  He received the penalty we deserve.  And our every bad thing gets erased if we ask for God’s help.  The only requirement for receiving God’s mercy is asking for God’s mercy.  Everything else is done.

So here’s where we get back to the perfection of 1 Corinthians 1.  To get to walk into the world where we never need fear for our reputations again, we have to be willing to let go of our pride.  Because the wisdom of the world is based on pride.  The wisdom of the world is therefore ominously scant.  God’s wisdom is based on truth.  In truth, there’s no room for pride.  Truth says we all fall short of the glory of God, and that God loves us all so much, He went to hell for us so we don’t have to. Truth says we’re not better than anyone – not even the people who lie about us.

Hallelujah.  That’s the only radio station we want to listen to.  And because we’re oh so human, the only way to get that truth into our heads is to tune in to God’s voice every single day.  Every day we wake up full of pride, ready to do it all ourselves, by ourselves, because hey, we’re sure we can.  And within seconds, minutes or hours, we’ve been humbled back into wisdom.

Glory is a gift from God, freely offered to us all, but only a really foolish man is willing to grin and accept God’s salvation as a gift.  There’s a secret to living a rich full life, and it bursts out of the Scriptures.  It’s called believing in the God who lifts up the things the world despises and makes foolish the wisdom of the world.  We have a God who is so wise, that to hang with Him makes us wiser than any philosopher, scholar or thinker this world has ever known.  So if you want to be smarter, if you want to be stronger, if you want to be braver, and if you want to try new things, if you want the strength to ignore the liars – hang with Jesus.  He promises all that and more.  Life with Him makes streams of living water flow from our hearts.  But it’s always going to look a little different than we expect, and that’s to be expected.  Because guess what?  He’s God.  And we’re not.  That’s the only rookie mistake that matters, and luckily God forgives our mistakes.

The best part of all this is that we get to let go of revenge.  I mean, yes, of course.  We all KNOW revenge is a bad idea.  But just trying harder to fix ourselves backfires, the same as trying to defend our reputation does.  Instead, when we give up and trust God to defend our reputations, something magical happens.  We stop needing to despise the liars in our hearts.  We stop looking down on them.  We stop trying to believe the ugly lie that we’re better than they are.  We accept true wisdom, the kind that admits we’re not so perfect, either.  We slip into a world of grace. In that world, we know we need forgiveness, and we’re willing to forgive.

It’s a beautiful place to live.  And honestly?  It’s the only place where true living can begin.

posted by Caroline Coleman in A Chapter a Day on lies, truth and the beauty of wisdom

Some fortifying verses to cling to when people lie about us:

“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.”  Proverbs 10:9.

“The godly are rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead.”  Proverbs 11:8.

“With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous.”  Proverbs 11:9.

“Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.”  Proverbs 12:19

“No harm comes to the godly, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.”  Proverbs 12:21.

“The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.”  Proverbs 13:9.

“Only simpletons believe everything they’re told!”  Proverbs 14:15.

“Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.”  Proverbs 17:4

“Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent – both are detestable to the Lord.”  Proverbs 17:15.

“The crooked heart will not prosper; the lying tongue tumbles into trouble.”  Proverbs 17:20.

“Intelligent people are always ready to learn.  Their ears are open for knowledge.”  Proverbs 18:15

“A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape.”  Proverbs 19:5.

“Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.”  Proverbs 19:11.

“The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.”  Proverbs 20:27.

“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.  But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.  Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.  For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.”  Proverbs 24:16-17.

“Don’t testify against your neighbors without cause; don’t lie about them.  And don’t say, ‘Now I can pay them back for what they’ve done to me!  I’ll get even with them.”  Proverbs 24:28.

“Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse will not land on its intended victim.”  Proverbs 26:2.

 

how to embrace wisdom instead of rules: Romans 15

(Romans 15)  We all need wisdom.  We want to know how to choose our path.  The best piece of advice I ever received was: “Don’t be ruled by the SHOULD’s in your life.”  Here’s my own take on that advice: AVOID RULES.

I know.  I know.  This is a Christian blog, right?  So how come I’m saying what sounds like carpe diem.  Stay tuned.

The thing is that in the Hebrew Scriptures, wisdom is a person.  King Solomon wrote 4,000 years ago that wisdom is standing at the crossroads of our lives and crying out to us.  Proverbs 8:1-11.  Solomon said that right there where we have to make the most important decisions in our lives, there in the place “where the paths meet,” wisdom takes her stand.  So why are we so worried?  Wisdom is telling us which way to go.  She’s calling in a loud voice.  Wisdom isn’t a list of rules but a person who wants to be in a relationship with us.  So the solution to our every choice is not to run through a to do list of musts and shoulds and thou shalts, but instead to embrace wisdom.

How do we do that?  It’s so simple.  It’s like algebra.  Remember?  We are given an equation to solve for x and y, and to figure out what the unknown variables are we plug in information about them from another source.  So to figure out how we listen to the person called Wisdom in Proverbs, we flip over to the New Testament.  There Paul tells us that Jesus Christ “is the wisdom of God”.  1 Corinthians 1:24.  Jesus IS wisdom.   So putting those concepts together, if we want to find wisdom, we just have to embrace Jesus.

We shouldn’t be surprised, Jesus also said he was the way, the life and the truth.  Truth is a person.  The way is a person.  And life is a person.  Embracing Jesus brings life.  Harping on rules is a fast path to a miserable life.

How do we embrace Jesus?  Again, the answer is easy.  Jesus has already embraced us.  He’s done the hard part so we don’t have to.  He loved us before we even loved Him back.  So doing a little God math, if we want  wisdom, we embrace God’s love for us.  We accept that none of us is wise enough to make right choices all the time.  We admit we need mercy not justice.  We realize we are so far from perfect that God came down to die for us.  We ask for help.  And we collapse into His arms and say thank you.

So how does collapsing into the arms of wisdom make us wise?  The first thing to realize is that we are all losing our moral compasses all day long.  We stand at the crossroads from the moment we wake up.  Right away, we start to have choices.  Will we look forward to our day?  Will we anticipate great and wonderful things?  Will we expect goodness?  Will we have hope?

All that happens before our feet hit the ground.  Then come choices that relate to other people.  How will we treat them?  How will we react to the way they treat us?  These choices come at us faster than arrows in a 3D movie.  We duck.  We bend.  We weave.  We go into denial.  We avoid.  But the choices come all the same.

We think we need rules to navigate through these choices, but rules only take us so far.   For instance, we could make a hard and fast rule for ourselves: ALWAYS RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE’S PROPERTY.  That sounds good. But what if our child locks herself inside a friend’s bathroom and starts to scream bloody murder?  No brainer.  We would kick down the door and rescue the child.  We wouldn’t think twice about that door.  The rule ALWAYS SAVE A LIFE trumps the rule ALWAYS RESPECT PROPERTY RIGHTS.  Of course.  But why?  How do we decide which rule is more important?  Where do we GET our moral compasses?  How do we always choose best among all those prickly “always” and thorny “nevers”?

For instance, Jesus praised some men who tore down a roof.  Luke 5:17-26.  Didn’t Jesus respect property?  Didn’t he care about that poor roof?  Scripture says Jesus praised the men for having “confidence” in Him and his ability to heal their paralyzed friend: the men had lowered their sick friend through the tiles in the roof so Jesus could heal him.  And He did – of his paralysis and his sins.

So if our God is happy when we start to tear down roofs, but only when we do it at the right time, or for the right reason, then we need more than rules to navigate our way through life.  We need to love the one who is always honest, always right, and always leads us to the miraculous combination of love and mercy.

Because we humans aren’t so good at finding the right combination of truth and grace.  If we’re all rules all the time, we’re dried up sticks who bore even ourselves. If we’re anything goes, no problem, dude, we become as floppy as overcooked pasta.

To embrace Christ allows us to hear His voice.  That’s why loving Jesus back gives us the wisdom we wanted.  Wisdom is a gift.  And here’s the thing about rules.  Rules will NEVER give us life.  They are heavy.  They are a burden too onerous for us to bear.  They rob us of joy.

God wants us to choose life, not rules.  He says come and hang with me, and we will walk through this journey of life together.  That’s the kind of thinking that allows Paul to point out that some people can be “stronger” than other people, and yet be inconsiderate.  Romans 15:1.  Oh, right.  Sometimes we get “strong” in a certain areas, including even faith, and we become “weak” in sensitivity.  Jesus reminds us to look back in kindness.  Or we can get impatient at how much time it takes to “live in harmony” with others, and forget that the end game is not getting others do do what WE want, no matter how “harmonious” that sounds, but it’s giving praise and glory to God “in one voice.”  It means our voices will rise together with such beauty that even the trees and mountains join in.  Those are the kind of things rules will never teach us.

As Paul says, sometimes all we need is a “reminder.”  Romans 15:15.  But we need these reminders all day long.  Because love is subtle.  It’s nuanced.  Most of all, the kind of love God calls us to is not our natural way.  Let’s go back to that choice that confronts us the moment we wake up.  Will we live each day in hope?  Hope is powerful.  Romans 15:13.  Without hope, we wouldn’t even get out of bed.  Some of us hope in work.  We hope in ourselves.  Or we might hope some unknown person will spot us in a crowd and say, “hey, you’re what I’ve been looking for!”  Those hopes are fine.  They’re okay.  They work up to a point.  But none of them works the best.  That’s because the best hope of all comes not from ourselves, or other people, or being “good,” or doing the “best” we can, but from the glorious love of God. That’s why Paul writes to the citizens of Rome: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13.

There’s a lovely solution to our every choice, and it has nothing to do with ordering ourselves around all day and saying, “I SHOULD do this and I SHOULD do that.”  It’s to just hang with Jesus.  When we start to love Jesus, and realize how much He loves us, we relax.  We are so filled with love we start doing the things we wanted to do all along, but couldn’t no matter how hard we tried.

Embracing Jesus is where life begins.  Our thirsts are quenched.  Our wounds become healed.  The roof of heaven opens.  We hear the trees sing.  The mountains sway.  The mountain goats leap.  The stars shout GLORY.  There’s no time for emptiness, despair or hate because we are embracing love.  Life becomes a thing of joy where we don’t have time to wonder if anyone else is obeying the rules, because we’ve left all the rules behind.  We’re too busy loving back the one who created truth in the first place.

posted by Caroline Coleman in a chapter a day, on how do i find wisdom.