Lesson 9: Truth

Seek TruthJohn 7 and 8 picture Jesus constantly on the run, constantly hiding; as just about every group in his society, beginning with his own family, challenges his authority or even attempts to arrest and kill him. Then in the midst of all this, Jesus promises, “The truth shall make you free!” This is certainly a different way to understand “truth” and “freedom.” Perhaps we can gain some insights into what he means, as we reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi.

Certainly the truth they espoused is not the conventional wisdom that enables us to live comfortably in society. So, too, Jesus is attacked for not having the proper credentials and not living according to society’s rules. He is demonized as an enemy of humanity. He is portrayed as a revolutionary whose teachings will destroy the social order.

He comes back claiming his teachings actually expose the hypocrisy of the leaders of his society, who do not even live by the rules they profess. You cannot acknowledge truth, if you are a slave to sin. And then, he shows how one is released by forgiving an adulteress who is brought to him for judgment. Truth is discerned when we no longer have to rationalize the evil in which we and our society are ensnared.

All of this is very relevant in the surveillance society that has grown and grown since 9-11. Our leaders have found incredible means to silence critics and suppress opposition. Those who simply speak the truth are demonized as criminal and persecuted enemy. That means those who seek the truth must be prepared to suffer as Mandela, King, and Gandhi certainly did. Indeed like the martyrs before us, we must be prepared to die for the truth. But we shall be able to live in peace with ourselves and our God. Nobody can really conquer us, if our souls are free, if we live by God’s will, and are freed from our own rationalizations of our lives.

To live in truth certainly involves finding freedom from sin. Lately, I seem to be hearing more than usual people speaking of being trapped in the bitterness of some sinful act until the one whom they abused came to them, saying they have forgiven them. Almost always the motivation has been that the victims realized they could not be really free until they forgave their abuser. That is the wisdom of Martin Luther King, when he points out that evil twists both perpetrator and victim and forgiveness frees both as well. That is also the same message Nelson Mandela offers when he is released from his agonizing imprisonment without bitterness and shows us what makes for real community. It is certainly the message of Jesus whose truth might the only profound thought in our present age.

Allegiance to the truth does not lead to prosperity or acceptance or applause. It might send you to prison or worse, get you assassinated. Nonetheless, it is truth that truly frees.

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