I’ve recently had something come up and am not quite sure how to approach.
Missionaries often have to omit certain truths to obtain access to a country and often times have ‘cover’ jobs to do their missions work. In essence, they must lie, as many countries will not allow you in if you tell the truth. In this particular instance, there is someone that is actually paid to be a missionary to another country, and must lie as to the reasons why they are there. A friend of mine has brought this up, and I fear it’s somewhat caused a ‘block’ to allow them to grow or come to Christ (as they see it as being in conflict and hypocritical). What would be your response to them, or someone that hears of this?
I think the stories of Shiphrah and Puah when they lied to Pharaoh (Exodus 1:15-21) and of Rahab when she lied to protect the spies of Israel (Joshua 2) are informative on this matter. They both lied in order to oppose wickedness - I think John Piper’s analysis below is helpful. They are not praised for lying - but rather for their confidence and trust in God.
This question also brought to mind the story I have often heard Ravi tell of his friend Hien Pham (full story at link below):
“The day came when, through an equally providential set of circumstances, Hien was released from prison. He promptly began to make plans to leave the country and to construct a boat for the escape of him and fifty-three others. All was going according to plan until days before their departure. Four Vietcong knocked on Hien’s door and said they had heard of his escape. He denied it and they left. Hien felt relieved, but at the same time disappointed with himself. He made a promise to God—fervently hoping that God would not take him up on it—that if the Vietcong returned, he would tell them the truth. He was thoroughly shaken when only a few hours before they were to set sail, the four men returned. When questioned again, Hien confessed the truth. To Hien’s astonishment, the men leaned forward and in hushed tones, asked if they could go with him!”
I think what both of these stories have in common is that the individuals involved - Shiphrah / Puah / Rahab / Hien were all acting in faith and trust in God. John Piper’s summary below is helpful because it does not saying it is ‘right to lie’, but rather that a heart of faith in such dire circumstances is the main thing.
“There are worthy and godly saints who in their struggle with evil have felt constrained to lie to oppose life threatening wickedness and they were not condemned for it” - John Piper
Regarding your friends’ question about missionaries today, I may point them to Jesus, who always told the truth when confronted by His enemies and was delivered by God until the time of His death and resurrection.
I do not suppose it would be wise for any missionaries in this situation to actually post on this form… But I think that at the end of the day they will answer to God and not to us.
And I think that is one thing to gently help your friend to do - is steer them towards evaluating their own heart as it relates to Christ rather than focusing on the failures of people who we hope are trying their best to honor God with the knowledge and experience that they have… People may always fall short - but if your friend can focus upon Christ Himself - I think that would be more helpful.
This is definitely a deep topic. Looking forward to hearing other thoughts.
Thank you much for this reply! Very helpful and informative. I’ve often tried, not as well done as you have here, to explain this idea but it’s given me things to pray over and hopefully discuss with them.