Pr. Jaynan Clark
June 1, 2013
“What is truth?” Pilate asked and with those three words he hit the nail right on the head. The first nail into the wrist of Jesus, soon to be hung on the cross.
What is truth? Did he ask the question or was he pondering or waxing eloquent? Perhaps he was a poser trying to appear wise and philosophical in Jesus’ presence and to those leaning forward in the shadows to hear the words of the exchange. Jesus apparently was unimpressed with whatever Pilate’s agenda was. “...for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18: 37) Period. Another nail.
In this post, post modern world we cling on to as it spins out of control, the question is not asked as much as spewed back with disregard, disrespect and shadows of despair. “What is truth?” There is no truth other than what I’ve chosen to assign this designation to based on my own personal experience, opinions, orientation or desires. There is no truth apart from my own individual, internal designation which is my compass. No objective, absolute truth. From this we are suppose to function as a community, a society, maintain a culture with norms and directives... from this we are suppose to function as families. Good luck with that one!
For most of my 5 plus decades I would have taken a stand and fought for a thing called “truth” but I’ve grown up to realize that there is no ‘thing’ called truth. Demand from a child that they tell you the truth. What will you get? You will get their version of the story complete with the necessary material to cover their own back end. “Not my fault!” We witness to our selfish subjectivity at a very early age. Talk to a real life detective and ask them “What is truth?” and they will tell you how there are as many versions of it as there are witnesses. Everyone has their own version. Perhaps we would be safer if we asked for the facts? Would we get something closer to the reality of what has really happened? Does just the mere demand for “truth” cause sinners to cower, buckle and attempt to recreate a bigger, better, self gratifying reality? Give me the facts! Leave out the fiction! No covering your rear or attempts to make yourself a hero, or a victim... just the facts. Forget the “truth” because with sinners there is no such ‘thing.’
Perhaps I came to this conclusion in the midst of reform work in the institutional church. The evidence that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory is certainly in your face 24/7 when working with the infrastructures of the religious and powerful. Among the leadership there are always those who love to stand tall at the pulpit or lean back impressively in their chair and ponder “What is truth?” It causes heartburn or worse in some of us.
Perhaps it was going through a two trial divorce, (a fact I’ve been advised not to really talk or write about because it makes people uncomfortable and might reflect badly on me.) Really? Well there in the court room day after day I observed the legal calisthenics involved in the attempt to discover the “truth.” There, where it seemed that the kids were just another category of property to be distributed, I heard witnesses, members of the church we served, swear under oath to tell the ‘truth.' They proceeded to adamantly and even viciously expound on matters that they could never have known or witnessed because they were on the other side of the closed doors. They were the public not the private sector. How could they know? We can all only assume what really happens at home, any home. Over the years in forgiving those who testified against us I came to realize that most if not all just wanted to be told and to tell what they wanted to be true. They didn’t want anything or anyone to rock their so called reality of what they had long believed to be “true.” They wanted to believe in a ‘perfect family’ and a ‘perfect church’ with ‘wonderful pastors’; therefore, they would reject the one/ones who didn’t allow them to continue believing in it. I was sorry to disappoint them with the facts. I came to realize through the long, painful ordeal that there was no ‘truth’ just reality which is often cold and hard and painful.
Jesus faced this reality on a daily basis, especially with the important, powerful and religious. They wanted “truth” from Him but they wanted Him to say what they wanted to hear. They wanted Him to do what they wanted done. If He could perform and match their individual expectations of Him then His teachings were true. Welcome to the other theory of “relativity” which is not a theory but an everyday reality. As sinners we want the truth to always be a ‘convenient truth’ that serves and betters me, my desires, my agendas and reflects my opinions. How convenient. Perhaps this post, post modern world we now live in is the most honest of times---the most truthful---for we have come to terms with who we really are as human beings. It is all about me... always has been, always will be, that is my truth.
In this age where even the idea of sin and our fallen nature has been rejected (even by many churches), we have finally arrived at the garden, naked and proud of it. We prefer the words of the serpent because he tells us what we want to hear. No need to whisper in my ear O Slithering One for you speak my truth. I am my own authority. I am my god and there is no power over me and no truth beyond my desires and my flesh. I am not my brother’s keeper, I am not responsible for anyone else and I have the “right” to use this world and everything and everyone in it for my own personal gain. If I chose to help another or to serve someone beside myself it is my choice, my right, not a responsibility. My rights and my responsibility is to break down and throw out anything, any tradition, any teaching, anyone who stands in the way of my chosen path. Be it the church, the state, the laws, all must fall to my self-realization and now actualization. That is the American way as I see it today. It is not “the Way.”
There it is. It ain’t pretty but it is what I believe to be our reality as a country, as a culture, as a society. There is no way for a family or community to function in the wake of such individualistic expression of daily death. To call this life is an insult to the Giver of life. This is daily dying without the repentance that leads to resurrection. No sin? No need for forgiveness. No need for forgiveness? No repentance. No repentance? No resurrection.
Sin, death and the power of the devil prevail. I’m sure you want me to tell you otherwise.
So, “What is truth?” It doesn’t exist as a thing, an idea, a concept, a precept. It never has. There are facts, there is fiction but truth is not a thing, it is a person. Jesus is Truth. He said so, so it is so. There is no truth other than Him. He stands together with but apart from His children on this reality. He cannot and will not allow Himself to be corrupted or co-opted. He cannot and will not be coerced into obeying us and our demands. He cannot and will not be who we want Him to be, need Him to be or force Him to be by our own design. We can defy the laws of nature, we can recreate the orders of creation, we can elevate sin and bury obedience, we can dwell in darkness and shine our own self-sustaining light but it changes nothing. We stand alongside Pilate with the nails in one hand and the mallet in the other, denying any responsibility, but ready and willing to kill Truth in the person of Jesus Christ. We are ready, we are willing but we are not able.
The “Truth” is!... and the more we deny Him; the more we need Him. Come Lord Jesus!