Truth (Day 12 of A Simple Lent)
In a political campaign, it often seems like the biggest loser is sincerity and truth. It becomes easy for websites like FactCheck.org to parse every political statement or for confusions to blossom into controversies: such as fear of bias leading to a made up story of people chanting of “English Only” at a Nevada caucus or a candidate misremembering the sight of people cheering on September 11, 2001.
In times like these, truth is always the victim to political expediency.
Then again, I don’t think we always want the truth. We want to spare people’s feelings, so we tell “little white lies”. We don’t want people to think less of us, so we tell “tall tales”. And sometimes, when we tell the truth about being an advocate for new technology and drive our fellow Senators to fund it, late night talk show hosts will make jokes about how we just claimed to invent the internet.
Truth and politics seem to be at cross purposes. And we are political creatures.
Jacob sends 10 of his sons (all the ones not born of his favorite wife) to Egypt in hopes of saving his family. And in one of the strangest stories in Hebrew Scripture, they meet their brother whom they plotted to kill, only to sell into slavery. They just (somehow!) can’t tell it’s him. And Joseph goes on to deceive them.
This story goes on for a while as Joseph refuses to tell them the truth, while also making them do things: particularly, bringing back his full-brother, Benjamin.
What is fascinating for the reader, particularly the faithful reader, is that this long story of deception seems entirely unnecessary and seems to compromise the value of telling the truth. It seems to have some other purpose.
Sex and Truth
Meanwhile, Paul is finally getting into what is bothering him about what the people are doing in that church in Corinth. They are speaking ill of Paul and others. That’s bad. And apparently, they are condoning some “sexual immorality” in their midst. And Paul’s prescription sounds pretty severe.
But Paul is focused on the kingdom, not a legal framework. He doesn’t say “here’s what you do in every situation like this” but “here’s what to do in this situation so we can get back to our work.”
And I think that distinction is really important. This is what Christian community is for: building of the kingdom. Not for judging and punishing those messing with the kingdom. The focus is (and must be) the kingdom.
This is the direct opposite of what we see from the Supreme Court, whose most important job is to help sort out the law of the land. They aren’t building the kingdom, but building precedent so that we can all know what we’re supposed to do (perhaps when we’re building the kingdom). As the heart of the legal system, their job is to judge.
Occasionally the court will make a decision that is specific to a situation. They will then suggest that it isn’t to set precedent or it isn’t interpreting laws in a new way, it’s just about this one occurrence. Do this and get back to the bigger work, they seem to argue. But even then, those decisions almost always set a precedent. And I think that’s because of who the Court is.
The Court is to judge; the church is not. The church is to build the Kingdom.
So when I read Paul pushing the people away from a particular behavior or I hear Jesus speak to who his “real” family is, I’m not hearing proscriptions or precedent, I’m hearing path and movement. Not the contours of the law, but the contours of the kingdom itself. And those obsessed with laws (and making new laws) in the church are often the ones unable to see the real contours of the kingdom.
Notice also that Paul throws “boasting” under the bus with judging and sexual immorality, as he speaks to celebrating, not with malice and evil, but with sincerity and truth.
This helps me better know what is true, what is good, what is of Paul’s understanding of the Kingdom. For…
- Truth and fact are not the same.
- There is no absolute truth.
- There is not only one right and one wrong.
- Truth is revealed in myth, art, music, and poetry.
- Truth can be discovered.
- Truth is found in multiple perspectives.
Let us be provoked into a world of celebrating diversity and multiple perspectives and opportunities to know and love GOD and one another. Let us rejoice in our many differences and our many truths. Let us better know the love of GOD through embracing, rather than rejecting.
This Lent, let us find not the destination of true, but the journey of truth.
With sincerity and love.
Daily Office Readings
Or visit the alternative Daily Office I often use.
This week’s homework is to silence the distractions.
Download the worksheet: A Simple Lent-Handout 2!