Tuesday, December 18, 2007
(The Church--the pillar and foundation of the truth. This is the front of one of our churches in an area called Kamkumung).
One of the more difficult aspects of living here is dealing with lies. It seems we face lying each day. In fact we hear some people almost fatalistically say, ‘this is just the way things are in PNG.’ As if to say, we can’t help it, we are born to lie.
Barring technical language, the most common type of lie that we experience we coined as ‘relational’ lies. That is, in order to protect the relationship we have to lie. This is not as noble as one might think. It is not like the lies of the midwives of Exodus who lied to Pharaoh to protect the children of Israel. Neither is the lie in the context of war. It was Winston Churchill who captured this nicely stating that the truth is so precious that it has to be protected by a bodyguard of lies. Yet, the idea in PNG is that until the relationship is firmly established it may have to be protected in lies. That is, a young relationship can’t handle the truth. So people lie about who they are, or what they’ve done, or what they want to do. There is another reason for lying and that we say is to protect oneself from being ashamed. Some have classified PNG as a shame culture, the idea is that you have to lie to protect yourself from shame. In the end you could say, lying serves to protect a relationship in its infancy from shame. Coming from the West, this is difficult to handle. Lying in a relationship—at whatever stage—we feel undermines the integrity of the relationship. ‘How do you build a solid relationship on the quicksand of lies?’ we might ask.
There are of course more sinister lies that we face. Some of these are indeed induced by poverty, we feel. People stealing something and stating very matter-of-factly that they know nothing; even leaders in the church lying to garner their own income, wants and desires. People fabricating traumatic stories, just to gain some extra spending money. We've been told that they've lost their child to malaria, their wife to giving birth and they have to bring a dead body to their village—all of which we learn later is not true.
The difficulty that we face as bearers of the truth is to show the transcendent, eternal, God-given value of the truth in a shame and poverty stricken country. The truth is indeed one of the most precious attributes of God that we have been given. Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He is Truth incarnate. The only way we can effectively address the lies is to point people to the TRUTH. That is, point to Christ and model how He lived it. We learn in Scripture that the keeper of the truth is His Church, the pillar and foundation of the truth. We praise God that the head of the Church is Christ and He commands us, barring no cost to self, to speak the truth in love!