One would think that Christ-followers would have a good grasp on what Truth is, yet we seem instead to settle into two separate and distinct camps: either we think that interpretation of Scripture is personal and whatever it means to you is what it means, or we think that there is only one possible interpretation and we know what that is.
Part of the trouble is, I believe, simply the worldview that our own time and place of living thrusts on us.
We Americans take great pride in being individualistic, of having individual rights and freedoms. These are good things and have allowed us to worship with great freedom, yet they also teach us that religion is a private matter, that it is up to the individual to choose what they will believe.
Which leads all too quickly to the idea that there is no one truth.
As I sat in Panera one afternoon, reading and writing, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation between three people who were discussing the start-up of a New Age magazine. As they were talking about how to bring in money, advertisers, one of the women said, "Well, I can always find something in my Christian-ness to attract New Agers. I can find something in the Bible that will relate to them where they are."
As distressing as this sort of worldview is, many Christ-followers have reacted too violently against this way of thinking about Scripture, which sends them spinning into that second camp. I have met so many who think that there is only one interpretation of Scripture and who are quite certain that they know which one is correct.
So much of Scripture contains layer upon layer of meaning. The deeper you delve, the more you uncover. Why do we give in to our pride and think that we know all there is to know about God's Word? Why do we shore up our defenses against those who believe differently than we do? Have other Christ-followers become our enemy or is our enemy much more insidious than that?
So how do we solve this? How can we keep from falling too far towards either extreme? How can we who claim to follow Jesus know what Truth really is?
What if we simply listen? Listen to the words of Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life?
In the gospel of John, Jesus gives one of His most famous statements:
The truth will set you free.That is a beautiful (and oft-quoted!) statement, but how do we know what the truth is?
Ah. Just listen. Jesus gives us that answer too.
The whole sentence is this:
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.Then. A very key word! What comes before? One very important if.
IF you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
There it is. If we hold to Jesus' teaching, if we read it, meditate on it, live it, then we are His disciples.
Jesus' disciples know the truth (even, perhaps, the truth about Truth?).
God's Spirit Himself teaches us.
And then the Truth will set us free.
art credit: flag photo by Robert Linder; Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Johannes Vermeer