Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1 (NASB95)
Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NASB95)
The “Mush Factor”: Christian Truth in a Post-Truth World
As I sipped my coffee and watched the early morning news, I realized that every commercial that came on the television was a political advertisement. The majority of those commercials are what I call “attack” commercials. In other words, these commercials were not designed to highlight the positive contributions or a candidate’s platform, but rather these ads questioned, denigrated, or denounced specific aspects of another candidate’s platform. At the end of each commercial there is a quick statement of sponsorship, always by the opposing party, a PAC of the opposing party, or the opposing candidate. Both parties produce these types of advertisements, not necessarily because they want you to know a truth, but rather because they want to control your perception of the truth. I felt my brain turning into mush as I tried to pick out facts, exaggerations, and outright misrepresentations. This should be a cause for concern. Like Pontius Pilate, we end up asking ourselves, “What is truth?”
This should not be news to us; indeed, the idea that if you can control the narrative, you control the truth is not new. However, now, more than ever before, all of us need to have a firm grasp on what it true, and what is truth. Christians, above all others, should have a firm grasp on not just what is true, but what is Truth.
The first step in this process is suggested both in the writings of Paul the Apostle and John the Disciple. Paul tells the Thessalonians that they need to examine everything in order to determine what is good or evil. John, in his first epistle, says that we must test the spirits, to determine what is true or false. In English translation, they use the terms “test” and “examine.” In other words, Christians have a responsibility to know the “truth” of a thing. We can only determine that truth if we take the time to examine carefully what is being said or done. Secondly, we must measure what we find against the exemplar of truth: Jesus Christ himself. Jesus in John 14:6 states to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” Jesus is The TRUTH. He is the Truth incarnate. All truth must be measured against his life, his words, and his actions. No other test can suffice. Additionally, Jesus tells the crowd around him in John 8:32 and 8:36, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free…So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” The only true freedom we need is knowing THE TRUTH as it is in Jesus.
Now as easy and obvious as this seems, it is not for many Christians today. Some will try to separate Jesus from politics so that they can hold a truth that is neither attested to in Scripture, or aligned with Jesus, THE TRUTH. Some will try to separate their faith in Jesus from their business dealings in order to justify unscrupulous actions. More insidious yet, some will try to quote Scripture out of its context, or even to contest Jesus’ words in order to justify slander, hypocrisy, theft, promiscuity, adultery, and other behaviors that contradict the very truth of Christ. The faith of these Christians is as “the house built on the sand,” and will not endure. Here are some “Christian truths” that need to be embraced in our world.
- Love your enemy;
- If you have a grudge, don’t worship again before you make it right with the other;
- Clothe, feed, hydrate, and shelter “the least of these”—the poor, displaced, addicted, starving, and imprisoned;
- Do not judge unless you want to be judged;
- Forgive everyone for anything. It is the power of Christ working through you. Remember, Christ forgave those who killed him while they were doing it;
- Love unconditionally, always.
Determining the truth is simple: Does what is being said or promoted align with the love, forgiveness, and restoration of Jesus? Does what is being said state factual information, or does it attempt to smear, devalue, or marginalize someone else by falsehood, innuendo, or mischaracterization? If it doesn’t mesh in accordance with Jesus’ life and teachings, then it is not truth. Do the hard work of testing, examining, and discerning. At the end of all things, only Jesus as THE TRUTH will remain.