Picking Sides: Learning to Stop Lying to Ourselves
There's a famous scene in Jesus's life where the Romans accuse him of treason. It's the only way they can legally execute him, even though the charges are false. In an historic encounter with Pontius Pilate, Jesus says these words, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37b).
In other words, Jesus didn't come to unseat Pilate or threaten Rome (although both would eventually fall). His first mission is to confirm and proclaim the truth. This isn't a surprise to anyone who's been taking notes on Jesus’s teaching.
He's already said "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" and "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Author Carlisle Barney rephrased the quote this way: "You will know the truth and the truth will make you flinch before it sets you free."
He's right, of course. The truth doesn't always seem like my friend. It's often unnerving, uncomfortable and unsettling. The truth forces me to look at myself, at others and at God in ways that don't serve my personal agenda well at all.
The truth forces me to confess I don't have everything nailed down and buttoned up.
The truth makes me acknowledge that people who drive me crazy deeply matter to God, that sometimes they're right and I'm not. And that even when they're wrong, they still need my respect.
The truth compels me to admit that God is God and I am not, that God's ways are higher and better and wiser than mine. Always.
Truth is greater than just the facts. Truth is better than just advice. Truth is deeper than data. Spiritual truth frames reality in a way that transcends information. Jesus says, "Everyone who is on the side of truth listens to me." Jesus can't not speak truth and he won't tolerate lies. Not from us, not from others, not from spiritual entities and not from structured systems. Jesus invites us to listen to what He says, about everything, and come over to the side of truth.
There's a phrase that's popped into popular culture these days. It goes something like this: "I need to speak my truth." While that sounds reasonable in some circles, the concept of "my truth" is subjective and problematic. There is one truth as defined by Christ about every matter. We're either looking to discern it and embrace it or we're just looking for ways to keep lying to ourselves.