A good friend, Ben Good, works in Mozambique bringing the good news about Jesus to people who need to hear it. It’s all good really. He and his wife Sam and their three children have just headed back to Mozambique after a period at home in Perth.
Ben has guest-posted for me a few times. And with the latest (Western) furphy about post-truth, and in light of my recent blog on truth issues, Ben felt I hadn’t finished what I’d started.
Here’s his excellent observation about how the church can respond in a post-truth age as he watches on from a distance across the cultural chasm between Mozambique and the West:
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I know I’m a little behind the news cycle but did you know that the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016 was post-truth? Post-truth was made mainstream last year by both Brexit and the US election where Donald J Trump became President.
Donald Trump is a pro when it comes to communicating in a post-truth world; in fact he may even be the president of it, but as Stephen pointed out on his blog recently, this post truth world is nothing new. It’s been manifesting itself slowly but surely over the last 40 or so years and now it has come home to roost.
So what now? Does this post-truth world, we now live in, mean that everything is up for grabs? What are the implications for followers of Jesus?
Firstly, for those of us who follow King Jesus, we need to stop playing the partisan game, and more importantly believing that our side/cause is on the right side of the truth. We need to stop picking the progressive side or the conservative side; the Republican side or Democratic side; Liberal or Labour as the champion of our cause or the bastion of all things good and true. Why would we want to in the first place?
We are the custodians of the new creation so why on earth would we want to peg our colours to mere human institutions, which on either side of the divide are full of culpability and faults.
A kingdom divided cannot stand and a Church that splits along socio/political lines will reap what it sows. The Apostle Paul, dealing with the issues splitting the Church of his day, had this to say, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16NIV)
The problem with the partisan game in a post-truth world is that whoever holds the power sets the narrative and visa versa; whoever has the most compelling narrative (truthful or otherwise) has the power.
Truths with little ‘t’s and falsehoods, facts and ‘alternative facts’ are traded as commodities and are bought or sold depending on what’s going to fetch the highest price on any given day. We as followers of Jesus have an alternative narrative. We operate in an alternative paradigm; the Truth with a capital T.
And so what is this Truth, or rather, who is this Truth?
Jesus puts his hand up and says, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” (John 14:6 NIV) In this profound statement Jesus makes the big claim that he is the Truth. Not an alternative truth in a smorgasbord of truths, but the Truth. He is the Truth and he is so because in his body; in his life, death and resurrection, in the giving of his Spirit and the Kingdom, what God has promised all along comes to fruition. Jesus is the truth because he is God’s faithfulness on display.
In a day where the ‘truth’ is cheap, where we promise one thing and do another, where we blatantly make up facts to suit whatever agenda we’re wanting to push, and where we pick and choose which truths we emphasise and which we conveniently ignore, Jesus, the Truth is good news.
God does what God says he would do. His words can be trusted because we have seen displayed right throughout Israel’s story and culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus the messiah that God follows through, God is faithful, God is trustworthy. He will follow through on his promises because he’s been following through on them since day one. He is trustworthy because his words are backed up with actions.
We’re in a post-truth world but people are sick of it. People are so sick of it because words mean nothing. A promise made here, a vision cast there means nothing because there is no follow through. We’re excited when our guy gets into power, at this point there is great hope, and then we realise they were cut from the same cloth as the ones before.
The words changed but the modus operandi doesn’t and so we are left disillusioned and disappointed ready to side with the next crony promising the world, and the cycle continues.
Talking to a friend the other day about all this he remarked that relative truth is a luxury afforded only to those whose lives are without struggle.
When the big crises of life hit, the relative truths, selective truths, and alternate truths come unstuck and let you down (which they all eventually will), then we need something more robust, something that will not fail or disappoint – we need the Truth!
Against the harsh reality of deep human suffering relative truth is exposed as a baseless whim that has no capacity to provide comfort of direction when we really need it – again, we need the Truth. The Truth that is tried and tested, the Truth that can be counted on, the Truth with a track record that won’t let you down.
We need Jesus, we need his love, we need to hold onto his promises; promises that can be counted on as truth. The apostle Paul writing to the Church in Rome in the first century, recognised this Truth, and then wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39 NIV)
This is the Truth we need in a post-truth world. When everything’s up for grabs, Jesus the Truth is the solid rock on which to stand. As the old hymn goes, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” This is the Gospel, this is the good news for us today.
As so for those of us who follow Jesus we actually need to follow him. We need to peg our colours to him. If Jesus says I am the Truth then we need to be people of the Truth and our allegiance must be to him. Primary allegiance to anything else or anyone else is a compromise of the truth.
We need to delight in the Truth, we need to be set free by the Truth, and we need to display and proclaim the truth to a world that is so desperate for it. Let us be known as people of the Truth, not by our words alone, but like Jesus, through our actions as well.