What makes truth so attractive?
Man is on an ever-consisting quest for truth.
We do believe that when we have found truth, we can build from there. We do believe when we have found truth, it is dependable, it is clarifying, it opens doors into new areas to continue our quest. Man will always look further, wider, deeper to unlock the truths of life.
Life is beauty, whether it is you holding your newborn baby, marveling over a pregnant woman, rejoicing over a father who cares for his child, acknowledging an adolescent coming of age, celebrating a loving couple entering into marriage, cherishing a lasting friendship, enjoying a working community, or grieving the agonizing farewell at a deathbed.
On the other hand, we fare poorly encountering deception, treachery or guile. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” goes the saying. We consider anything exchanged for truth to be destructive and even evil.
One cannot build on falsehood or pretense. One cannot trust untruthfulness, and once you have, you will go to lengths not to have it happen to you again. Fallaciousness opens no doors to the future, but it makes you question all the doors of the past. Should you realize that your closest and dearest relationships are not built on truth, but on pretense, life is no longer so beautiful.
And so, mankind discovered the world. We have ventured uncharted territories under threat of death, and the world became small. We haves discovered space and atoms, the art of physics and medicine. We wondered, ventured, found and understood.
Truth can be trusted.
In our quest for truth, we started to question truth itself, and claimed that truth is relative. It is a fact that different people observing the same event, will focus different parts of the story. It is also a fact that living conditions will look vastly different according to your income. It is further a fact that different people experience the same relationship in different ways. But there is a vast difference between our experience of a fact, an event or a situation, and the fact, event or situation in itself.
We live in a time when people confuse emotions and interpretations with fact. I do not deny that the claimed emotions or interpretations are present, and that they differ from person to person, and from population to population. However, the subject to which the emotions and interpretations are related, if being a fact, does not change. The COVID-19 originated in China. This is a truth. Whether naming this fact should be considered racist, is a matter of evaluation and interpretation, not of truth.
Truth is so important to humans, that we would rather be told that we have incurable cancer, than being kept in the dark. If there has been an accident, and a loved one has perished, we want to know, no matter how devastating the news. We want information about the Corona virus – how many new cases there are in the world, in my area, and in the area where my loved ones live, even if that information is terrible.
The reason is simple – we can work from truth, but not from uncertainty and falsehood. Being lied to, or lied about, is utterly destructive, because trust is broken, and sometimes forever. Truth is one of the highest ethical values of the humankind.
Entertaining falsehood is dancing with confusion.
When someone utters that truth is whatever we want it to be, the tango starts. It is very seducing, because you can be whatever you want, or live however you like. The problem, of course, is that all actions have consequences. In the bible this truth - for it is indeed a truth - is communicated in the form of causality: You harvest what you sow. The wise invest and earn the proceeds. The lazy do not work and starve. Excel and you shall serve kings. Build your house on sand, and it will fall in the flood. Build it on rock, and it will withstand the flood. Live a life cheaply, and you will lose it, build it from value, and receive your wages.
Denying this truth is unwise. We know that exercising and eating healthy make you live longer. If you do not study, your exams will be poor. We know that education increases your chances of a steady job and decent income. We know that criminal activity makes you prone to judgement. We know driving under the influence kills people. If you don’t like these consequences, the answer is not to redefine the truth, but to turn your life around, so you can get the better end of the deal.
And this is the beauty of truth – you can build your life, your family and your career on it. It keeps. Build on falsehood, and you will be in all kinds of trouble. This is common knowledge.
Truth and freedom
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: “…the truth will set you free.” This verse is well known and used in different settings, simply because it resonates true to people everywhere.
The verse is, however, taken out of context, which normally means that its usage no longer reflects the truth.
Jesus starts by saying: «If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”. The expression emphasizes duration and consistency, and he goes on to say: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. So, by abiding in his word you will know the truth, which is a tall claim from our Lord. Note also that he is not speaking about a truth among many, but about “the truth”. He makes clear what disciples do – they abide in the Lord’s word, knowing that this is the only way to comprehend the only truth that leads to freedom. Now, a disciple is someone who aspires to be like his master.
Many people hold that distancing themselves from the Word of the Lord constitutes freedom. By stepping away from God, they can be what they will and do what they wish. And they can, but it does not produce the freedom they seek. There is abundant reason to suggest that it rather is dancing with confusion.
The passage in John continues with a discourse between the Jews and Jesus, where the former claim they are no one’s slaves, but rather the children of Abraham. Jesus’ answer is that we are slaves of our actions. The slave has no choice – he is locked into a dance macabre in his quest for freedom, and he sees the consequences in more and more areas of life. This dance turns into an ever-growing mess.
To deal with this mess Jesus extends adoption - to become a son or daughter of the one true God - and he claims that this is true freedom.
But this kind of language is offensive and utterly intolerable to those who seek freedom from God. And herein lies the radicality of the gospel: It is offensive, it is foolishness. But it is also true.
To many, Christian belief is a codex – a set of morality rules. Well, it is not – even if there is also some ethical guidance in the package. There will always be people who seek power and try to control others in different ways. Misguided zealots are harsh in their principled demands, quick to condemn, and slow to live accordingly. This has down through history left us with a religion of double standards, rules and morals, despite Jesus’ teachings on grace. The New Testament’s moral code is built on the concept of “giving love”.
Likewise, many understand Christian belief to be spiritual insurance for the afterlife. Well, it is not – even if there is also life beyond death in the package. Death is inevitable for us all, and for that reason communicates to everyone. It is a great way to get attention. However, if you look at how big a portion of Jesus’ teaching was on death, you will be somewhat surprised. He taught mainly about God’s kingdom being present here and now, as does the rest of The New Testament. The vast part it is about living a life of faith in Christ in this world. And that covers a wide range of topics.
And again, many understand Christian belief to be a set of religious dogmas, and conservative at that. Well, it is not – even if there are dogmas available in the package. Basically, the dogmas where put together in a time of persecution and death threat, so that the believers would know how to answer their accusers when brought to injustice. Later theologians continued adding to this structure as they saw fit, oftentimes battling among themselves by formulating more or less sane dogmas. The challenge is that you can hold those dogmas as true, and still not be a child of God. Faith is not defined as knowing the dogmas, understanding them and believing them, much in the same way a body is not the same as life.
Faith in Christ is becoming a child of God and living a life dependent on God and no one else. Eternal life is not defined by death at all, but by knowing God. And this word for “knowing” is knowledge that comes from experience. Experiencing God is eternal life. A God-encounter.
A God-encounter can happen in countless ways – the point is that you experienced the encounter.
There are, however, certain things that take place in an exchange with God:
Firstly, you realize that God wants to relate to you. Again, that realization may come about in numerous ways.
Secondly, in this encounter you will understand two things: the enormity of the privilege of becoming a child of God, and the fact that there is nothing you can do to cross from unbelief to faith.
Thirdly, man’s major offence towards God is unbelief, which is not so much not believing, as it is taking God’s place in your own life. You must repent of your unbelief, and consequently of the thoughts, words and actions that followed your unbelief. There is no other way. Forgiveness is never given without repentance, and without forgiveness you cannot receive sonship, nor be allowed to enter his presence. This is the reason for Jesus’ life and atoning death. The cruelty and insanity of the cross shows you the graveness of offending the living God, but also that he is merciful and forgiving towards anyone who repents.
Fourthly, after repenting, receive! You are forgiven – and your life is now the life of a son or daughter of the living God. The kingdom of God has been opened before you, and you are, together with all other believers, invited to explore to your heart’s desire.
This is the truth - and the beauty of life - and it is most attractive. For all who believe.