We live in a world where truth is often a squishy matter of opinion more than a structure built on a solid foundation. Most of this is simply semantics. Truth used to be a more concrete impersonal set of facts. Now it seems like a free-floating menagerie where opinion equals truth.
To illustrate. One day a young lad indulged, eating three chocolate chip cookies before supper contrary to his mother’s stern warning. This fact was well evidenced when his mother confronted him by the smears of chocolate around his mouth. “You ate the cookies when I told you not to,” the mother sternly said. “That may be your truth,” the son began, “but my truth is that the cookies are an allowed appetizer before the evening meal.” The mother countered, “you can believe what you want, but you’re grounded from cookies for a week.”
The boy in the story echoes a common thought of this age is “you’re entitled to your own truth, but not your own facts.” A riff on Senator Moynihan’s ‘You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” We’ve replaced the humility of opinion with pride-filled personal (don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong) truth.
Yet, truth does change. Or more precisely, we discover new facts that alter our understanding of the world. Electricity has always been a part of the world – from the smallest of charges in an atom to the powerful releases of lightening. But it’s only been around 140 years since electricity began to change the way we do everything. And in the same way our understanding of each other changes as new facts emerge.
Paul wrote, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6, NASB95) And yet we struggle with the idea that love rejoices with the truth. In fact, telling small fibs to one another seems more loving than speaking or hearing the truth. “Yes dear, that dress does make you look slimmer.”
Love rejoicing with the truth places a high value on truth. Not only speaking and hearing truth but also rejoicing when someone embraces truth. Love never says, “It’s about time” or “finally” when truth is understood but celebrates instead. Likewise, we may not like to hear truth, that something we are saying, doing, or thinking is wrong, embarrassing, or harmful. But love rejoices when the truth is heard.
Walking this out requires humility for all involved. It’s not easy to speak or to hear corrective words, but our life is better for them. Whether we are the giver or receiver, we must also accept the possibility that our stack of facts is incomplete.
The boy in the little story above had a fact stack that only knew he was hungry and that cookies were tasty. The mother knew that the boy needed to eat more nutritionally beneficial foods before indulging in the cookies. We must recognize that our stack of facts is often incomplete so “our truth” is weaker than we assume it is.
So, with humility, let’s rejoice in the truth. Let’s speak truth with a sure gentleness, but also hold to the possibility that our understanding is limited. We too can improve the truth of our lives. Let’s not take the snobbish attitude of “it’s about time.” And let’s also be humble receivers of truth, willing to hear the honest but sometimes challenging words of others.