It Is What It Is
The Absolutely Indestructible Relationship Between Truth and Reality
Pilate went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world, is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:36-38)
Right there, folks, is our problem. “What is truth?”
It’s virtually impossible for any group to come together on common ground when there is no common source of truth. Everyone wants to have “their own truth.” When America was born, being a Christian wasn’t a requirement. The First Amendment makes that clear. But we at least shared Judeo-Christian values and cited common Judeo-Christian sources. Take the Ten Commandments, for example. They used to be displayed in courtrooms. Not anymore. Not for the last decade. It’s no wonder we’re now the Divided States of America. Common truth is no longer a cultural value.
Author Amish Tripathi said: “There is your truth and there is my truth. As for the universal truth, it does not exist.”
Pilate raised a great question. “What is truth?” The world’s answer is simple. “There really isn’t any.”
For the sake of this conversation, let me offer this definition. Truth is the accurate reflection of reality. The real question is actually simpler than, “What is truth?” The real question is, “What is?” What’s real? For example, two people walk into the same room. The wall color both people see is the same. They both can sit in the same couch in the corner next to the same large plant. It doesn’t matter what they’re political views are or what their ethnicity might be. The room they’re both in is the room they’re both in.
Ignoring the truth is an attempt to avoid the real world, the world God created. It all boils down to a case of simple pride. We lie to make ourselves look better than we know we really are. We lie to get out of trouble or to shift blame away from us. But the bottom line is more simple than that. We lie to somehow create an alternative reality from the one God made. (When you think about it, the whole idea of competing with God is rather arrogant.)
Fewer and fewer people, it seems, want to live in God’s world. In fact, avoiding the truth is evidently so important, we even do it when we tell the truth. A new term for “lying by truth-telling" has recently been coined by psychologists. It’s called paltering.
The parent asks, “Did you do your homework?” The teenager, “I finished my essay on Albert Einstein.” They didn’t answer the question. They misled their parents. Yet they made an accurate statement, even if they did write the Einstein essay two years ago!
The very first thing Adam and Eve did after the Fall was to try to hide from the truth.
Then the man and his wife…hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8)
They wanted to live in a world where God couldn’t find them. Here’s an FYI. That world doesn’t exist. So, to keep ourselves from another silly attempt to do what isn’t even possible, let’s remember, the truth is always inflexible. By the way, that’s precisely why people leave the Christian faith. It's a veiled attempt to bend the unbendable. Fantasy is more forgiving than reality. If you wreck your car in the video game, you can always start another game with a new car. It’s no wonder video games are so popular. We can make up whatever we want. The problem with reality is that we’re stuck with it. You could say that truth is intolerant.
These were all the synonyms listed for the word intolerant in my thesaurus:
You may have noticed that none of those adjectives are complimentary. By subtly changing the narrative about truth, we now live in the middle of a cultural assault against it. Truth is incredibly unpopular these days, simply because it will never conform to anything except reality. It refuses to bend to our opinions or ideologies. Every circumstance in the entire Universe will either conform to truth or suffer the dysfunction that results when people deny it. For example, right now, you can trace every dysfunction in your family back to a choice that you or someone close to you made to disregard what is true. Truth rewards people. Ignoring it punishes people.
It seems intuitive to expect that the good choices we make would result in greater function, more efficiency, and long-term happiness. That is, good choices reward us. If we made a bad choice, on the other hand, we should expect the result to reflect greater dysfunction, less efficiency and, over time, increased frustration. In other words, poor choices are punishing. Either way, hindsight will be 20/20.
For example, history tells us that Adam and Eve’s choice to eat of the fruit that God had forbidden was a really bad choice. Notice first, how the temptation was framed around several attempts to ignore the truth and live in an alternate reality from the one God had created.
Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. (Genesis 3:1-3)
Ignoring the real world, they concluded that eating the fruit from that tree would be a good choice, which is why they did it. But the result was punishment rather than reward.
· They felt an overwhelming feeling of shame.
· They felt the need to hide from a loving and providential God.
· They were evicted from Paradise.
· They experienced relational conflict.
· One son murdered the other son.
· Everything died.
I guess you might say that God punished them for their ignoring reality, but He didn’t have to. Reality itself punished them. We still hold memorial services to recognize that the truth doesn’t bend. When the irresistible force of a hardened heart meets the immovable object of truth, something has to give. And truth doesn’t give. Grace gives (and we're all very thankful for that), but truth does not. It’s very inflexible.
Our culture has tried to soften the truth, you know, to make it more flexible. Which brings us to a relatively new cultural term, “personal truth” or “your truth.” That’s where you believe that everyone has the opportunity to be their own standard, to decide moral truth for themselves, to create their own reality. The only problem with that view is that the data stubbornly refuses to support it. If you attend HDC, you’ve heard me say it consistently, follow the data and you’ll eventually get to the truth. This is a universal law at every level. The truth is unbendable. It’s inflexible. Truth will not conform to our opinions or our ideologies. Rather, those opinions and ideologies need to flex and bend to conform to the truth.
A few days ago, I read where someone said, “I’m a person, not a statistic.” I know what they’re trying to say but, the truth is, we’re both. God created us as people to be loved. He gave us unique personalities, attributes, and gifts. But, if you test His moral code, you’ll also become a statistic. The Fall of humanity introduced a new statistic to our reality. One death per person.
All I can say is, it’s a good thing Jesus showed up because, without grace, the truth can be scary.
Oh, and remember, it's not just "their" opinions and ideology that need to conform to truth. Ours do too. But we have to take it a step even further. We have to bathe our messaging and our attitudes in grace. So, in any and every analysis, let's make sure we are as zealous for grace as we are for truth. Never forget, Jesus was full of both.