Can Christians lie under certain circumstances?
Many are familiar with the different approaches noted by the Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, between her willingness to lie in order to protect Jews (that were hiding in her house) from the German government and the truthful responses by her sister-in-law. In her book, she acknowledges her personal struggle with whether or not God would approve of her act of lying in order to protect others from harm, and her sister-in-law’s insistence that a Christian must always tell the truth and trust the consequences to God.
That was the debate that excited a middle school age class of kids in a Christian Co-op that my wife assisted in recently. Her followup letter to a fellow instructor provides some helpful insights into this opinionated subject. It also demonstrates the real struggle we all wrestle with in trying to teach the truth as best as we can, that sometimes requires that we go back and try to bring our human efforts back in line with Scripture.
She does a good job of bringing light to an emotional subject and I include it here below for your consideration.
I was talking to my husband about our topic today on Rahab and whether or not it is ok to lie in certain situations. It seemed to me most of the students felt it was ok to lie if it is for a good reason. I’d like to share some more thoughts as I feel I contributed to that false conclusion.
The part I shared regarding – when man’s law and God’s law come into conflict we must obey God – my husband told me, yes, that does sometimes occur, but in this case I misapplied it.
He reminded me that we have God’s truth in his word, solid and unchanging. And according to his word he hates lying. (Prov 6:17, Col 3:9, 1 John 2:21) and he commands us not to lie, but to speak truth (Zec 8:16). And there are no exceptions in scripture where lying is accepted by God. I think the kids may have missed the clear strong language God uses about lying.
God may seem silent regarding Rahab’s lying and even seem to bless her, but it does not mean he is pleased with it or accepts it. He seems instead to put focus on her faith wherein she demonstrated a willingness to put God first at personal risk on behalf of others. She was also a very new believer and it is likely God honored her amazing faith in spite of other sins in her life. But that does not mean that he accepted her lies as no big deal.
He also reminded me, God is gracious, withholding punishment until he determines it is time. His word states that every one of us will be held accountable for every careless word (Matt 12:36). So in that sense even Rahab will eventually be held accountable for the violation of God’s word.
But then there is the Love of God; to send his son to take the wrath we deserve, if we receive his gift and submit to him. When Rahab is before the judgment and shown her sin and then repents of that sin (which she may never have known at the time she committed) she will be forgiven.
I believe lying of any kind dishonors God and I believe I must repent when he reveals any sin to me. [Name omitted], please forgive me for leaving a stumbling block before the children today, after reflection I don’t see that my comments were helpful in shedding light on God’s word regarding the subject of lying. Instead I may have brought confusion.
It might be worth considering whether or not to readdress this subject with the students to help remind them of what God says about sin – specifically lying in this story.
You have allowed God to use you in powerful ways to bring “life” to the ancient word, sharing so much food for the children of God. We are blessed to have you as our Bible leader!!!
Sister in Christ, [Name omitted]