Truthfulness

By Clarice McKenney

Clarice McKenneyEver since I was a little girl, raised in an American Baptist Church in the home of one of its ministers, my greatest experience of joy has been connected to hearing what is true, what is everlasting, what is of God.

The last week of May I was overcome with that joy while we were studying I John in Adult Forum (also known as Round Table) at church before the worship service. And I expressed that joy in the session.

We all bring our own favorite versions of the Bible to sessions and are sometimes amazed by the insights we receive from one another’s translations. My translation is the New American Standard, and here’s what it says in that portion of I John. It’s from Chapter 2, verse 21.

“I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.”

Reading that admonishment from John brought joy to my soul because in America, in these times of polarization, both spiritually and politically, those simple words were a welcome reminder of the most important truth we can know: God is all about teaching us the truth.

His words are truthful, no matter which translation we use to read them. In fact, it’s deeper than the words. God just uses human words to communicate to us so that we may truly understand the greatest of God’s truths: He is truth. Furthermore, Jesus the Christ is the embodiment of God’s truth. That pun was intentional.

The opposite of truth is lies. Lies never come from God. They are human aberrations. The dictionary defines aberrations as “variations,” but I believe that definition dances too softly around the edges of what we all know is of God. God’s truth has no grays; it’s totally light-filled (the purest white).

I have little that is positive to say about the current political crisis our country and the world are facing right now. Thinking people everywhere are concerned about the increasing levels of anger being acted out in violence.

I am convinced by God’s Word and human evidence, though, that this crisis of violence comes totally from people’s fears. For any fearful person willing to be introspective, realizing what is at the root of that fear could be a game changer, for that individual and for the world around him or her.

A psychiatrist my ex-husband and I consulted in Pendleton about his son’s anger told us, “Scratch anger and find fear.” He maintained then, and I’ve heard the same many times since, that fear is always behind anger.

Jesus tells us that fear is not of the Lord. Fear may be the basis of all human evil, whether it manifests itself in words or actions. We’ve all heard that “money is the root of all evil.” But I think the fear of not having money and possessions or power is at the heart of all evil, including violence.

Although they loudly complain about the poor, homeless and disabled using government assistance, the angriest acts and shouts of their own victimhood come from individuals who obviously have enough money to spend lavishly on Trump paraphernalia; buy the largest, loudest pickup trucks, and take trips following the former president all over the country to his rallies.

In other words, the very ones bashing actual victims for seeking relief are claiming their own victimhood. Just one of many hypocritical claims. Ironically, the more hypocritical something appears to us, the louder the cry is from the perpetrator.

There is another issue that flags the current crisis as urgent for me. Truthfulness is synonymous with facts. Facts are based on scientific or mathematical premises, not on emotional reactions to events and personalities.

Opinions, just like mine, hopefully are based on facts, but sometimes they are heavily influenced by emotions.

One of my favorite phrases to come around again during the current crisis came from my representative in Congress when I owned a little store in Greene, New York. The senator was in town making rounds with his constituents. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Contrary to the thoughts of some persons in our country, our county and our own families, facts remain facts, no matter who is reading or hearing them. Unfortunately, though, each of us has different emotional reactions to certain facts. Some facts are downright uncomfortable for us to face.

Because each of us has the God-given capacity to change our minds as we grow and learn, what is uncomfortable for us to acknowledge when we are younger Christians actually may be embraced as we mature in our faith. I have seen the same principle at work in friends of other religions as well as those I have known who claim to be atheists. No matter what our faith stems from, it usually changes as we age.

The principal that lies behind Monahan’s words has guided me spiritually and personally from youth through careers in journalism and teaching. For a number of years in the ‘80s, I worked as a public relations representative for a variety of causes and corporations. I always looked for truthful aspects of the work that I could share with the public, and there were lots of facts I was able to spread through print, TV and radio. But I almost never was in a position of power to correct problems that came to light so that the corrections could be part of the message. Those rare moments when I contributed to problem solving for the company or organization were the most gratifying parts of my work.

But truthfulness is much deeper and more important than telling the truth about the things people and corporations accomplish or fail at accomplishing. Truthfulness is dealing openly with facts or reality.

Why do I think it is important to deal with facts and reality in an open, truthful manner? Because throughout my lifetime, I have seen what happens when we deny truth. Also, I continually read in the scriptures statements like the Apostle John’s.

In I John chapter 2, verses 4 and 5, for instance, John writes, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. Bu this we know that we are in Him.”

There are individuals in our society who believe that they are capable of perfection in this life. I, also a human being, do not believe I am able to be perfect in this life, but such individuals could be correct about themselves.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we all became saints in our lifetimes?

I know that there are Christian denominations that believe human beings can be perfect in this life. My beliefs and theirs are in the realm of belief, not fact. So although I believe these things with all my heart, only God knows the TRUTH.

Regardless of my human desire for perfection and prayers asking God to improve me in this lifetime, I believe it is unlikely, if not impossible. But, as I make my way along life’s road, working toward perfection, I have God’s assurance, in His Word (both the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ) that some day I will be with Him in heaven. As a Christian, although I will not stop trying to improve in my walk with Jesus, I am content to wait to be perfect until that moment that I see Him, and that change will be for eternity.

Hopefully, you too are striving for perfection. The more of us who do that, the better our world becomes. But I hope that even in the striving, you are resting in the assurance of God that you are acceptable in His sight. We truthfully are acceptable in God’s sight. He is total love and full of grace for us in our imperfection. He is watching patiently and eagerly waiting to receive us into the fullness of eternal life with Him.

These truths are spread throughout the Bible, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

 

 

5 thoughts on “Truthfulness

  1. I appreciate the thought and time you put into this letter! I have a couple thoughts. Indeed, in John 14:6 (NET), Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 3:16 says that eternal life can be ours through believing in Jesus (see also Romans 10:9-10).
    As for politics, there does seem to be too much divisiveness and emotion not based on truth. But, despite the faults in both mainstream Republican and Democrat factions, it seems that one faction holds moral truth in higher regard. This is particularly true in the case of abortion. If an unborn child at 15 weeks (who could also be referred to as a fetus) is able to suck his or her thumb and is developing fingerprints (see the link below this writing), that unborn child is a human worthy of protection, even if those circumstances are more than inconvenient for the child’s mother. Protecting these children should be a greater priority than it is currently.
    My point is that, if one faction speaks softy and civilly in support of the freedom to murder children (that is what it is) and the opposing faction doesn’t, one should support the opposing faction more, even if it is unkind at times. Note that, even for those who have had an abortion, those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life! This is a wonderful thing!
    I hope this makes sense. My point is that I don’t want the baby to be thrown out with the bathwater. May the Lord bless you!

    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7247-fetal-development-stages-of-growth

  2. Thank you, Isaac, for your thoughtful, respectful reply.

    I totally hear and appreciate your loving concern for the safety of fetuses that are at the 15-week stage. What you write about is an excellent example of moral principles exhibited by one of the parties.

    As you point out, politics is involved in so many important issues. This moral aspect of life, abortion, was not always a “moral truth.” For instance, in the early Roman Catholic church, abortion was permitted for male fetuses in the first 40 days of pregnancy and for female fetuses in the first 80-90 days. It was not until 1588 that Pope Sixtus V declared all abortion murder, and excommunication was the punishment for abortion. Then a new pope again allowed early abortions, which remained the church law for 300 more years until Pope Pius IX again declared all abortion murder.

    Unwanted pregnancies have dropped significantly with education and birth control’s availability. Unfortunately, Roman Catholics officially ban all birth control except the rhythm method. As a result, the daughter of my dearest high school friend in Buffalo, a devout Roman Catholic, had 10 children, each of whom was named for a Catholic saint. All of them believe they are fulfilling God’s plan.

    Every person is free to live their life according to their beliefs in this country. We all are free to speculate on God’s plan for our lives, but God will reveal all truth about such things as abortion when we are with Him.

    1. You’re welcome—thank you as well for your reply to my reply 🙂 I appreciate your civility.

      You said, “This moral aspect of life, abortion, was not always a ‘moral truth.'” Next, you described the historical and contemporary positions of the Roman Catholic church on abortion and birth control. Moral truth is not something that changes based on one’s perception of morality. For instance, if a person perceived it as moral to murder a segment of the population (as some Germans did in WW2), that perception would not change the moral truth that such murder is wrong. Likewise, if the Roman Catholic church permitted abortion, that does not mean it was morally acceptable. Popular opinion has led to morally bad things. The judgments of those who may have thought they are serving God have also led to morally bad things (for instance, see John 16:2). People believe either what is true or what is not.

      Finally, you said, “We all are free to speculate on God’s plan for our lives, but God will reveal all truth about such things as abortion when we are with Him.” If I misunderstand that sentence, please let me know, but that sentence implies that the moral truth on abortion cannot be truly known before we are with God. He has told us in the Bible what is moral and what is not. For instance, Romans 1:28-32 (NET) says,
      “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.”
      Now, especially in light of that last sentence, I should mention something: I have sinned, and so, humanly, I deserve death, but God has given me eternal life through Jesus (in whom I believe), which is wonderful! Romans 6:23 (NET) says, “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Certainly, it seems that some issues are issues of the conscience (see Romans 14), but some issues, such as abortion, are much more morally simple to understand. Some evidence for the humanness of unborn babies (fetuses) was given in my previous reply.

      Though I say all this perhaps strongly, I truly don’t intend to be rude. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and will pray for you!

  3. Dear Isaac,
    I think our conversation should be pursued sometime, but in person.

    But even in person, issues of moral truth and immorality are so incredibly loaded, not just emotionally but spiritually.
    With respect to manmade doctrinal differences between us two Christians, we might quickly be at an impasse.

    There are extremely difficult items in the Bible regarding value of life issues particularly in the Old Testament (like Psalm 137).
    Based on what you have shared here, even though we share belief in Jesus, I think you and I would look at these passages very differently.

    More importantly, I think there would be few points of agreement because of the differences in our doctrinal beliefs.

    So let’s continue to respect one another’s rights to each person’s beliefs.

    I sincerely appreciate you beginning our dialogue on these crucial issues.

    1. Thank you, Clarice. I appreciate the dialogue! I hope you have a great rest of the week, and may the Lord bless you!

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