“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, some like dolls. This troupe overlays the social, political, academic and religious spheres.
I remember in 1999, a Nigerian politician, 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, the words “University of Toronto” quickly became a cliched slang among Nigerian comedians, satirists and cartoonists for charlatanry.
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.
Most of what Christian apologists combat are falsehoods crystallized at various levels and eras. 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 but 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 makes people alter their physical looks to fit into their idea of a “perfect icon.” It can stem from experiences of rejection and unhealthy upbringing. It’s a “mask” many people wear to hide their inner insecurities.
I saw a reality show years ago in which a young lady was recommended for help by her friends. Her problem was her inability to leave her house for any reason without wearing a makeup. To make it worse, it takes her at least 3 hours for her to complete it. When the creator of the show took her to a public place without wearing a makeup, she almost couldn’t walk. She is a prisoner of 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 know and live in this truth, we will keep measuring our lives with others’ yardsticks and trying to clone others. There are people we fondly admire who seem to have it all together in public, but if we get to know the problems haunting them behind closed doors, we will run 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, I listen 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 do so to present themselves as super martyrs. Falsehood makes people conjure revelations and fabricate or exaggerate spiritual experiences to impress others.
This is why I question “Word of Faith” doctrines because they make Christians live above their experiences. Someone is wearing his eye glasses, going for regular medical check up, eats healthy and lives in a clean environment but he is telling you that all sicknesses are from Satan and they should be cured only by prayer and positive confession; that you must never take some medicine or go to a hospital when you are sick because that’s “lack of faith.” That’s spiritual exploitation.
Many Christians live above their experiences in order to “belong.” Some try to appear hyper-spiritual and hide their real selves because they are afraid of being ostracised in their Christian 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). God works on originals, not on photocopies.
3. Deadly devotion to ideologies
These are schools of thought or worldviews that condition people to think only within a given precinct or preconceived notion. Many who claim to be freethinkers or rationalists are neither free in thinking nor rational in judgement. They see the world and spiritual realities through their badly smoked lenses and are just as bigoted and dogmatic as religious fanatics.
An example is Empiricism, a worldview that states that whatever cannot be experientially proved should be rejected as a myth. Thus, empiricists will always demand for scientific evidence for every claim. But one doesn’t have to see an evidence of a thing before its existence is accepted.
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 evidence contradict your notion of reality and truth is living a lie.
Another example is Marxism which presupposes that material need is the motivation behind all human emotion and activity. Thus, if people have more money and have all their physical needs met, there would be happiness, mankind wouldn’t need to war, engage in terrorism or even pray to God to provide their needs.
But this worldview is false because people do many things without pecuniary motives. People seek God to find spiritual fulfillment; people 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 those who live by them end up with a god they 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.
This aberration can also manifest as lack of scholarly integrity. I have seen some respected Christian authors plagiarize people’s works or put fiction on paper and publish it as facts without a pang of their conscience. Below is a quote from a book written by a popular Nigerian preacher in his book, Deliverance by Fire 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)
He concocted a fiction based on three sentences of a foreign author! I’ve seen this same tactic in this pastor’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 himself or herself (e.g “Nobody likes me,” “I am too bad to live right”) or some religious claims (e.g “We alone have the truth”). Many people trapped in false religions and aberrant movements 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. It’s like a dark filter covering 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 influencing them in Jesus’ name and pray that the Holy Spirit shines forth His light into their minds.
Living our lives in truth and reality may not make us exciting. It will exclude us from some groups or may not attract many friends, but the joy and peace they bring are priceless. Your confidence shouldn’t come from your backgrounds, education, physical looks or who you know, but who you are in Christ Jesus.