Have you ever had a moment when you started to doubt something that you had been told multiple times, had previously believed to be absolutely true, but had become nearly impossible to reconcile with your current circumstances? As someone who puts a lot of stock in intellect and enjoys deep thinking and thought experiments, I am perpetually amazed by two opposing ideas that often come crashing into one another: first, the ability of the human mind to grasp and even start to understand the world and environment in which God has placed us, and second, our failure, often at critical junctures, to remember and act upon the things that we hold close and know to be true.
Truth is a beautiful thing. Truth is a life-giving thing. Truth is foundational to our relationship with God, with one another. Truth is crucial to our very existence. God has spoken Truth into our world, and we participate in it. He spoke it in the Old Testament through the prophets, and He brought it into existence through Jesus. The truth is manifold in our world. Why then do we have such a difficult time remembering the truth? Why is it so easy to believe lies about God and about ourselves? Conversely, why is it often so difficult to believe the truth?
On the first Easter, we have several accounts of the actions of the disciples of Jesus, both male and female. In Luke 24, we hear of the women's desire to honor Jesus by giving Him a proper burial, but when they bring back news of an empty tomb and angelic messengers proclaiming Jesus' resurrection, the disciples refuse to believe, perceiving these reports as nonsense (vs. 11). How could they have missed this point when Jesus expressly communicated to them that He would die and rise (Matthew 16:21)? It boggles the mind that none of them would have been drawn back to the truth that Jesus stated so clearly.
As the saying goes, "truth is often stranger than fiction," but sometimes the truth also feels almost too good to be true. But that's the absolutely remarkable, singular thing about Jesus' story. It. Is. True. Period. "Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!" This is our motto and banner as God's people, who die with Christ and rise with Him. It's a truth so big and beautiful that it can't be comprehended by the human mind, but it's only apprehended in the purest, fondest desires of the human heart. We desire life to the fullest, and while we may not understand what that is or be able to see what it looks like, God promises to provide the purest fulfillment of that exact desire to those who trust Him. This is the message of Easter and the truth upon which we stand.
Why then is it so difficult for us to believe the truth? It's part of our sinful human condition, and it reeks havoc in our lives. It happens in scripture and it happens in real life, and everything in between. The fateful words of Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, "I am your father," are quickly followed up with Luke's repudiation, "No, no, that's not true. That's impossible!" An accounting error on the part of our hospital's billing department is clear to us, so we're quick to say, "That can't be right...would you look into that for me?" Or Pilate, when confronted with Jesus' declaration that all who follow Him will be people of the truth, questions it himself: "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38). Even when it's so delightfully real, like the other disciples sharing the joyful news of their Savior's resurrection and appearance to Thomas, the truth is often hard to believe.
Likewise, lies can often be easy to believe. Paul summarizes this shift from truth to lies and idolatry that leads to depravity in Romans 1: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen" (vs.25). Our own experiences are often confirmed by the characters we see in the Bible struggling with lies they must confront, and how God firmly, lovingly brings them back to the truth and reality. Jonah believes that he can run away from God, and is confronted by the great fish. Moses believes that God couldn't possibly work through his feeble mouth, and yet God uses him powerfully to deliver the law and instructions for living to His people. David believes that he can get away with adultery and murder, and is confronted by the truth in the person of Nathan, who also delivers God's forgiveness when David repents. The woman at the well, who believes she will never have healthy relationships with the people in her town, is confronted by the gracious presence and friendship of Jesus.
The world is full of what is often called "fake news." None of us would want to be played for a fool, to believe outright lies. And yet, not all of the most devastating lies are writ large in our society. Some of them dwell in the hidden places of our hearts. Places we dare not go. Ideas we dare not address, lest they prove to be true. Lies that plague us, hurt us, confound us, and drag us down. What would happen if we allowed those dark lies to see the light of day? To be exposed to the Light of the World. As Jesus said to those who were starting to believe but were still held captive by their sin, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, CSB).
Truth cuts both ways. It wounds and destroys those who deny it. But it also cuts the bonds of those enslaved by lies. I want to have conversations with people about the lies they've believed, because chances are, I've believed them, too, at some point in my life. It's not a comfortable thing to engage with these difficult issues, but I believe it is at the heart of what we are called to be and do as a community of God's people. I also believe that it will be a profound liberating experience to address the pernicious lies we've believed, and find freedom on the other side in Jesus' truth. It'll be a journey of the heart, but I hope we'll all find joy in the truth that...
Adventure is out there!