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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Swallowing Lies: Part 3 of 5

Dishonesty as Character Indicator

Long ago, in another time and political climate, a president perjured himself.  There were two angry camps: the one that called for impeachment, and the one that said that private indiscretion was no one’s business anyway.  But the lies were twofold: they ended on the witness stand, but they started in the bedroom. 

Since than, sex scandals have become the rage among politicians.  The public is still divided; does infidelity reflect on fitness for office, or is there a divide between public and private spheres?  Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  When a politician (or anybody else) carries on an extramarital affair, he is also a person who lies when it is expedient. Who is to know when he will next find it expedient to lie?  In a campaign promise, in a diplomatic exchange, the usual places. 

There are just so darned many places where it would be nice to lie and cheat.  By writing my kid’s paper when his grades are in trouble… By hiding a few choice assets come tax time… By insisting, “I thought it was a 45, sir!”  Once we allow our leaders and ourselves the free pass for extenuating circumstances, we may find that more and more often the circumstances…extenuate.  According to Luke, the way we act in these worst of binds is the best measure of our character.

Thankfully, a tarnished record is also subject to grace.  And since we, with our evil treasures, all fall into Luke's second category, we are to give others the chance to exhibit a change of heart.  “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” writes Matthew. “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (6:14-15).”  So let’s not chase our Jean Valjeans to their graves.  But forgiveness first requires repentance, so for reasonable inference, a person’s record may be fair game.

The expectation of future deceit, based on a history of past deceit, is a poor start for any term of office, any marriage, any relationship at all.  A heart full of deceit will eventually overflow into action; it is hard to overestimate the power of habitual dishonesty to define a person.

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