Like a winding set of stairs (especially like the stairs in the “Harry Potter” films that change on a whim), when you define truth according to your own rules, by what you think is right or, even more deadly, what feels right, you start upon the journey of a very slippery slope that can only land you in the world of self-delusion.
Self-delusion is a favored land for popular culture. “I’m OK, you’re OK” is the slogan here. In popular culture, there are segments of society against which nothing bad should be said and other segments against which any barb is OK. This reality is nothing new. The Romans did an awesome job of persecuting Christians while allowing a variety of cultures to continue in religions which were in opposition to popular Roman thought.
But reality doesn’t equal truth. Think about this. Just because something IS does not make that something TRUE. When truth is actually TRUTH, it is also RIGHT. And who claims sovereignty over right? For us Christians, the answer to that question is easy–God. And the reference for TRUTH is not what we think or feel, but what is written in the Bible. But not just the parts of the Bible you’d like to pay attention to. The TRUTH comes from understanding the Bible in its totality.
I had a Sunday school teacher when I was young who explained that the Bible is so wonderful in part because it is at the same time simple enough for the most challenged of minds to understand and yet so complex that even a genius has difficulty deciphering all of it. Without a strong knowledge of the Bible, think how easy it would be for someone to pick and choose the parts they needed to convince you of something that is actually the opposite of what God really says. That is exactly how we have wound up in a world where more than half of marriages end in divorce and a shocking percentage of teenagers have already lost their virginity outside of wedlock.
Francine Rivers wrote a wonderful novel on just this premise: The Last Sin Eater. In this novel, a prominent individual convinces an entire community that a sacrifice for the dead other than the sacrifice Christ made for us all is needed for each departed soul. In the novel, the people have lost connection to the Bible and its TRUTH. It takes hearing the Word and the bravery of just a few characters to believe that Word to begin to heal that community and teach them who the last sin eater truly is.
Is your truth the TRUTH? Can you hold it up to the guidelines of unconditional love of God and your fellow humans that is laid out in the Holy Word? And how many things do you hold as true that aren’t actually in line with what the Bible says? Do you think you are too far gone to be redeemed, for example? God never says that in the Bible. In fact, Christ even accepted the confession of the robber who died on the cross with Him! Talk about getting in by the skin of one’s teeth.
Because TRUTH is more often than not more ugly than truth, it becomes so easy to fall into the popular culture sense of what is right. I’m ashamed to admit that, despite the time I spend studying the Bible and theology books and Christian fiction, I still spend more time watching television. How many lies have I let slip into my definition of truth from this bad habit? How many more so for those who only interact with popular culture without understanding the TRUTH that is God?
I’ve constructed a visual STOP sign in my mind for this week, and I plan to use it whenever I think, feel, or say anything that is truth as opposed to TRUTH. I challenge you to do the same.