January 2022: Thoughts From My COVID Wilderness 2.0
As we enter 2022, we are learning to live with Covid. We are beginning to assimilate the reality that the virus is going to be around. Period. It is no longer novel. We are well acquainted with the variants, but it continues to be difficult to sus out hyperbole to form a measured response to the threat to our health. I am sure there are many reasons for this, and it is not really where my thoughts are this month. Rather, my thoughts are informed by how difficult it has been to figure out the right course to chart because it is becoming increasingly hard to know the facts supporting the truth, and not just about Covid, but also about any number of topics that are troubling our waters at the moment. It all boils down to one huge concept: Truth. And truth is complicated.
Over the past decade or more, I have noticed a slow, insidious erosion of the concept of truth. Years back, when I was working with the youth group in our Washington, DC church, I remember discussing the verse from the letter 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” It is a good, deep scripture and it was intended to spark conversation. So we asked the youth, “In what way might this verse be true?” Now, this was a feisty group of sophisticated young folks. They were always ready to engage, and this night was no different. The discussion went back and forth, back, and forth, until one kid spoke these words: “It is not true at all because it is an absolute statement and there are no absolutes!” The conversation stopped as everyone thought over his response. Kids began to nod their heads in agreement, yea that is true. There are no absolutes, therefore there is no way for the verse to be true—only partially true. This discussion went back and forth until I pointed out the fatal flaw in the argument. I bet you have spotted it as well. The statement, “there are no absolutes” is an absolute; consequently, for it to be true, there must be absolutes. The nature of the utterance proves there are absolutes, and if there are absolutes then there must be ultimate truth. As I stated earlier, truth is complicated, and it is becoming increasingly tricky to grasp.
In the last two years, that erosion has accelerated at an alarming rate. It has become more and more difficult to determine what is true. We used to be able to use facts, research, and data to bolster our position on truth, but now that we have opened the pandora’s box of the internet, we must work really hard to ascertain factual from what has been manipulated or spun or faked altogether and, frankly, we don’t want to work that hard. Consequently, we allow others to be our authority on truth, relying on their interpretation, and we get stuck in the quagmire we find ourselves in today.
We have made truth a choice, one of many options as if it were a menu at a restaurant. Opinion or perspective has taken its place. “My truth,” “your truth” are just statements of opinion or perspective, really. We conflate my side of the story or their side of the story without acknowledgement that “the truth” is in the middle. Facts serve to hold up truth, but they do not determine truth, and most of us ignore the facts anyway because we do not trust them. This is making my brain hurt.
Now you may be wondering why I have taken you along on this ride through my brain. What does this have to do with anything spiritual? Because brothers and sisters, you and I have staked our entire lives on this concept. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through me.” This statement is either true or it isn’t. It cannot be one of the ways to God. It is an absolute statement. The way to God is clearly stated, and I believe it. What is not clearly stated is how or when people will come to God through Jesus, and that keeps us in check.
Truth is a concept each believer must wrestle with throughout their lifetime. A concept each believer must treat with humility and reverence. A concept apart from the absolute, I would argue, that should never be set in concrete in the hearts and minds of a believer, because understanding deepens, evolves over a lifetime of experience, learning and time spent with the Triune God from whom they came.
In the end, though, I suppose truth is a choice. We decide to believe Jesus is who he said. Sometimes we must decide over and over, but we choose. My New Year prayer for each of you (myself included) is that we hold fast to this resolution, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth…” Psalm 86:11.
Peace and all good things, beloved. Amen.