by Rev. Doug Gray
This fall we are considering the idea that maybe working at our faith is often not as helpful as playing at our faith. We can still be passionate about God, still long for God, still love God with our whole hearts, minds and strength, but maybe playing has more of grace and opens us to our dynamically creative God in some new ways. Last week we talked about how God’s love and God’s light go together, and that like light, they can be broken into different colors—blue for grace, red for truth and green for justice—all of them ways to express love and light. Today we are thinking about the red of truth, and we will ask the question, how does truth help us play the game of life better?
The Truth is always more than we think.
In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, an elderly grandmother to the stand. He approached her and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?” She responded, “Why, yes, I know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you’re a big shot when you haven’t the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.” The lawyer was stunned! Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?” She again replied, “Why, yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.” The defense attorney nearly collapsed. The judge instructed both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, “if either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I’ll send you to the electric chair.” I think we would all agree that Mrs. Jones told the truth. The Truth can make us uncomfortable sometimes, like these lawyers. But Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) How can living our lives in the light of truth help our lives become more playful and more fulfilling?
Let the Truth be always more than we think.
Once there was a husband who had too much to drink…again. When he got home, he snuck up the stairs quietly. He looked in the bathroom mirror and bandaged the bumps and bruises he’d received in a fight earlier that night. He then proceeded to climb into bed, smiling at the thought that he had totally pulled one over on his wife. When morning came, he opened his eyes and there stood his wife. “You were drunk last night, weren’t you!” “No, honey.” “Well, if you weren’t, then who put all the band-aids on the bathroom mirror?” I think sometimes we are like this husband: we over-indulge ourselves and arrive home beat up and bruised. Rather than share with God what’s really going on, we sneak in and put band-aids on our image. We think we’ve gotten away with it, but God is not fooled. Why do we do this? Are we afraid to stand before God as we are? Are we afraid of what God will say? To our fears, Jesus speaks the words, ““I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The love of Jesus, shown on a cross. The forgiveness of Jesus, great enough to clean the stain of any sin. Even when we think something is unforgiveable, Jesus’ steadfast love and powerful forgiveness are great enough to let us come home. That’s what Jesus means when he says in another place, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” The Truth is what frees us from the chains that bind us. Like light shining in dark places, Jesus’ truth scatters the cockroaches of worries that control our night. Like alcohol poured on a wound, so Jesus’ truth cleanses our hurts so they can heal. We sometimes wonder how God could forgive us, but the Truth is always more than we think.
The Truth is always more than we think. Once, when someone was stubbornly arguing with him, Abraham Lincoln said, “Well, let’s see how many legs does a cow have?” “Four, of course,” came the reply disgustedly. “That’s right,” agreed Lincoln. “Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?” “Why, five, of course,” was the confident reply. “Now, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Lincoln. “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” Have you heard the expression, “The truth is what you make of it”? Or maybe “All truth is relative”? People can say lots of things, but no matter how we try to fool ourselves and others, ultimately there is a reality bigger than us, a Truth with a capital “T”. You can call it what you want and ignore it at your peril, but that Truth still exists. Philip K. Dick, the science fiction writer, is famous for saying, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” So whether or not we believe in God isn’t going to make God go away. In our day, how much of our day is spent wondering what news story to believe, what person to believe? When we are in tight with Jesus, Paul says our goal in the church is that “the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” The truth is always more than we think.
The Truth is always more than we think. We are inclined to think of truth as science does—what we can see, touch and hear, what we can measure, and reproduce. But the Bible talks about Truth as a relationship. The Hebrew word for truth is ‘emuna, but we often read it as trustworthiness or faithfulness. Since God made the universe, then it will run on God’s principles! More precisely, we know God is trustworthy because of Jesus, because of how Jesus and God are not in it for themselves. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” For Jesus, it was not about His life—it was about the life of those who want to come in through Him. Jesus didn’t come so we could live boring lives or lives in little tiny boxes. Jesus came so we could have a great big, abundant life, life to the full and overflowing! So if our lives are founded on God’s Truth and trustworthiness, the Truth is always more than we think.
The Truth is always more than we think. The day Jesus was crucified, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Israel. Jesus said to him, “…for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” And Pilate asked the question all of us would ask, “What is truth?” Jesus doesn’t answer. I have often wondered why? I wonder if it’s because even though there is a capital “T” Truth, the question is really whether we will seek our own personal truth that always winds up empty, or be on the side of God’s truth which frees and fills us. At times, the truth may make us feel uncomfortable, but only because we don’t like what we learn—that we blow it, that we fall down, that we are often afraid, and that we can be selfish and harsh. We know that’s not what Jesus wants for us, but it’s true nonetheless. But even in the dark and difficult places, God is with us—God is trustworthy! Even when we struggle to do what we know is right, God strengthens us. Even when we are not sure where the courage is going to come from to follow the Lord who loves us, Jesus carries us. And through it all, “…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Let us, then, be on the side of the Truth, and let us look for Who is trustworthy, for the truth is always more than we think.