At 8.46 and 9.03 am on September 11, 2001, two passenger airliners respectively crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. Is this the truth? I submit to you this tragedy is not the whole truth. The newspaper reports it as fact, yes! But it is not the whole truth, since in John’s epistemology truth is spirit and has to be seen through God’s eyes. The prophet, recalling the events of 9/11, would say something more than the mere facts, because, for him, truth is God’s lived reality.
This is because disasters, even humans’ inhumanity to humans on a massive scale, fall within a divine–human continuum or metanarrative that Adventists, for example, call the Great Controversy. This is part of the complex panoramic view through God’s eyes. (See my commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson for July 18-24, 2009.)
The lesson this week seeks to deal with another aspect of the fruit of the spirit: truth (Eph 5.9). Quite rightly, it quickly focuses on John, where Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light” (John 14.6). Jesus did not posit this as mere fact. He was not positing just a theory or idea. For him, his way, truth and light were a lived reality — spirit. Thence, Jesus is the embodiment or personification (lived reality) of truth. In other words, truth is a person in that Jesus is truth incarnate. But what does this actually mean? If truth is a person, what are the implications of this?
The lesson seeks to frame the answer within the epistemological framework of objective and subjective. Here the suggestion is that if you accept objective truth then you will live out the subjective truth.
I actually think for John notions of objective and subjective reality are inadequate and inconsequential for describing truth. For this reason, I decline using these categories, although for us, these categories are clear: e.g. in base 10, 2 + 2 = 4 and is generally accepted as an objective fact. Further, these categories are generally value-laden: objectivity is prized over subjectivity and is almost always made a virtue of. This is perhaps why many feel safe with facts since they appear to be objective and complete. Postmodernity is a reaction against this because in the very least, such scientific ends have ultimately brought poverty, destruction and division. Hence their battle-cry, “there is no such thing as objective reality.”
This is why I harp back to John’s epistemology, which allows for a Hebrew mode of expression. For him, the categories of the ‘natural’ (the physical world in which we live) and the ‘spirit’ (the vibrant realm where non-physical activity takes place) are more apropos. ‘The natural’ is where (empirical) facts reside and ‘the spirit’ is where (the full) truth resides. Here, truth is understood as ‘God’s lived reality.’ Of course, fact and truth are not opposites. I’m simply saying that fact, once lived out, dovetails or matures into truth. In this vein, truth as it stands, entails facts. However, facts alone do not entail truth. Facts might be true (descriptive, notional reality) but they may not be the truth (lived reality). Then, facts have to be lived out before they become truth.
To answer the original question more directly, this is where Jesus as personified truth en toto comes in. Relating to truth as a person means having a relationship (experiential knowledge) as opposed to simply carrying out orders (intellectual knowledge).
Many Christians live their lives by a mere set of rules. Paul refers to this paradigm as living “by the letter.” They are afraid to go beyond and live in the spirit. In so doing, they have reduced the Decalogue to a series of “do’s” and “don’ts” and eschatology to a series of sequentialized facts, and their righteousness is “a righteousness by facts” — legalism. But their testimony is not the truth.”
Jill Scott sings a song, “Living My Life Like it’s Golden”. It’s about taking control of one’s freedom, one’s life and one’s destiny. It’s about self-determination, being free….
What struck a chord with me is the phrase: I’m strumming my own freedom, playing the god in me, representing his glory, hope he’s proud of me… Here Scott boldly admits that whatever one’s actions are or one’s decision might be, they are driven from something within. There’s something within that holds the rein and the reign! Something within that sits on the seat of one’s motive. And that something feeds our values and beliefs system, which in turn finds expression in our resolutions and actions – our lived reality, our truth. That something is a god – whether small ‘g’ or capital ‘G’. The more we feed him, her, or it, the more we would represent his, her or its glory. So inevitably, one’s control of one’s freedom is inextricably linked with who or what sits on one’s throne. One’s truth is one’s heart, and the truth shall set you free (John 8.32).
Life is a journey of twists and turns, of ups and downs, of merry-go-rounds. It is a journey fraught with decisions to make. But whatever we decide to do we must be true to ourselves, be authentic. We must be more than factual; we must be truthful. The worst thing isn’t knowing that we were lied to (by ourselves), but knowing that we didn’t think we were worth the truth. The worth is contingent on who’s on our throne. Regardless of all political and personal controversies, and human tragedies, only when God is on the throne can we see the truth of our circumstances for what it really is. This truth is golden and is a dissonance space that is liberating, though often uncomfortable amid life’s existential edge of contradictions, pain and tension.
There’s an opportunity for us to choose God’s Spirit (person of Jesus) to drive our motives. A living, reflective relationship with Him can determine our quality of life – our lived reality, and by implication, our freedom and personal growth!! Do you really want to be authentic and free? Do you really want to live your life like it’s golden? Well, who or what’s sitting on your throne? There’s the truth!