Sunday, August 31, 2008

Narnia, Honesty, and Dishonesty

Below is an excerpt from chapter 4 of my book The Heart of Narnia ...

Although honesty will sometimes result in personal suffering, Christians are called to be honest. Doing the right thing in a fallen world does not guarantee freedom from unpleasant consequences. Consequently, when Lucy tells the truth about having been to Narnia, she sticks to it despite her siblings thinking that she is lying.

Additionally, when the talking animals are celebrating over the feast provided by Father Christmas, they are honest regardless of the risk of being turned into stone. To them, the truth of what is happening - the coming of Father Christmas, the thawing of Narnia - is important and they are unwilling to lie merely to appease the White Witch. In so doing, they make a difficult moral choice for the sake of truth. So, too, are Christians called to honesty despite unpleasant circumstances that may result.

Moreover, dishonesty has its consequences. Shift's deceptions lead him down a path of deterioration both physically and morally. In the end, his deceptions are his undoing. Deliberate dishonesty is a destroyer of personal character and relationships; it has no place in personal or social ethics.

When Tirian attempts to reveal the deceptive ploy of Shift, Rishda, and Ginger to a group of dwarfs, he is shocked by their skepticism and dismissal of Aslan. Tirian had no idea that the establishment of a fake Aslan would result in Narnians rejecting the true Lion.

Likewise, we must be on guard lest we are deceived by "false Christs," "false prophets," "false doctrines" and false miracles (see Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 1 Timothy 6:3). We must know what we believe and why. We must "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21) because "the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16) and "let no one in any way deceive" us (2 Thessalonians 2:3) with "fine-sounding arguments" (Colossians 2:4).

We must be aware of the potential for self-deceit - for being dishonest with ourselves (see 1 Corinthians 3:18; James 1:22; 1 John 1:8). We are called to "pursue righteousness" (Isaiah 51:1; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22), and such a pursuit includes the virtue of honesty.

When difficult ethical decisions arise regarding honesty and dishonesty, we have a number of options available to aid us in making a "right judgment" (John 7:24). For example, we should not neglect prayer and, at times, fasting to help us resolve ethical dilemmas. We may also consult with those we consider wise in such matters, such as a pastor or close friend. The Bible, while not addressing every possible situation we may encounter, may be consulted as well for ethical guidance.

In all of this, the development of character is paramount. By seeking to live virtuously, we are growing truth in our character. If we do this, when a difficult ethical situation arises, we are better prepared to cope with it based on the nurturing of our character that has already taken place. Lewis believed that every ethical action we make improves us or harms us and thus leads us closer to God and truth or further from Him. The wise choice is to "pursue righteousness."

But building a character of honesty takes more than sheer willpower; it also takes an understanding of the reality and significance of truth. Truth is real and it matters. As Douglas Groothuis observed, "Despite the truth-allergic pathologies of our postmodern culture, truth remains to be considered, known, and embraced." Unfortunately, truth as absolute is too often dismissed or devalued. In its place we find moral relativism - the concept that there is no truth to guide our actions. Recapturing a sense of absolute truth rooted in God's nature is essential to honesty. God calls us to be truthful and considers truth important enough to include in the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:16).

In everyday life we will face situations that require a response on our part of either honesty or dishonesty. Sometimes we may have only seconds to make an ethical decision. That is why it is important to cultivate a character of virtue even in seemingly small matters.

As we seek God's guidance and live accordingly, we will establish a pattern of virtuous living that, when the time comes, will move us in the direction of the right moral choice, even though it may not always be the easiest path. Of course, we will still stumble at times, but by God's grace, if we truly seek to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him, we will find that we are better prepared to make the right choice more often than not.

Copyright © 2008 by Robert Velarde. All rights reserved.

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