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Monday, January 19, 2009

Relevant Truth?

Our pastor is preaching a series on truth. It's pretty dynamic, engaging and sure to elicit some strong support ... as well as some opposition. This week he talked about how to know if your moral compass is slipping. He talked about how we can know truth. For sure, the moral compass of many of us has been slipping. Oddly enough, there don't seem to be nearly enough of us trying though to know truth.

Some people think truth really is relevant. In other words, they think truth depends on circumstances - and will want to look at the circumstances before they decide what's true. A good example might be abortion. There are those who will try to straddle the fence on this issue. They think abortion is generally wrong, but agree that there could be circumstances where it would be okay. I find that fascinating. Not because it's abortion, but because they are willing to allow right or wrong to be held hostage by the circumstances.

I talked recently with a family that is "shopping for a church." I'm not sure why they decided to seek me out, but they did. I suppose they were looking for my tips on how to find a bargain church. You know - that would be the church that offers the most and the best. When I started to ask questions, this young couple quickly moved to their belief in God. They were quite articulate in describing "the God we believe in." Unfortunately, this wasn't a God I'd ever heard about, in any religion.

And therein lies the problem. We want to believe that truth won't ask much of us. We want truth to stand for what's good and right, while not bending any of our ideals or preferences. If we could find a truth that will give us what we want, then we'll embrace that truth. And if we can't ... why then we'll just "keep shopping" around.

I thought of a book penned by former U.S. vice president Al Gore titled, "An Inconvenient Truth." Actually, I considered that it must be a pretty stupid title for a book --- because it has been my experience that all truth is inconvenient. It is the very nature of truth. If it were convenient, could it still be truth? I suspect it may not. You see, truth needs to stand against culture. It must stand against convenience. It never wins any popularity contests. It is peaceable, kind and gentle. But it can also be piercing and fierce, especially when someone violates it. Truth is not a door mat. We cannot walk all over it.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the light." So Jesus was the truth. That's a pretty clear definition for me. I can look at the character and nature of Jesus. And I can see that the character and nature of truth is very much aligned with that of Jesus. Jesus didn't win any popularity contests. In fact, Jesus has always been quite disturbing - from his birth through his death, resurrection and for centuries thereafter. He is fierce and piercing. At the same time, he is peaceable and kind. And so it goes with truth.

We see and hear people in our daily lives, in the media, who claim to be "searching for truth." Often on the news we'll hear someone say something like, "I just want the truth." Often times they already have the truth, but they don't like it - so they keep "searching." Perhaps they're convinced they'll find a better truth. You know, a truth that doesn't offend them or pierce them. Maybe they'd like a truth that makes sense to them, from their human perspective. Sadly, truth doesn't always cooperate.

Even more sadly, people who claim to be seeking the truth aren't always actually seeking the truth - they're seeking something else. Some seek justification for what they want to believe. They think belief is something they can choose (it isn't) and then they look for the evidence to back up what they've already decided is true.

I'm glad our preacher is doing this sermon series on truth. I wonder how it will impact our church. Will attendance increase - fed by a people who are thirsting for the truth? Or will it wane - because the people are annoyed by truth that proves to be rather inconvenient? Only time will tell.

But I pray that God will open the ears of the listeners so they hear. For we must all understand that truth is not relevant to the circumstances. We must all learn to embrace truth that is absolute in nature, and transcends the circumstances. Real truth isn't elusive, but it is usually not what the world expects. The question then becomes what we will do with real truth.

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