“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus 2,000 years ago. The tone of the conversation suggests that he wasn’t just asking who Jesus truly was; he was asking if the word “truly” means anything at all. This question has become a primetime intellectual bout over the last couple centuries, with relativists saying things like “We never come to pure ‘facts'” (Nietzsche) and apologists rebutting “this proposition is not logical. In fact, it is self-refuting” (CARM). One problem is, both sides make rigorous philosophical arguments (though I ultimately side with the latter position). Another problem is, intellectual sparring about truth in the universe can distract us from the God’s intended role for truth in our lives.
My daily Bible reading brought me to 3 John today, and I was struck by the constant appeal to truth in this short, ancient, Church letter:
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
-3 John 1
I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.
-3 John 3
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
-3 John 4
We ought to support people like these [brothers and sisters, strangers who have gone out for the sake of the name], that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
-3 John 8
Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
-3 John 12
This constant appeal to “the truth” should make us stop and consider who we truly are–not just who we appear to be, would like to be, are known to be, or expect to be. When we strip away all the pretense, all the politeness, all the posturing and playing of games, do we walk in the truth? Do our kind words flow from true love? Do our Christian actions flow from what’s true about God and the world? Do our opinions of one another flow from what’s true about us, personally and theologically? Do we tell the truth, and are we building communities tied together by truth telling and trustworthiness?
While we do labor as “fellow workers for the truth” (that is, while we do want to refute the untruth in others’ beliefs and opinions), we should also pause and find and root out the untruth in our own lives. In what ways have we convinced others–convinced ourselves–that we are different (better) than we truly are? It is time to remember the truth about God and God’s world, to recognize the truth about ourselves, and to choose, to strive for a true transformation, for who we truly are to start fitting who God truly is.
“I have no greater joy,” John says, “than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Oh, what joy–for him and for us and even for God–if John’s distant descendants in the faith could be found to walk in that same truth today, the truth that God is the only Creator and Judge, that Jesus the Messiah has come in the flesh, that the Spirit dwells in us, that we can walk in the truth, work for the truth, and receive a good testimony from the Truth Himself.