Truth Telling in Community

Telling the truth in a community involves a vulnerability that not everyone is comfortable exposing. I enjoy telling the truth when I have good news to share. When I have bad news, I am fearful of how the bad news will be received. I believe we will be a stronger community when we can share the wholeness of our lives. When I can trust you with both the good news and the bad news of my life, I know that we have a bond that will not be easily broken. Communities of people who love the truth, live faithfully, and respond gratefully are wonderfully safe places to grow and unfortunately remarkably rare. The church is called to be exactly such a community.

David wrote in Psalm 86, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you, O LORD my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love towards me.”

David prayed these words with gratitude to walk in God’s truth. In these words from the psalms, we are also invited to walk in God’s truth and revere His name with an undivided heart. You do not need to hide a part of your life from God. Trust God with your whole life and discover how He cares for all of you. God is not only interested in your piety and wholesome works. God is interested in your sins, struggles, shames, and sorrows.

PrintBecause we want to be good, or at least appear to be good enough, we will compare ourselves to others. When we compare ourselves to others, we will sometimes come up short. In those moments when we do not measure up, we are prone towards hypocrisy and deception so that we do not fall too far behind. In the close connections of a community it can be difficult to keep up appearances and cover our failures. If we struggle with truthfulness, we will then either deceive in order to look better or we will find ourselves feeling more and more like an outcast. If everyone else around us is living life easily, is there room for us and our failures? Truth stumbles and honesty caves in when we feel like we need to pretend to have everything sorted out. I think that the bundles of lies, secrets, and silences that are necessary to appear okay can be very exhausting.

I believe that if our community was dependent on our own righteousness and holiness we would become a bunch of liars and deceivers so that we could still justify belonging to the community. Jeremiah wrote that the human heart is “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our world is filled with deceit and lies in order to prop up our vanity. But our redeemed community of believers is called to be different. We can put away the lies and hypocrisy and speak the truth. Followers of Jesus are called to a
common life of grace and truth built on the promise that we are loved by God according to His grace and His truth.

Truth-filled communities are connected to Jesus because Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). When we trust Jesus to be the framework for our life and relationships, we are in a better position to address our sins and failures. We can confidently face our need to repent because we truthfully respect the gap between our goodness and God’s righteousness. Paul told the Colossians, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10). We do not need to lie to hide the threadbareness of our own deeds. We can confidently tell the truth that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God because we trust that we are clothed in the love of Jesus Christ.

When we confess our sins, we are being honest with God that we have sinned. We can be clear with God, because in Jesus, we have received the clear promise of God’s love. Not only can you be clear with God, you should be clear with one another in our community. Our community should be held together with something more substantial than a facade of goodness. Our community should be held together by truth and love.

This is article is a part of a series of articles written with inspiration from the book Living into Community, by Christine D. Pohl.

Truth in the Gospel

I think I made a mistake and read some of the comments for religion articles on The Huffington Post. The articles about religion on www.huffingtonpost.com/ consistently have comments that are very angry about religion. Invariably the comments quickly lead away from the article towards polemic against the very concept of religion. I am honestly confused by the angry rhetoric against religion and values.

So this week I have been thinking about what truth looks like for people of faith and how truth and values are understood differently by people who reject the church.

How do understand personal truth and universal truth? Is there a distinct difference between what I find personally true in my life and what I expect is universally true for all people?

I think this question hinges on how we determine what is true. So for instance if a person operates with an experiential view point he will understand truth through what can be observed. Evidence is important and all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the world. This evidence based truth has been accepted as necessary for establishment of scientific truth. But how does this truth system work when there is an intersection between science, philosophy and religion?

I find that people are quickly offended when values are described as universally true. There was a quick reaction by media to Kirk Cameron’s comments about homosexuality on the Piers Morgan. I think the offense experienced by people in response to his comments is a result of people understanding a difference between what is true and what are values.

In this frame work of offense values are considered personal and not universal. Values are an issue for personal identity gained through a mosaic of experiences. A person will measure truth by what he can experience through his own senses. The concepts that he will develop through these observations will develop into a personal set of morals/values. These values cannot be universal truths because not every one who observes the same events will develop the same values from these observations. Another person may observe an event but have a different set of previous experiences that will need to be incorporated into this latest observation. The mosaic of experiences will be different for every person and so each person will have a unique set values as they seek to integrate present experiences with past experiences. All experiences are unique to a person observing them because no one has had the same mosaic of experiences.

The development of personal morals that cannot be pushed onto another are a result of experiential truth.

But can truth exist beyond my observation?

If not, then I have no ability to expect a shared value system. If yes, then I can direct people to truth beyond observation, a truth that exists beyond the validity of personal experience. In fact, it will be a truth that can contradictory to my own personal experiences.

Why does the basis for truth matter? If truth is observed and values are individual interpretations of experience then there is no common values system.

The apostle Paul wrote about the natural law that is written on the hearts of all people. Romans 2:15-16 “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

So how can a Christian who believes in the universal truth of sin and the ten commandments engage in a conversation with someone who denies the possibility of morals and values having a universal application?