Even if it’s true that Jesus is messiah, what does it matter? Why should absolute truth affect us personally? The following is an excerpt from Ruth Rosen’s article “Truth Hurts,” published in ISSUES in July 2011.
Few people would actually maintain a belief that there is no absolute truth if that idea was pushed to the logical limit. The truth that some things are moral and others not zooms into focus when we hear about children being raped, mass murders and the resurgence of cannibalism. Few could say, “Well, personally, those things offend me, but that doesn’t make it wrong…” For those who do push relativity that far, life becomes absurd. Humanity becomes reduced to a nightmarish joke, in which we do and believe whatever we are conditioned to do and believe. It is a life with no dignity and almost no meaning.
Most take the idea that truth is relative just far enough to “preserve peace,” applying it in those areas where disagreement is likely. Some people think that not telling an uncomfortable truth is tact or diplomacy. But if our tact or diplomacy causes another to stumble it’s wrong. People avoid disagreement for fear that others will think them disrespectful and intolerant, and they would much rather be seen as peacemakers. But can watering down the truth really bring peace? Consider the saying, “Truth and peace shall be associated together.”
The Hebrew concept of peace, shalom, is much more than the absence of conflict. It has to do with the presence of well being. It has to do with health and wholeness. We can’t be whole when the truth is missing. Without truth, we cannot have shalom; we can only have an uneasy truce, an artificial peace with ourselves and with others. Many settle for that artificial peace because they do not want to go where they fear the truth might take them.
Yet avoiding truth eventually hurts more than believing and acting upon it. The need to escape from or at least control pain can loom so large that people become addicted to substances, behaviors or perceptions that seem to provide that escape or control. Abuse of food, alcohol, drugs, sex or the fostering of various delusions – all these are defenses (conscious or unconscious) which people use to control their pain. Unfortunately, anesthetics for pain dull the individual to what is real.
Getting away from pain sometimes involves getting away from truth. It could eventually lead to getting away from everything that can give life meaning and hope. Avoiding truth is destructive. It breaks down our ability to cope with life. Despair is the inevitable result.
Truth is instructive. It opens us up not only to painful realities, but also shows how to change pain to joy and opens us to wondrously beautiful realities.
Old phrases and trite expressions often contain traces of wisdom commonly overlooked. When a person doesn’t know the truth about something, they are said to be “in the dark” about it. When they finally discover the truth, it’s as though “a light went on.” These figures of speech have their basis in reality. Non-truth is darkness. Truth is light.
Who turned on the light?
There are certain thoughts that each of us would rather not expose to light. And a bit of darkness, like candlelight, makes everything appear softer, more flattering. It is easy to prefer darkness to light.
In the cinema, lights come on softly and gently when the film is over. But have you ever sat in a darkened room watching slides or home movies – and when they’re over, someone suddenly flicks on the light? The natural impulse is to be irritated with the person who flicked the switch. It helps if a person gives a bit of warning. In that way, those with sensitive eyes might squint or partially cover their eyes for a moment to prepare for the light.
The same is true with our spiritual eyes. God, the source of all spiritual illumination, has called out to us again and again to prepare for the moment when he would flick the light switch. The Hebrew Scriptures are replete with his announcements, from the book of Genesis through the Prophets. Then, a silence of several hundred years followed in which we have no record of a prophetic voice.
Finally, the announcement came again, through a Jewish man named Johanan, who made a career of announcing that God was about to turn on the light. (He is commonly known as “John the Baptist.”) John urged people to turn from darkness, to “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Many listened and responded, as was the tradition, through the ceremony of mikvah.
Those who heeded his announcement admitted they were in darkness, and turned from their wrong attitudes and actions in preparation for the light. And the light that Johanan announced was Yeshua, Jesus.
Jesus came, and still many were not prepared to receive his light. The darkness seemed to offer protection from the painful truth of their spiritual condition. But that “protection” was a prison of sorts. Like a suit of armor that couldn’t be removed, it encased people in self-righteousness. That armor prevented them from being washed and clothed in God’s righteousness.
Yeshua made a brilliant statement and a profound promise when he said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). When he spoke of the truth that liberates, he was not merely talking about the absence of falsehood. Like shalom, which is more than the absence of conflict, truth is more than the absence of lies and counterfeits. Jesus, in talking about truth, said of himself: “I am the way, the truth and the life…”
Are you willing to consider the truth of Yeshua? The sages remind us, “Know the truth and you will know its Master.”