Pastor’s Friday Comments (06.18.21)

Jesus once spoke to a group of Jewish followers, people who were deeply entrenched in their heritage and tradition. He told them, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31). He was referring, of course, to the truth of his teachings and his own incarnational life, but it is just as valid a claim about objective truth in any matter.

Notice that he did not say the truth would make you popular or dominant or privileged or rich. It makes you free. Free from the need to conform to someone else’s ideas about who you ought to be or how you ought to behave. Freedom from the need to perform in order to be loved. Freedom from the need to put the best face on every situation. Freedom from the compulsion to twist facts to fit a narrative with which you already agree.

If the truth is so liberating, why do you suppose there is so much falsehood in our world today? Denial of the truth is certainly a predominant feature of our current political scene.

*The current resident of the White House was installed after a constitutionally held and fair election and no amount of bogus claims about “voter fraud” is going to change that.

*A group of armed insurrectionists stormed the center of our government in a pathetic attempt to negate that election and no refusal to investigate its causes will erase what everyone saw unfold on January 6.

*Our country was founded only after the mass murder of Native Americans and was built largely on the backs of slaves. Systemic racism and denial of basic rights to Black Americans continued long after slavery had ended and is a fundamental cause of the wealth and opportunity gaps that exist today. No attempt at hiding those facts by the governor, the legislature, or the Klan will make them any less true.

*Our current practices related to how we manufacture, travel, consume and waste resources have led to a level of global warming that we may not be able to reverse and no attempt at denying climate change will prevent the shrinking of the polar ice caps, the rising of the seas, and eventually a global climate catastrophe.

When Jesus stood before Pilate, the symbol of political power in Palestine, he said that he had come to testify to the truth. Pilate gave the cynical response of politicians of every age, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). I think that minor league bureaucrat was hollowly asserting that the truth was whatever he said it was. It isn’t. 

Denying the truth can be disastrous for a nation, but it also spells trouble for the individual:

“I can quit drinking whenever I want to.”

“I only beat my spouse when she deserves it.”

“My cheating won’t hurt anyone as long as no one finds out.”

“What I’m doing is no worse than what everybody else is doing.”

Whenever I have been confronted by someone who is clearly – and often willfully – out of touch with the reality of a situation and I can’t seem to convince them of truths that seem patently obvious, I’ve found that a single question almost always pertains: What are you afraid of? Fear causes us to hide from the truth, particularly if we fear that the truth will cause us pain, struggle, or inevitable change. No one ever said facing the truth was easy, but it is far better than living in fear.

We’re reminded by the writer of First John that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (4:18a). The key to overcoming fear is concentrating on love – love of God and love of people. If we focus on that, then fear goes away.

The truth – the honest-to-God truth, is that God can take any person or any situation and can transform that person or that situation into something good, but only – and not until – we have admitted the truth about who we are and what we have done. The truth sometimes hurts, but when it is truth offered up to God, it can also set us free.