“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players” says Shakespeare. Our perception of the world we live in is very important because to a large extent, it determines our values and how we live our lives. Many people live their daily lives like actors and actresses; some like robots and some like dolls. This mass troupe overlays the social, political, academic and religious spheres.
I remember in 1999, a former speaker of the House, Salisu Buhari, was made to resign when he was indicted for giving a false age and using a fake certificate purportedly from the University of Toronto. Though he was given a lenient sentence – which is an insult to justice – the words “University of Toronto” quickly became a cliched slang among Nigerian comedians for quackery. Time and again, we hear of folks whose lives are as fake as elastic glass, duping people for a living – from the street beggar pretending to be blind in one eye to the snake oil politician selling the magic of “change” to the populace.
The political sphere is so saturated with deceit that most of the time leaders are elected not necessarily by emotion or logic, but by the people who choose the lie that suits them. In the same vein, most of what Christian apologists combat are falsehoods at various levels. It takes a spiritual battle to fight deception. That is why part of our spiritual armour is the belt of truth without which one courts disgrace and shame.
“The righteous hate falsehood but the wicked bring shame and disgrace.” (Prov. 3:15) Falsehood means living a lie that one has believed by oneself or presenting lies to others. Falsehood is when a person is following a script and it comes in different forms:
1. Identity crisis. This is a mentality that makes people find it difficult to accept themselves as they are and instead assume a different role. When a person is so fearful of public opinion that he speaks, act or comports himself or herself in a way that will earn their applause, he/she has an identity crisis. It can stem from experiences of rejection and unhealthy upbringing. Its a type of “mask” people wear to hide their inner insecurities.
Identity crises breed unhealthy competition which makes it hard for some folks not to see their friends or colleagues as rivals. They are so consumed with competing with others, that they would rather criticise them on flimsy points than appreciate their efforts. It makes people alter their own looks or personality to fit into their idea of a “perfect icon.” A lady was interviewed on a TV show. She couldn’t leave her house for any reason without wearing a make up. And to make it worse, it takes her at least 3 hours to always complete it. When the creator of the show took her out without a make up she almost couldn’t walk. She is a prisoner to her own lies.
We don’t have to become someone else to be fulfilled in life. We can just be who God has made us to be. The Psalmist says “I praise you [God] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Ps. 139:14) Until we live in this truth, we will keep measuring our lives with others’ yardstick and living a lie. One day I saw a guy living opposite my place and I said to myself, “Oh how I wish I was just this guy!” The Lord spoke to my heart, “Would you also like to have his problems?” Um… no. I had to change my mind and thank God for making me who I am. There are people we fondly admire and who seem to have it all together in public, but if we get to know the problems haunting them behind closed doors, we would run for miles without looking back.
2. Living above your experiences. This is an outgrowth of identity crises. It is when an individual projects a fake image about himself and desperately tries to live up to that image. Such a person usually has an inflated ego tied to this image, so he lives a lie to protect it. Sometimes when I’m discussing with people, its fairly easy to know those who seem to be living a lie – they are always telling sweet stories. They never tell you about their flaws or mistakes, and even when they do, they present themselves as super martyrs. Falsehood makes people conjure revelations and fabricate or exaggerate testimonies in church to impress others. On the long run, it hurts people and damages our witness.
This is why I question “Word of Faith” doctrines because they make Christians live above their experiences. Someone wears his eye glasses, goes for regular medical check up, eats healthy and lives in a clean environment and he is telling you that all sicknesses are from Satan and should be cured only by prayer and confession, that you must never take some medicine or go to a hospital when you are sick because that is “lack of faith.” That is spiritual exploitation.
Many Christians live above their experiences in order to “belong.” They try to appear hyper-spiritual and hide their real selves because that is the only acceptable role in their circle. But we can’t all be on the same spiritual wavelength. We should think of ourselves “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given” us (Rom. 13:2). When all Christians in a movement are pressured to regurgitate a canned creed: “I am saved, sanctified and spirit-filled,” they are not being real. God works on originals, not on photocopies.
3. Man-made ideologies. These are schools of thought or worldviews that condition people to think only within a given precinct. It gives people preconceived notions with which they must explain away every supernatural experience. Many of those who claim to be freethinkers or rationalists are neither free in thinking nor rational in judgement. They worship at the altar of science and reject whatever is beyond their idol. They are just as bigoted and dogmatic as any religious fanatic.
Empiricism is a worldview that states that whatever cannot be experientially proved should be rejected as a myth. Thus, empiricists will always demand for scientific evidences for every claim. The logical fallacy of this view is that one doesn’t have to see an evidence of a thing before its existence is accepted. Its just like saying “there can’t possibly be life elsewhere in the universe because we’ve never seen evidence of it.” That is a silly argument. Science has its limitations and there is much humility and rationality when we admit that there are things we can’t explain, prove or disprove. Rejecting something because its evidences contradict your notion of reality and truth is living a lie.
Another worldview is Marxism which presupposes that material need is the motivation behind all human emotion and activity. When people to church or jihadists blow up a plane, these are attributed to lack of material wealth. Thus, if people have money, they won’t need to pray, believe in God or engage in terrorism. But this worldview is false because people do many things without being motivated by money. People seek God to find spiritual fulfillment; fight wars to defend their national pride and some murder because they have evil beliefs. In fact, majority of Islamic terrorists are from wealthy families.
These man-made philosophies are set up “against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5) and people that live by them end up with a god they have created by their minds.
4. Living in fantasy This is when a person makes up an unrealistic world for himself and expects events – past, present and future – to conform to those ideas. We all have sweet dreams of how things ought to be, but we have to come back to reality. Fairy tales are for children. They need it to explore their sense of imagination and sometimes, to find a good sleep. But adults need to live by reality and face the world as it is.
Apostle Paul said “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Cor. 13:11) When an adult does not outgrow his childish thoughts, he becomes an adult-infant. This is why many end up marrying the wrong person (or not finding anyone to marry), because they didn’t outgrow their childhood fantasies of a knight in shinning armour or a fairy tale princess. Why do you think people become drug addicts or seek out occult meditation? They are trying to escape from reality. They live a lie by avoiding the truth and in that state, they are vulnerable to deception.
The lack of scholarly integrity that makes some Christians pick up their pen, put fictions on paper and publish it without a pang of conscience is something I can’t grasp. Below is a quote from a book written by a popular Nigerian preacher in the year 2000:
“In a Bible school a man said he would give $1000 to anyone who would answer a particular question correctly. The question is, where is the location of the devil, where can we find him? Some people said in the bottomless pit some said, in the second heaven, others said it is difficult to find him because he [is] walking about, etc. The smallest boy in that meeting said, ‘He is in darkness.’ He got it. Wherever there is spiritual darkness, there the devil will be.”
Compare this with the original source:
“Many Christians debate whether the devil is on the earth or in hell; can he dwell in Christians or only in the world? The fact is, the devil is in darkness. Wherever there is spiritual darkness, there the devil will be.” (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 1994, 15)
Can you see how he concocted a fiction based on 3 sentences of a foreign author? I’ve seen this tactic in this preacher’s books. He wants the world in his own form.
5. Mind control This is when a person’s mind is being controlled to believe lies about themselves (e.g “nobody likes me”) or some religious claims (e.g “we alone have the truth”). People trapped in false religions and aberrant movements are labouring under this. They approach the Bible the same way a butcher approaches a hog and as you are refuting one argument, they are bringing up another. And after hours of answering their objections, they are back to repeating the initial argument. There is a demonic “scrambler” that the enemy has placed between their minds and what you are saying. Its like a dark filter over their minds; what you are saying to them is being filtered through their belief system.
Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers to prevent them from seeing the light of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). All you need do is bind the enemy in Jesus’ name and ask the Lord to shine His light into their minds. When a person’s mind is being controlled, he is like a junkie. His legs are on earth, but his head is in cloud 9. He is in a state of wakeful somnolence and blissful ignorance.
Living our lives in truth and reality may not make us exciting or bring us many friends but the joy and peace that serving God in truth brings is priceless. Our confidence shouldn’t come from our backgrounds, education, physical looks or who we know, but who we are in Christ Jesus.