I did a lot of reading over Christmas break. In fact, one of my goals this year is to read at least 3 books a month. Even though it’s perhaps the most ambitious goal I’ve made yet, I think it is quite attainable. One of the books I read was entitled People of the Lie, written by Dr. M. Scott Peck.
Peck’s story of how he became a Christian first piqued my interest and subsequently caused me to read the book. Peck, a psychiatrist by trade, counseled numerous people, and certainly had a few stories to tell. During his counseling sessions, he came across certain people that simply confused him. He could make no sense of their core issues, and they were extremely hard to “nail down,” as the saying goes.
Eventually, Peck realized that the problem with these particular people was not necessarily a mental illness, but rather that they were evil people, genuinely evil. And because Dr. Peck realized that there was such a thing as evil, he eventually came to believe in Christianity, and claimed Jesus as his Lord (before, he had professed a type of Hindu, Islamic mysticism of sorts.)
And so, with his conversion story in mind, I read through the book. While I didn’t agree with all of it, People of the Lie caused me to think. Peck’s ideas caused me to sit down and really consider the nature of evil, and what makes evil, well, evil.
According to Peck, evil is defined as, “using power that was originally intended to cause life to grow, whether spiritual or physical, and instead, using that power to kill life and prevent growth of any kind.” He quoted from the book of John about the sheep and shepherd, “The thief comes to steal kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Put simply, evil is live spelled backwards, and so it stands for everything opposite of what “live” is.
The particular people he counseled, and labeled as “evil”, were those who stunted physical, spiritual and emotional growth within a family or relational dynamic. For example, he related the story of a mom and dad with two sons, the older of which had committed suicide with a .22 rifle. The younger son went through a period of depression, and it seemed he would not be getting better anytime soon. During counseling, the son was telling Dr. Peck about Christmas, and he let Peck know that he got a gun for Christmas, right after his older brother had committed suicide. In fact, he received as a Christmas gift the very suicide weapon his older brother had used!
Peck could not believe it, and honestly neither could I. The parents, who he talked with after the son’s session, honestly thought that giving their son a suicide weapon was an okay thing, and that’s what struck Peck as most absurd. These outwardly sane parents did the most insane thing by giving their son the weapon his older brother had committed suicide with. Like, who in their right mind would do that?? Peck labels this kind of negligence to promoting a spirit of growth as evil, and I think rightly so. The parents were evil, not in an overt manner, but in an insidious one. But how could they do such a thing? And this is where I probably learned the most from the book.
The parents could do such a thing, because they were liars.
I can already hear objections…
“Wait, you’re telling me, that the reason his parents were so evil and negligent was because they lied? How is lying even a serious deal?”
And perhaps our objector has a point. Why should lying seem like a big deal? Honestly, lying never really struck me as something extremely serious. Yes, it’s a sin, and yes, we should not do it. But to me, murder or rape or abuse or lusting seems like a much “worse” sin compared to lying.
You see, the parents were lying to themselves. They told themselves, somehow, that their son would get better soon. He would be alright. They wouldn’t have to get too involved, and they wouldn’t have to sacrifice much to promote a healthy environment after a family member committed suicide. After all, a .22 rifle is a very expensive gift, and it’s all they could probably have afforded. Each one of the previous statements was a lie the parents spoke to themselves.
In fact, all evil people lie to themselves. Hitler, for example, had probably so convinced himself that he was doing nothing wrong. He had utterly lied to himself, believed that lie, and committed atrocities according to his false sense of reality. The only difference between Hitler and these parents is the power that each commanded. In each situation, however, the problem was the same. A lie, or many lies, was told, believed, and acted upon.
So all this to say just a couple of things….
1. Lying is serious.
Please refer to the previous two paragraphs and examples.
2. Stop lying to yourself.
Do you know why satan is called the father of lies? Lies are the main weapon he uses against people in this world. He creates a false reality that is out of joint with the true reality, and that’s where serious sin can occur, within that false sense of reality. When satan does lie to us, the lie he most often uses goes something like, “You are not worthy of being loved unless you do X, Y, or Z. You are not worthy unless ______.” As humans who crave acceptance, we will go to great lengths to become worthy of someone’s love, even if we have to violate laws and moral codes. I’ve spotted this lie in my own life, and I’ve spotted this lie in the lives of others I know and others I read about. satan plants the lie, and then we allow it to grow and flourish when we repeat that lie to ourselves and come to believe it as truth. In my own life, the lie goes something like this: “I am not worthy unless I live the good Christian life. I am not worthy unless I make good grades and make my life count for something. I am not worthy if I do not do my best. I am not worthy unless all of the moms at my church tell their daughters they ought to date me.”
3. Don’t believe the lies that the world tells you; believe what Christ says about you.
Do you know why Christ calls himself “the way the truth and the life?” When we understand ourselves in light of Christ and his work on the cross, everything begins to slowly make sense, because we have grasped the ultimate reality. Christ breaks into our reality and presents the perfect antidote to the lies satan tells us. Christ says, “Though you are a sinner and not worthy, yet will I love you and count you worthy by sacrificing the most anyone could ever give.” The truth of Jesus Christ perfectly counters the lies of satan.
To the person who does not follow Jesus: Until you recognize the lies being told to you, and the lies you are telling yourself, you will not be able to live an abundant life. How futile it is to make yourself worthy of love, because according to the standards of the world, you will always fall short! Someone will always say, whether through word or deed, “You are not enough.” You will be caught in an endless cycle of trying to prove yourself worthy, when Christ already says, “You are worthy. I died for you, is that not enough?” All you have to do is believe what Christ says about you and make the reality of the cross your ultimate reality.
To the person who follows Jesus: Stop believing the lies satan is telling you! According to God, you are worthy of love! You are holy! If we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, we can never disappoint God. Did you know that? He can never stop being satisfied in us, because when he looks at us, he sees Christ. When we sin, he may be grieved, but only because we are missing out on the abundant life he is offering. But please, remove the word “disappointed” from your vocabulary when talking about what God thinks of us.
The peculiar beauty of what Christ says about us lies in the very fact that it’s not about us! What makes us most worthy is not what we have done, but solely what Christ has done. And it’s odd, and counter-intuitive, and counter-cultural. The world says, “Do this, do that, and you might be considered worthy.” Christ says, “I’ve done this, I’ve done that, and now you are counted worthy, if you simply believe, because of what I have done.” It’s so simple, and yet so humbling. I think that’s what makes it so difficult to believe. Could it be that I have nothing to bring to the table except my sin? Could it be that all I have to do to find acceptance and love is to recognize that I have no acceptance in God’s eyes apart from Christ? The answer is a resounding yes. After all, it’s not about us; it’s about Christ and who he says we are!