After reading through Jonah and the Whale, he closes the Bible and gets to the point. It’s about Truth and speaking it Gracefully. Truth in Grace. A subtle unacknowledged shift from Truth in Love and even though it was different, I saw right through it.
He’s smiling when he tells us that it’s not the message that must change, Truth can’t change, it’s the poor packaging. We need more bubble wrapped words around our doctrinal beliefs, patterns and bows of Grace.
Truth is a trigger word for me. I hear it and my ears fold in on themselves and my mind packs up and travels elsewhere. It isn’t because I love lies and it isn’t because I think truth is relative. I believe that Jesus died and rose again and in some cosmic explosion, obliterated the partition between us. And I don’t believe that there is your truth and my truth. Truth is a river with no offshoots.
But sometimes we say it like it’s obvious and within reach. We say it without wincing when we should, oblivious to its’ impact on the audience, pretending it isn’t sunk under heavy sheets of history and interpretation and Life. And, let’s be honest, it is usually said to buffer criticism about something someone has already chosen to believe. It’s God’s Truth but it’s really just what you believe to be God’s truth. Which is fine, as long as you say it like that.
He says Truth and then mumbles on about Culture, which to me, through my bruised and burnt out eyes, is like cutting a commercial for Focus on the Family. It’s not, let’s seek the truth together, it’s let’s spread the truth together. Let’s march the truth out there. Let’s try to say it nicely, but WITHOUT COMPROMISE.
And I withdraw quickly because Truth has been thrust like a shank in me before.
It’s the flag, grenade and mantra of the Christian culture warrior. It is the default delivery during every political season- “Defend the Truth. Speak the Truth. Vote the Truth” And the truth is not that Jesus is Lord and King, it is that God is appalled by Barack Obama, that gays are the end of civilization and liberals are godless atheists. If you unpack it all, that’s the Truth.
Turns out, truth is not that narrow of a river. It is not clear and in bullet point form. It is not an ideology or a worldview or one that commits fidelity to a subculture over the hands and feet of the savior.
Truth is out there, to be sure, but more often than not, we’re estimating it. We scratch away at it with every question pursued to its’ end. We are surprised by it with every stereotype turned on its head. We step away from what we thought it was when we see how others read the same identical text with such different conclusions.
With all these scattered hearts and minds arriving messy in the pews, how can we even begin to talk about pitching Truth to anyone?
This word Truth, can make me squirm inside. It implodes every sermon I hear, conversation I take part in and every book I read. When one claims Truth, they lose me instantly. And I know that it’s because of the connection to culture wars, which often, is not what they’re getting at. But still. I feel it every time.
And one day, hopefully, it will shed all it’s baggage. It will mean something to me. The sound of it won’t send me running and missing out on the goodness that can come from the other words of others. But, like all my trip ups, this one will probably take time to overcome. A lot of time.
So for now. Let’s talk more about seeking the truth. Let’s look at this as an excavation. Let’s leave no stone unturned, no bridge uncrossed and no religion ignored. Let’s inhale every perspective of scripture out there. Let’s remember our history, let’s look to our future, let’s recall how claims of Truth have hurt us before and let us be slower now. Gentler. Humble.
“Nobody ever sees truth except in fragments.”
– Henry Ward Beecher