Updated: Aug 18, 2019
[The Spirit of truth] will guide you into all the truth. –John 16:13
“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, asks Jesus this question during Jesus’ trial before his execution. It’s a question being asked a lot these days. In recent years, the whole idea of “truth” has been under assault. There is, it seems to me, an emerging cultural belief that each of us has the right and responsibility to define our own “truth;” that “truth” is a relative thing tethered to our own personal experience. In the era of “fake news” and media spin and our tendency to read and watch and listen only what we happen to agree with, this relativism divides us into rigid camps of certainty and, at the same time, leaves us feeling like we are walking on glare ice much of the time.
Against the backdrop of this relativistic assault on the whole concept of “truth,” how do we hear Jesus’ promise that the “Spirit of truth will guide us into all the truth”? “Truth” is a key concept in the Gospel of John. In John, Jesus himself defines the truth because of his relationship with the Father who is the source and basis of all truth. According to John, God’s Word is truth and Jesus is that Word made flesh. It is the Spirit of truth which opens our hearts and minds to see the truth that Jesus embodies. As disciples of Jesus, we do not define our own truth, Jesus does. As disciples of Jesus, it is not our personal experiences that create our truth, but our trust that, in Christ, we come to know the Truth that is God.
That’s heady stuff. But, if we are to find a solid place to stand in the whirling world of relative truth, it gives us a place to start. And, that place is found in teaching and way Jesus himself. It is found in the life, death and resurrection of the one who came to show us the depth of God’s great love for the world – the whole world – no exceptions. It is found in the one who says to Pilate that his “kingdom is not from this world” (John 18:36) who transforms the world by defeating sin, death and the devil, freeing us from fear so that we might love others (yes, even our enemies) as he loved us.
So, is this just one more relativistic “truth” in a world of competing truths? Perhaps. But I believe it is something more. Much more. The Truth which Jesus embodies reflects the deep wisdom that lies at the heart of all creation. Why? Because the Truth he reveals is the God who created the heavens and the earth, and you and me, and everything that exists. He reveals a Truth worth staking our life on because it gives life not just to me, but to everyone else – even those who think and believe and act differently than I do.
This is why proclaiming the word and witness of Jesus needs to be at the very center of who we are and what we are about as disciples of Christ. It can’t just be background noise, or subtext or corollary to a life of faith. It is the Truth which transforms the world, even when we, as is so often the case, fail in our efforts to do so ourselves.
Thank-you for reading.