A smash. A shout. A squeal. A harried parent rushes into the front room where two kids stand guiltily next to a broken vase. ‘What happened?’ says mum. Silence. She tries again. ‘What – happened?!’ Still silence. She tries one last time. ‘Come on – I won’t be angry. I just want to know the truth.’
‘Telling the truth’ is a virtue we do our best to teach children from a young age. But ‘truthfulness’ as a Christian habit goes much deeper than a commitment to honest straight-talking or knowing when to ‘fess up. Although honest words may play a part, being truthful is as much about what we do as about what we say.
Words for the Week
1 John 2: 3-11; 20-24
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.
Another passage to consider:
“I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
2016 was a big year, politically. June 23rd was the day set to decide our future relationship with our European neighbours. Like many good citizens, I did my best to understand both sides of the debate. But it was tough to discern the facts of the matter. On both sides, claims were made, rebutted and counter-claimed. Discussion was dominated by soundbites and slogans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘post-truth’ – denoting a state where evidence is less influential than emotion – was voted the 2016 ‘word of the year’.
As we approach truthfulness as a God-habit, it is worth bearing this prevailing culture in mind. We generally shy away from any claim to objective, empirical ‘truth’. In a world of spin, bias and alternative facts we’re naturally wary of anybody claiming to know ‘the truth’.
Those who do hold firmly to any claim to absolute truth often come across as intolerant and/or fanatical. But the New Testament makes it clear that the truth is, indeed, out there. And it is not an abstract concept. Truth is a person with a name: Jesus. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” said Jesus in John 14:6. Jesus reveals the truth about God – what He’s like, what He cares for. He is also the truth about how we should live: the perfect picture of humanity in submissive relationship to God and others.
‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’
Our God-habit of ‘truthfulness’, then, is bound up in Jesus: being full of Jesus, the Truth. But what does this mean, or look like in practice?
Firstly I’d suggest it means declaring Jesus with our lips. “Who is the liar?” asks John. “Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.” In a world of uncertainty and ambiguity – of ‘it’s true for you but not for me’ – we as Christians believe uncompromisingly that Jesus was and is God; that he came into the world he created, to show people the way, and to be the way, of bringing beloved sinners back to the Father. Believing this may seem counter-cultural, even unpopular, but we have no reason to be scared or ashamed of proclaiming it. The gospel is literally life-giving good news: truth that sets us free (John 8:32).
But more than this – ultimately truthfulness is about declaring Jesus with our lives.
‘Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.’ If we really believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, then we need to live like we believe it. This means following Jesus with integrity of heart and mind, rather than falling into a habit of hypocrisy where we say one thing but think or do another. For it’s only when we live out the truth, obeying all Jesus’ commands, that we authenticate what we declare with our lips. And when we do, the world can see the Truth – Jesus – for themselves.
Own it personally…
Take some time to reflect: If you never told anybody you were a Christian, would they guess? How might Jesus be calling you to be more truthful in word and deed?
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Living truthfully is not easy. Invite the Spirit to examine your heart – are there any areas of hypocrisy? Take time to confess to God.
The truth is for everyone. Has God been prompting you to speak to anybody in particular recently?
Speak it Out – Pray and Prophesy
Truthfulness is grounded in a life given over to Christ. It is a commitment to allowing God’s Spirit to infiltrate and transform every part of us.
Use this as a prayer of dedication:
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.