Did you know that the use of the word ‘truth’ has more than doubled in books written in American English in the last 40 years*? Did you know that this kind of thing was even tracked? Do we even know what such a fact can tell us? Do we really care?
(And for full discloser: I am not a statistician nor have I ever played one on TV; statistics was the most challenging of all of my college courses and the lowest grade I ever received. One of my favorites jokes to throw into classes is to say “87 percent of statistics are made up on the spot” just to see if folks are paying attention. And you’d be surprised how many opportunities I get to use this while teaching discipleship, church history, and/or theology.)
But seriously, the words ‘true’ and ‘truth’ have been thrown around a lot in recent years and it got me to thinking that if we are all after the same thing why can’t we agree on what that ‘thing’ is? So, being the word nerd that I am and with my passion for demystifying church words and jargon, I thought talking about how we use these words would be helpful as together we prepare for our Lenten journey.
In his telling of the good news story of God, John shares with us these words that Jesus says to a group of folks who had come to believe what Jesus was teaching, “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:31-32 The Message)
These folks go on to argue with Jesus about the factual accuracy of what he’s just said claiming “we aren’t slaves so we don’t need to be free.”
But the truth about which Jesus speaks isn’t factual knowledge. Jesus is speaking about the truth of who and whose we are.
We like to think of truth as being completely objective and absolute, but the truth is, it isn’t (see what I did there). Just look at the development of scientific theories. As we gain more information about a particular topic, the truth about it evolves. We can say the same about history and medicine and yes, even about God.
Jesus tells us that our knowing God is a life-long process, that as we intentionally live what he teaches, our understanding of God and our relationship with God and each other will grow.
Sometimes, this growing understanding exposes truths we are not yet ready to face, just like these folks Jesus was talking with didn’t want to face the idea that they were more loyal to Abraham than they were to God. Jesus doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff even when he knows some folks will walk away because he knows this difficult growth is necessary. And although it is very uncomfortable, Jesus is walking with us to bring us the comfort of knowing we are not alone and we walk with each other with the comfort of knowing we aren’t the only one doing the hard work of knowing ourselves better.
Doing this self-discovery work isn’t selfish or self-centered. It is the most humbling work we can do because it gets us to the truth of who we are as God’s beloved children. When we seek to know ourselves authentically as God does, we are on the journey of truth of which Jesus speaks. And we will be freed from all of the barriers and walls that keep us from being who God created us to be.
Are you ready for our Lenten journey? What assurances would help you prepare for this work we will do together, intentionally, and with God during this season?