The (Possibly) True Story of “The Lyin’ Baptists” II
By Fred Pruitt
(Note: This story may or may not be true, and it could be any denomination, so this is not an attack on Baptists.)
About 35 years ago, a man told some of us the story of “The Lyin’ Baptists,” and insisted that the story was true. “It happened somewhere around here,” he said. I don’t know if it really happened there, or even if this story is true at all. It could be a “Christian” version of an urban legend, I don’t know. However, where it happened or even if it actually happened at all, are secondary issues compared to the gems of the Spirit we can find in this story.
This is how it was told to me:
Way out in a rural area in western Kentucky, a certain Baptist church held a week-long revival, with special services every evening. As it goes with revivals, the church pastor usually surrenders the pulpit to the visiting evangelist for most of the meetings. This revival did not break that tradition.
The story goes on to say that the meetings went very well, with the congregation all getting rededicated again and saying they’re going to try harder to be more like Jesus and not sin as much, be better Christians, etc.
The last day of that particular series, the visiting preacher posed a question to the congregation:
“Let’s say we’re back in the WWII years and you are living in an area controlled by the Nazis. Because you had been friends with some of the local Jewish people before the invasion, you agree to hide a family in a hidden room in your basement.
One day the dreaded knock of the Gestapo pounds on your front door. When you open the front door, there is an SS officer and soldiers waiting to come in. The officer says to you, ‘If you answer truthfully no harm will come to you or your family. Are you hiding Jews here?’”
The evangelist goes on. “What would be the right response? Should you lie, and say you are not hiding Jews? Or should you tell the truth, because that is the ‘right’ thing to do at all times and in all places, no exceptions?”
So the people begin to consider the question and start coming out with their answers. They seemed to be divided about equally: half said that God commanded us to never lie, so we cannot sin against God – He would be displeased with us and might even send some punishments our way. Therefore, that half would answer the officer, “Yes, there is a family of Jews in our basement.” They would do it for the sake of obedience to the commandment to always tell the truth.”
The other half believed it was right to lie to the Nazis in order to save lives. Obviously, the Jews would be as good as dead if the Nazis took them. Therefore, to say, ‘Yes, we have Jews in the basement,’ would be almost certain death for them. To this half, protecting the lives of the Jews in the basement was a far greater matter than telling a lie. To them, it was a “life-saving” lie, and justified by the circumstances.
Long story short, the divide caused by the evangelist’s question split the church right down the middle. Eventually the two groups parted with each other, each of them establishing new Baptist congregations in the area. Of course the word got out to the wider community about the breach and the two groups going their separate ways. From then on, the people who thought it was right to lie to the Nazis were called, ‘The Lyin’ Baptists.’
Now, when I first heard that story decades ago, like a lot of people my initial reaction was to approach the evangelist’s question like a legal matter. How do we find the “right” answer, and how can I justify or prove my answer in a scriptural way?
How can we determine what “God’s will” would be in that situation? Should you break the commandment to always speak the truth and therefore say to the Nazi officer, “Yes, we are hiding Jews,” almost certainly condemning your houseguests to death? Or should you break the plain word of God to always speak the truth and not lie, therefore replying to the Nazi officer, “No sir, we are not hiding Jews here” ….?
One could merely fulfill the Law by refusing to commit the unrighteous act of lying. One perhaps would be justified by the Law in that situation. One could be glad and proud he had the chutzpah to stand for truth, and to always tell the truth, no matter the consequences. Can a righteous man do anything other?
Jesus had a different approach. He said our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. How can that be? Were they not the most meticulous upholders of the Law down to its minutest detail? How could we exceed that?
The short answer is that we do not have, and never have had, any righteousness of our “own.” Now in Christ we live in and by “the Lord our righteousness.” (1 Cor 1:30; Jer 33:16). HIS righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. Still, we have a little more to say about it.
I have always loved the passages from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, that started with Jesus saying, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time …”
There are six of them. The first mention is in regard to murder, “Thou shalt not kill …” The second speaks of adultery, “Thou shalt not commit adultery …” The third – divorce … the fourth concerns oaths and our speaking voice, “Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths …” The fifth deals with the issue of “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” The sixth and final passage concerns our “neighbor,” “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.”
Now, I am not going over each of those to uncover more gems today, though they are there, but only to underline the truth. We are living in the “But I say unto you,” time, and those words of Jesus overturn many things.
First, they expose the often hypocritical usage of the Law. The Law, in and of itself, is basically selfish. That is, it is self-oriented. By its very nature Law throws us into the back-and-forth and up-and-down life that can only come wrongful self-focus. We think our problems come from the result of our thoughts, words and deeds, but those are only the symptoms.
(A little note. Someone may raise the issue that we “Gentile” believers have never been under the Law of Moses as the Jews were. That is correct. But Christians by and large are very confused about “which” Mosaic commandments apply to them and to our modern world. There are those who say we are responsible to the “moral law” hidden in the Law of Moses, and that placates many.
Let me give my definition of “Law” in the context of this writing. It is Law in the sense Paul uses it in Romans seven. It is a commandment, whether from the Law of Moses or from some other source, that comes to us and says, “You’re not that keeping that and you should be.” For Paul, the issue that came up was covetousness. He said he was sailing along, conscious of nothing against himself, (“alive once without the law” – Rom 7:9), when all of a sudden the inner thought came, “You’re coveting, and you shouldn’t be coveting. You’ve got to stop it!”
The Law is about “me,” and “my” righteousness, which comes from “my” obedience. The entire keeping of the Law is concerned with this one thing. It cannot be any other way, because to live by the Law necessitates faith in separation. What do I mean? Well, it just shows us up for who we think we are. If we are one with God, Christ manifesting in our mortal flesh as we quote Paul saying over and over and over, there is no outer “law” to which we are responsible. Why?? There is no need! God needs NO LAW and He and I are one, the Father that dwells in us is the One Who is DOING the works. We live freely, in the permanent green light, because we are not we, but we are He, manifesting in our form, so that it comes out as “me.”
But in living by the Law, I am accepting the premise that I am separate from God and what stands between us is “the Law.” One may ask, “Isn’t it sin that separates us from God, and not the Law?” Yes, that is true, but it is the Law that keeps the record of our iniquities and continually insists that we are far from God by its continual accusations of our wrong thinking, doing and being. And it is that record of our iniquities, intimately entwined with the law, that became the “handwriting of ordinances against us,” that was nailed to the Cross with Jesus.
The reason it is between us keeping us separate is because as long as I accept that premise of separation, I live in the faith consciousness of separation, which is always wanting to, but never able to, close the gap between ourselves and God, because of the impediment of the Law.
This “separation” actually does not exist, except as a false consciousness. It has the validity of a sinister lie. By that I mean that a lie, as long as it is believed or unexposed, has the “power” of something real. The “lie” produces real results, because of the law of faith – what you take, takes you. To take a deceptive lie as real causes it to be real to us, and we respond or react as if it is real.
The weakness of a lie, however, is that its power is instantly gone the moment it is found out! It is like turning on the light in a dark room. Maybe we fumble for a moment finding the light switch, but once the switch is tripped Light IS and where has the darkness gone? Swallowed up instantaneously – “in a moment, a twinkling of an eye …!”
As long as we live in a consciousness of independence, the Law forever leaves us on the outside, because the Law has no mercy and requires perfect obedience to standards no one can completely fulfill.
The Law, which has no compassion, might justify a person “not lying,” even if their truth-telling causes death for others! At least they could say they did the “righteous” thing!
One could perhaps prove the “legality” of not lying to the SS officers. But it fits with some other utterances of Jesus, such as, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt 16:25)
Here’s the thing! A legalistic life is NOT life! It is imitation life, because it is trying to mimic something apart from itself. “Try to be more like Jesus,” they say in church, when nobody has the foggiest notion of how to do it, because almost everyone is still stuck in that flesh-one-minute-Spirit-the-next up and down life in Christ, and have been falsely led to believe that is the best it gets while in this life. One day a diamond, next day a stone, and no idea how it got from one to the other and back again, except some vague notion that it’s always our fault.
It is not just in church we hear this message. I don’t think I am special, that probably lots of folks are just like me, in that almost every moment I live, I am tempted toward condemnation because almost every thought, word and deed is constantly at-the-ready for an attack of self-scrutiny and suspicion of wrong thinking, wrong speaking and wrong doing.
Before we are delivered from the Law, Romans 7 and other scriptures make us think God is continually displeased with us. We think He is the Stern, Frowning Father, loving us but constantly disappointed with us, because He knows we can “do better.” That is actually our own false image of ourselves, but we project it from ourselves onto God, believing that it is GOD Who loves us but also is never completely pleased with us, which of course just shore up the self-(enemy)-imposed walls of separation.
That is life with the Law. We are not fixed in Him, but only in the moment wondering whether we are being Christ or sin (Satan) in the moment. We live an “if” life and the “if” is always something “we” must do or we do not seal the deal. The Law is like what they say of Hollywood, “What have you done for me lately?”
And we think, wrongly, that is how God is. A lady I know, whose husband had a serious stroke which kept her at home with him all the time, said to me, “I know I’m going to hell for not going to church, but I have to stay home to take care of my husband.” She was serious!
Really – that’s the God Whose we are? I think not.
Life in Christ, we say it over and over and over, is not a daily “if” life. We are fixed in Him! Do you doubt that? I had a hard time, for years, with that idea. There is always such a temptation to that judge-every-minute kind of life, that to think we are fixed and steadfast in Him and we can live with complete abandon in His Liberty must either be a dream, too good to be true, or false doctrine. It’s too much to believe! But that is the totality of HIS GRACE, and the absoluteness of our union with Him, in which we are one with the Father just as Jesus is one with the Father. (John 17:11, 20-23).
To what end? Ah, see, this is where the rubber meets the road again. In the story of the Lyin’ Baptists, what was the point? In the Sermon on the Mount and the phrases that started with, “Ye have heard it said by them of old time,” again, what was the point? And lastly, the lady who took care of her husband at home instead of attending church, what was the point? What is there to see?
I think it is obvious. Love overcomes everything, and puts everything right. The Spirit of Christ in us puts us at risk, because that is what love at least partly is – risk! The Spirit of Christ is a “for-others” life and is not concerned with its own spiritual, emotional, intellectual or physical safety. Every bit of that goes into pressing toward the mark. That’s what Paul means when he says, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you.” (2 Cor 12:15). It means when he gets to the finish line he will have spent everything he had, even his very self, to gain the ultimate prize – bringing many sons unto glory!
We don’t do that by worrying about ourselves and our own spirituality. We give it up to the Lord. All of it. We don’t have any of our own, anyway. Either we find justification in Him, as a gift from Him, or we do not find it at all.
But we DO find justification in Him, do we not? And a whole lot more – to boot! All the resources of an infinite and unending Living God Who is Love from eternity to eternity – that is our heritage! So we have nothing to fear, even if the enemy is at the gates!
And hasn’t the news in the world been rather grim of late? Much fodder for fear upon fear! Not so for the saints in Light! This is the time to be the Light of the World, as Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount. We know now it is not about trying. We know now it is not about appearances. We know now it is not about our human capabilities or talents. We know now we lift up, and do not put down.
We know now we speak the blessings of God, and no curses toward any of the offspring of God.
As brother James wrote, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:9,10).
I always say, “Even so, come Lord Jesus! Maranatha!”