Image: Bonfire at the Inuvik Sunrise Festival
Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28 | Daniel 3:52-56 | John 8:31-42
What if you had to choose between lying and dying?
That’s the choice facing the men in our first reading today. They were given the choice of bowing down before an inanimate golden statue, in effect lying to the King, or, being thrown into the depths of a blazing hot furnace. If I had to be truly honest, I would say that I have lied for much less. In fact, most of us probably lie more often than we would like to admit.
We lie to build ourselves up, we lie to appear humble, we lie not to hurt the feelings of others, we lie to preserve our own reputations. As improbable as it may seem, we often even lie to ourselves. From our childhood we are taught to lie in order to preserve peace, in order to be polite. We are so good at it that we seldom even know that we are doing it.
So why would Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be ready to give up their lives in order to avoid lying to a tyrant king?
Most of our lies seem rather harmless, even helpful in navigating complex human interactions. But lies are slippery, their effects can accumulate and begin to degrade our character and devalue the very things that we are trying to protect. If I lie to preserve peace in a relationship, how long before that relationship become based on lies? There is a reason why God’s commandments consider lies something to avoid. Some lies are more dangerous, their effects are much more damaging and lasting, and some lies even damage our soul. For the three men, bowing before an idol was this kind of lie. To deny their God, even if it was only feigned, in order to preserve their lives, was no different then selling their own soul.
While Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to give their lives for what they believed, they were spared by God’s intervention. It should be noted that many martyrs for the faith were not so lucky. Perhaps it is worthwhile to reflect on whether we might be able to make that choice if we were ever faced with the same.
In the Gospel Jesus speaks about Truth being able to set us free.
His listeners immediately begin to protest that they are not slaves that need to be released but in doing so, they prove their own self-deception. We are bound by so many things in this life. Material things, our hopes and dreams for ourselves, our fears and resentments. God’s eternal Word rises above these things and our belief in God’s Word, can release us from our attachment to all that falsehoods that keep us from trusting in God and truly being able to live our life to the full as God intended, even to the point of being able to give up life itself.
The irony is not lost on me that today is April 1st, April Fool’s Day, the day we honor those who can tell the best and most believable lies, all for fun of course. But apart from this, Truth is important. We are people of the Word, and if God’s spirit lives in us than our word will be trustworthy and our lives will reflect what we believe.