Should Missionaries Intentionally Lie?

Audio Transcript

Pastor John we have an increasing amount of questions coming in from missionaries. This one is from Brent in China. He asks, “Can a missionary lie in order to do ministry in a closed or persecuted country? For example, can he sign a statement saying he agrees to obey the laws of that country when he actually plans to break some of them, particularly religious-based ones?” What would you say to him Pastor John?

I would say no. I don’t think you should lie in order to get into a country, especially something as blatant as signing a statement that you intend to do what you don’t intend to do. And the reason I say that is because I think that kind of distortion of reality and manipulation of the facts will undermine your witness. It will undermine your courage. It will undermine the Lord of Truth that you serve and will probably backfire pretty profoundly.

Telling Over-Full Truths

However — now this part is less clear — there are other issues in how a person describes what they are doing in a country, because unbelievers cannot grasp entirely the real meaning of gospel grace, the real meaning of why you are there. So there are things that you are going to say that they are not going to be able to grasp. In a sense, you are not telling them all that is true, because they can’t grasp all that is true. If you say, “I am here to bless your people, to love your people, to do good to your people,” you mean both the physical things as well as the spiritual things. They may not be able to grasp that whole package, but I don’t think it would be wrong to say something like that.

So I don’t want to be naïve about the kinds of things that need to be said by missionaries that are true and yet not able to communicate the whole truth to an unbeliever who would not even know what you are talking about even if he used different words about salvation, because they're unable to grasp it.