It is Pilate in John’s Gospel (18:38) who asks Jesus “What is truth?” It is such a fabulous question and Jesus, in the Gospel, just leaves it hanging there. Every time I read it, I can’t help but think of the line used by Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men” when he says to Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Truth is often difficult to hear and accept because it often isn’t always what we want to hear. Or as Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”
“The Truth” is a major theme in John’s Gospel. The Truth is important like when Jesus says “those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:21). There are other well know examples like, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32) and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Paul Tillich in his book “The New Being” spends a chapter on this idea of “Truth” in John’s gospel. In that that chapter he spends some time explaining the how important truth was to the Greek thinkers to who was the primary audience of the fourth Gospel. To them the Truth was something hidden, something to be discovered or revealed. The truth was something you could possess. But Tillich comes at truth in a different way, born from his own talented and studied attempts to write and speak about the truth. Tillich admits his failure to possess or express the truth, but reminds us that although we can write or speak words that point to the truth, Jesus to
ld us that he is the truth.
Tillich also makes clear that when we understand that Jesus is the Truth, then we can see the purpose of the truth to liberate from the bond of sin that bind us to lies, falsehood, and deception. Tillich describes the moment of truth in this way, he says,
“Suddenly, true reality appears like the brightness of lightening in a formerly dark place. Or, slowly, true reality appears like a landscape when the fog becomes thinner and thinner and finally disappears. New darknesses, new fogs will fall upon you; but you have experienced, at least once, the truth and the freedom given by the truth. Or you may be grasped by the truth in an encounter with a piece of nature— its beauty and its transitoriness; or in an encounter with a human being in friendship and estrangement, in love, in difference and hate; or in an encounter with yourself in a sudden insight into the hidden strivings of your soul, in disgust and even hatred of yourself, in reconciliation with and acceptance of yourself. In these encounters you may meet the true reality—the truth which liberates from illusions and false authorities, from enslaving anxieties, desires and hostilities, from a wrong self-rejection and a wrong self-affirmation.”
Tillich concludes by saying that “the truth that liberates is the power of love, for God is love.” And that is when I had my “aah-hah moment”. Because although I have always held that the Salvation offered through Christ is freedom from sin and death, it was here that Tillich pointed me toward a fuller understanding of this truth being expressed in the act of Loving. As John’s Gospel says, “God so loved the world that he gave his Son.” God’s love revealed The Truth.
And Jesus, who is The Truth, when he was asked to sum up the laws and prophets of the Old Covenants, used to two expressions of love-based actions to answer, to love God and to love our neighbour as we ourselves.
Loving reflects the Truth that is Jesus, because when we act in love it frees us from our false and bound self. Each of us knows that a feeling is not truthful love if we have any of the ulterior motives; motives of our sinful desires, selfish wants, pride, envy, or jealousy.
This is the kind of love that God has shown to us in Christ.
This is the love God has shown us in giving us his Son.
This is the love Jesus showed in his life and death.
This is the love that Jesus calls us to express in those two most important commandments.
This is the kind love is fundamental to the kind of actions that we can live out that point ourselves and others to The Truth, who is Jesus Christ.