Jesus was full of both grace and truth. (John 1:14) But we as humans tend to easily fall into the ditch on either side of that grace-and-truth road. So today let’s unpack what it looks like to hold to truth without being judgmental. And next time we’ll address the grace aspect more fully.
There’s a sense in which grace is in itself the antidote to judgmentalism. But at the same time we must embrace truth as the antidote to tolerance. How do you do that?
There is much in our current society that rejects the very notion of truth as anything outside of one’s own perception. And it’s understandable how this came to be. The enemy of truth, the father of lies (John 8:44), has been at work for centuries. And God-followers have too often used truth as a weapon to wound and manipulate for their own human – or evil – purposes. Truth has gotten a bad name.
But that doesn’t change the nature of truth itself, any more than photoshop can change the actual person or landscape that was photographed.
So how can we hold to truth without becoming judgmental?
What Is Truth?
That’s the question Pilate asked Jesus. (John 18:38) But Pilate didn’t wait for an answer.
Jesus had answered that very question at other times. “I am … the truth.” (John 14:6) “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Perception matters. Our perception of truth matters. But our perception doesn’t change the thing itself.
Most importantly, our perception doesn’t change God and His word.
From Jesus’ perspective, He embodied truth. He was Truth. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus – not as we might like Him to be, but as He really was and is.
We won’t be able to exhaust the fullness of what Jesus said and Who He was in our lifetimes. But a full picture of the Jesus we read about in Scripture and that Christians have born witness to for over 2000 years is a Jesus who was/is both kind and good, vulnerable and resilient, strong and caring, unmoved by what humans think or do, overwhelmingly generous, perceptive and patient, and relentless about God’s kingdom. Lord of all, King of all kings, Victor over all the powers of darkness.
Truth is first of all a Person. And everything He says flows from Who He is.
The Full Witness of Scripture
Christians who talk about truth often point to the Bible as the Word of God. And it is.
The problem comes when humans take one or a few verses of Scripture and use them as weapons. Or interpret them based on what they want them to say. Or simply explain them away.
This is not the place to get into a deep discussion about how to interpret Scripture, but here’s an important principle; All of Scripture is the World of God, not just your favorite verses. It’s vital to take the whole of Scripture in understanding God’s perspective on any given issue.
That applies to both propositional truth (such as doctrines) and relational living Truth. The Bible reveals God to us, but it also has a lot to say about human beings – who we are, how God relates to us, and how we are to relate to each other.
Truth About More than God
And while the truth about God is of first importance, that’s not all the truth there is.
There’s the truth about the way things work. Truth such as how gratitude improves your physical and emotional wellbeing, and how listening well lowers barriers to relationship. Truth such as how our bodies were made to move, and how the fuel we put into them impacts their wellbeing.
There’s the truth about humankind and our collective story – of violence and resilience and kindness and hate and brilliant progress and propensity to addiction. Truth such as both the good that human institutions sometimes bring and the evil those same institutions can often exhibit.
There’s the truth about you as an individual and your own story. That’s truth too. You came to where you are now from somewhere – your family of origin with all it’s good and bad, the things that happened or didn’t happen to you, the choices you made or didn’t make, the ways you responded, the relationships you’ve experienced.
And the person next to you has a story too – your spouse or child or friend or coworker, the person with a different color skin or a different sin struggle than you have. Yes, that’s truth too.
Look for the Rest of the Truth
Whatever truth you think you know, there’s more.
First, there’s more truth about God. He’s bigger than you are, after all. If you think you’ve got Him figured out, it’s proof that you don’t. Yes, study Scripture. And also look at other areas that can help you understand more – about how He has dealt with other humans in history and today, how He has dealt with you in the past, and your relationship with Him through prayer and life today.
Then look beyond your feelings. However real your feelings are, they are not the whole truth. When you’re feeling upset somehow, look for the rest of the truth.
And look for the rest of the truth about humans – about the complicated human being you are, what has made you who you are now, and where you are headed. And the rest of the truth about the other humans around you.
Doesn’t it make a difference when you see the trauma behind your own brokenness? Or understand the angry home your spouse grew up in, or how your coworker’s child just got diagnosed with leukemia, or the betrayal your friend experienced that made her reluctant to trust?
Hopefully you can see how coming to look for the rest of the truth makes it harder to use truth as a weapon. Judgmentalism loses its power.
God sees all of the truth. At its foundation, the truth is that God is good and holy, and we are not – with “good” reasons why. That’s why He doesn’t stop there. In Him we can begin to see how “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85:10)
Truthfully, the rest of the truth is much closer to grace than you could have ever imagined.
More on that next time.
Your Turn: What has been your relationship to truth? Have you discounted it as irrelevant, and tried to dismiss it? Have you been quick to use truth as a weapon? How can looking for the rest of the truth change how you relate to truth? Leave a comment below.
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