Recovering the Virtue of Lying

By Bob Hiller

OK, I will do my best not to bore you with the details of this week’s sports setup. This past week, after losing to Oregon in the NCAA Tournament, Duke’s head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, was caught on camera having a long conversation with opposing player Dillon Brooks. After defeating Duke, Brooks got caught up in the moment and didn’t act very respectfully. During the handshake, Coach K told Brooks he was too good of a player to act that way. When asked about it, Brooks told reporters, “Coach K is a legend. He just told me that I’m too good of a player to be showing off at the end. And you know, he’s right. I gotta respect Duke.” Classy. Well spoken. Good on that young man.

Later, however, when asked about it, Coach K denied saying that at all. He said he simply told Brooks he was a “terrific player.” Later in the week, when again confronted by reporters, Krzyzewski admitted that he said more than that, but wanted to be clear that he never called Brooks a show-off. That was what he intended to deny, not that he had talked to Brooks about his antics. Coach K was caught in a lie and had to spin his way out of it.

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Thank you if you are still reading. Why couldn’t Coach K, arguably the most respected coach on the planet, just admit that he lied? Why did he have to turn into a politician and spin his story? This was the topic of discussion on the Colin Cowherd show on Tuesday, to which the host made a phenomenal point. Cowherd argued that Coach K can’t admit that he lied for the same reason politicians can never give a straight answer or admit when they have been caught in a lie: the media will ruin them. “They’d make postcards and memes that read ‘I’m a liar’ with the politicians face all over them,” said Cowherd. And he’s right. No one in the national spotlight can ever cop to lying for fear that it will be held against them for the rest of their lives. No one is allowed to be a liar any more.

Isn’t this a good thing? I mean, don’t we want people to be honest? Of course we do, but that is not what happens in a culture of fear and intimidation. See, as much as we talk about tolerating people and loving everyone, no matter what their mistakes, we simply will not allow anyone to be a sinner. When they do sin, we’ll make it part of their “narrative” and use it as a way to devalue anything they may or may not do. In the sports world, unless they start winning, we won’t ever forgive them. In the political world, opposing parties will take any sin, blow it so far out of proportion you won’t believe anyone could act so evil, and then treat their opponent as the unbearable sinner that they are. So, people live in fear of getting caught in a lie and learn to spin it when they are exposed.

This is why we need to recover the language of sin in our culture. To “spin” a Bible verse, we need to let every man and woman be a liar. Here is where the Biblical category of “sinner” is actually good for society. See, if we believe that all humanity has a propensity to sin and lie, then when Coach K does it, we won’t be shocked and he won’t have to waffle and spin in order to save face. Instead, he could confess it. He could admit that he did it, ask for forgiveness from the ever benevolent media and public, and move on absolved.

But, alas, things don’t work that way in our world. The media, for example, loves to build people up only to tear them down. They hold sinful people to impossibly high standards and then love to watch the inevitable fall (sometimes they even help orchestrate it). Instead of giving grace, the media labels, accuses, and teaches us, the consumers, to do the same. So, anyone who has to deal constantly with the media lives in fear of having their name dragged through the mud. After all, alongside our body, family, and property, our reputation is one of our greatest possessions.

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The media allows no one to be a sinner. They come only to kill and destroy sinners. Once a sinner is found, they are exposed, slandered, gossiped over, and left for dead.

I can’t help but wonder if this is why so many people want to stay away from the church: we don’t allow anyone to be sinners. Sure, we talk a big game about being grace-filled people. But, as soon as someone admits to homosexual temptation or a teenage girl shows up pregnant, or the trustees van is parked outside the bar yet again, congregational media begins to craft its stories. Accusations and innuendo drive the conversation, sinners are labeled, and no one is allowed to confess and be forgiven. Fear reigns. Sins remain hidden (where the devil loves them). Bondage is spun.

The problem with the media is there is no such thing as a free absolution. The church should not be this way. Everyone in the church is to be a liar or a sinner of some sort. That is to say, church should be the one place where we are free to confess that we are sinners. It should be the one place where we are free to admit our struggles, our lusts, our anger, our hatred, our laziness, and our gossip. It should be the one place we are free to be sinners, for without being free to confess, we’ll never be able to hear the Word from the cross.

Christ, as has been said, comes only for sinners. I pray you find a church where you are allowed to be one. Because, dear sinner, Christ is there for you in absolving words and in bread and wine. He pursues you, bleeds for you, baptizes you, feeds and nourishes you with His body and blood. He will define you with the labels of grace: “beloved,” “son,” “bride,” and “friend.” No matter what your church has done to harm you, how you have been labeled, or what you have done, you are sinner and Jesus died for you.

Who knows? Perhaps if we in the church can recover the virtue of allowing people to be liars (that is, letting them confess freely in order to be absolved), Christ actually might free people to be honest!

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