Being lied to cuts like glass, and we’ve all felt the gash. It comes with being human- losing faith in human words. Trustworthiness is now an earned attribute, not an assumed one. And even those who earn it often fail us, falling into the temptation to let words smooth over the rough edges of life: “I’m fine”, “You look great” “It’s going to be alright, I promise”.
It’s been said this is the ‘post truth’ era. A time in human history when fake news sits brashly alongside the facts and persuades us all of it’s own veracity. A time when ‘the facts’ are subtly framed by assumptions that colour them in skewing hues and its hard to see the truth through all the talk.
Pontius Pilate’s haunting words, spoken to a beaten and bloodied Jesus, hung on the air several millennia ago and hang there still, all around us… “What is truth?”
This question hasn’t changed. Because it’s been there from the beginning.
The Post truth era began multiple millennia ago.
In a garden. long ago. Not long after the genesis of us.
In the beginning…
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.’
In the beginning everything began with a word that was true. A Word that formed truth. A word that was truth. God spoke this whirling world into being, breathing out deep syllables of order, creation, existence and truth.
‘And God said, ‘Let there be light…’ and there was. Darkness becomes light, emptiness becomes fullness, vacuum fills with life, all elements rush together in eager obedience forming, forging, flourishing into being. God’s words weave all worlds and micro-worlds into reality, creating the solid tangible existence we stand two feet on today, the breeze tussling in our hair, the sun warm against our skin.
God breaths out nine articulations creating life, land and the laws governing everything. All this vast created universe, it hangs on Gods every word, hanging on the laws He spoke which hold all things together. Laws like universal gravitation (Newton’s law), the law of planetary motion (Kepler’s laws), the laws of thermodynamics, laws of Quantum mechanics and Geophysical science.
‘This is what the Lord says: ‘If I have not made my covenant with day and night and established the laws of heaven and earth…’ Jeremiah 33:25
But even as we read these genesis words, the words that wrought all life together and formed the solid ground on which we stand, we read them through a lens tinted by our past, we read them through a culture coloured by skewing hues, we read them through a lens shaded by our religion… or lack of it.
You get the picture. None of us fully see the picture as it is. Because though God spoke truth into everything He made, and everything He made is defined by the truths He formed, we didn’t stay. There.
Humankind were given a choice between the solid truth of God and the vaporous lie.
God’s truth stayed.
We now whirl around on a planet, in a solar system, in a galaxy, and live and breathe and have our lives defined by the truths that God set in motion long ago. We live on the inside of these truths, truths like gravity, atmospheric pressure, water cycles, weather systems, ecosystems. All these systems, ecosystems and biomes sustain and recreate life again and again and again…
…until something goes wrong; until our industry breaks the bonds in an ecosystem, until pollution destroys the health of our atmosphere, until a species goes extinct, setting off a chain reaction of loss and extinction; then we learn the hard truth.
The hard truth that there is truth. There are laws governing the flourishing of life on earth and these laws can be broken, and when they are, everything else begins to break and life begins to diminish.
This is true with the laws of nature, and is also true with the laws of human nature.
Our souls are delicate ecosystems, networks of emotional and spiritual connections with the world around us, with family, with community and with God. Like sunlight, our connection with God is meant to be the life giving centre of human experience, the fuel, the core, the oxygenating blood within our veins, the source of our strength, the source of our true humanity.
Without God at the centre, our human ecosystem breaks down, like a polluted rain forest, an over fished ocean. Our vocational calling becomes competitive ambition, our relationships flounder in the absence of trust that only authenticity and honesty produce.
God’s truth stayed in all the created order around us, but we didn’t stay in this truth ourselves. And we find ourselves today, spinning in a galaxy, spinning on a planet where the spinning of lies unravels our humanity from the inside out, unravelling trust, unravelling intimacy and authentic community.
This is not the life God designed for us, not the world He’d first breathed into being, into human beings.
When humankind was alive in the garden with God, before the fall, before the hiss on the wind and the twisting of everything ever after, truth was everywhere in everything. There was never any question of doubt, confusion or mistrust of each other or the world around us. God was on the throne everywhere, in human hearts and in the world He had breathed into existence. There was no doubt. No confusion. No fear. No shame.
Trusting and loving God had given us a map to navigate life by. The map was true. The compass pointing true north. The ground was firm beneath our feet. We could trust it.
We could trust each other.
And this is what the word ‘truth’ in Hebrew means. Hebrew words are rounder, fuller and richer than English words. Like the many faces of a cut diamond a Hebrew word can have many applications, many uses, many facets reflecting meaning. The Hebrew word for truth is Emet. It means firmness, faithfulness, stability and trustworthiness. Something firmly set in place, reliable, dependable and steadfast. It just is. Like gravity.
This definition makes no allowances for truths defined by human experience, emotion, whim, feeling or culture. Truth is either reliable or it’s not. It’s either true or its not. Truth is unchanging. Firm. Trustworthy. Faithful.
And the verb of truth in Hebrew (He’emin) is trust. Because that is what truth produces. Truth and trust go together. One creates the other, the second is a product of the first.
We were created for trusting open relationships. And this is where we were, we humans, alive in the emotional ecosystem with God, connected with threads of truth, trust, intimacy and clear eyed wonder. Alive in the confidence and peace of firmness in the ground beneath our feet. We knew where we stood and who we were. We had nothing to hide, nothing to cover up, nothing to push into the dark closets of our minds. Everything was open, authentic and truly deeply free.
And did you sigh just a little when you read those lines? Like I sighed when I wrote them? How we long for relationships of trust.
God’s intention for humankind has always been this: intimate, trusting, honest relationships.
‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’
This story, our story describes the intimacy intended for human couples as being ‘united’ and becoming ‘one flesh’. It describes them as ‘naked’ but without any shame, embarrassment or hiddenness. This kind of ‘nakedness’ is (ironically) the polar opposite of what the porn industry produces. It is an intimacy built on trust and truth, the emotional and psychological connection every human being longs for. Every human being is formed for.
Childhood reminds us of what this can be like, as children not yet trained to mistrust, are uninhibited physically and emotionally, and earnestly believe what parents and adults say. They trust unreservedly. They hide nothing. Children have an artlessness and freedom that we marvel at, long for, and shake our heads over, knowing that eventually they’ll ‘learn’. They’ll grow up. They’ll learn to choose their words, hide their emotions and cover up their mistakes; the mistake of being artlessly honest in a lying world.
Even as I write this, a pang of sadness rises as I watch my own children grow up into the straight jacket of pretence in order to find acceptance in a world where truth matters less than appearances. Where we project ‘masks’ of ourselves on social media, airbrushing the truth of our struggles and insecurities. We may feel safe behind our masks, but they can never produce the intimacy and connection we crave.
Sometimes the moment we most clearly see what we had is the moment we find that we have lost it. We had truth in the beginning of all things, but it is only after the fall that we begin to understand what truth really is, the moment deception entered the vocabulary of humankind.
God had created all things that were true, and then He spoke truth to Adam and Eve. He gave them one truth to live by… the choice to trust His word as truth. His voice. His love.
‘And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
But they didn’t.
‘Now the serpent was more crafty 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. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.’
Humankind were given a choice between the solid truth of God and the vaporous lie of a persuasive imposter.
God’s truth stayed. Humanity didn’t.
The Post truth era began multiple millennia ago.
‘’Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’’
Where in truth they had lived in freedom and confidence in the love of God and each other, now in the shadow of the lie they hide from God. Trust breaks and with it’s demise crumbles intimacy. These first humans cover up and hide. From each other. From God.
They listened to the Hiss on the Wind, a self appointed imposter father, the father of lies (John 8:44), instead of their true heavenly Father, the Father of love. And now today everything is unclear, and the firm ground ‘emet’ of truth is hard to find, hard to place our feet on. The manipulation of truth has become a subconscious coping mechanism for much of humankind, so familiar we barely feel it.
Being lied to cuts like glass, and we’ve all felt the gash.
‘Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.’ Jeremiah 9:5
‘So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter’.
Our world is full of information, but starved of reliable truth. We have more knowledge than ever before about our world and ourselves, and yet we still don’t know who we are.
When we look out at the world we think we see ‘reality’ as it is, but we are really looking through a broken story, a story constructed by brokenness in our history, experience, education and culture.
There is no map we can now rely on, no compass pointing to true north. All our self constructed maps, the ‘truths’ we define for ourselves leave us wandering lost, losing our way, losing our bearings, losing our humanity. The ground is always shifting beneath our feet. We can’t trust it. When truth stumbles in the streets so do we. We can’t trust each other because when truth goes missing, so does trust, intimacy and true freedom.
The further we get from the garden, from the loving, life giving, truth-filled love of God, the more we get lost in the dark; the empty whirling dark of a life without the light of truth.
Truth is not within human grasp. We no longer have it in us. It is mixed, as mixed as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Truth has to come from outside human beings.
So it did.
Before everything broke, before the lies set in, before humankind breathed their first breath or spoke their first lie into the air. Truth began His walk to find us, we humans, now wandering around in the dark unable to find the light, unable to find our way.
When He said “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) Jesus was not speaking in riddles, parables or metaphors. He was revealing who He is. Truth is a person and that person is the Creator of all things, the laws governing all of nature and human nature, the ground that is firm beneath our feet, the rock to build a life on.
There is truth. Reliable, steadfast, enduringly faithful truth. It is not the knowledge of the world that produces this truth, but the knowledge of God. And not the distant idealogical knowledge of God as a religious idea, but the intimate personal knowledge of God as a friend. The knowledge we had in the garden long ago.
Because truth is not an idea, a religion, a set of facts, a list of principals, an agreed position, an information highway or a culturally popular understanding.
Truth is a person.
And we cannot fully grasp truth, unless we know this person. This is because unless our eyes are on His face and our hearts alive in the healing power of His love we will only ever see reality through the bruised, skewed lens of our past, our prejudices, our minds made-up, a tinted view of reality born of subtle self-reinforcing lies.
Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) .
Living in the light of God’s truth brings freedom, restores intimacy and builds trust. Truth is why Jesus came. Truth is who He is.
What is truth?’ Pilate said, as Truth in human form stood before him tortured and beaten by human lies. And Pilate, blinded by the dark, sends Truth to the cross.
But it is in this very moment, that we learn the truth of who God really is, the firm reliable truth like a rock to build a life on. It is in this moment that God reveals Himself to be grace and truth in person. Grace that gives Himself to restore our humanity to us and Truth that restores the map in our hearts so we will never be lost in the dark again.
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’
Steep for a moment in the truth of these words, read them outloud, let them sink deep within…
‘For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.’
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’
John 1: 14
Sit in stillness for a moment. Name some of the lies that you have lived in your life thus far. What is God calling you to let go of in the light of His truth and grace?
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