God is truth!
Scripture is full of references of how the LORD our God is truth, and how God speaks truth. Jesus, in John 14, tells his disciples, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.” (emphasis added)
If God is truth, then we who are followers of God must also be about truth. If we want to live in righteousness, then our lives must be defined by truth.
If God is truth, than it naturally means what is not true is not of God. Lying. False statements. The nuancing of words to appear to say one thing but mean another. Half-truths. Shading the truth. Being less than completely honest….These actions are an absence of truth. They are not light, they are darkness. Darkness is of the Devil. Those who live in truth do not walk in the darkness, which means that those who are trying to follow God must speak truth.
This all seems clear, but becomes complicated in the midst of our culture. We live in a time that is being labeled as post-truth or post-fact. A growing number of individuals in our culture no longer believe in absolute truth (the belief that there are some things that are always true no matter what…such as God.) A recent Barna report states that 57% of American adults believe truth is relative. These numbers increase in younger generations. This same study pronounced that 74% of Millennials believe that truth is whatever is right for you or works best for you in the moment. While these statistics may seem shocking, they make sense when compared to our culture and the ever prevalent rise of fake news and personal opinion blogs. Whether on the right or the left, fake news blogs feel no shame in pedaling their conspiracy theories, using all capital letters in their titles, hoping for more clicks on their articles. This works when truth becomes relative and facts no longer matter.
This is the culture we live in, which becomes even scarier when we realize that often our culture is influencing us in ways we don’t recognize. It’s easy in our culture to “swallow the kool-aid” and believe the false narratives in order to define our own reality.
Don’t like what someone says? Find another blog that says something different.
Don’t like the facts being presented? Find other facts, or simply make them up.
This seems unreal, yet if we aren’t careful, we find ourselves changed by the culture in a way that we begin to share half-truths and false narratives as well.
Yet we are called to live in righteousness. We are called to be Image Bearers of God, and since God is truth, we must be truth as well. How can we faithfully follow God in a post-truth, post-fact world? What does it mean to speak truth?
At Sinai, God is trying to form a people who are different from the culture that has shaped them for generations. The Ten Commandments are not just a list of rules to follow, they are foundational principles of what it means to live as free people. They are the characteristics which define how to live life in community as followers of the LORD our God. This life is described in a couple of ways: most simply as love God and love others. The LORD our God demands complete loyalty. Thus we are called to place no gods before Yahweh, to not have any idols, and to keep God’s name as holy before the nations. Secondly, we are called to love and care for our neighbors. Thus we honor the aged, we don’t kill or hurt, we protect the property of others, and we tell the truth.
Truth telling is more than just not telling lies. It is instead living in the light instead of darkness. It is defining our lives by what gives light, not what takes it away.
False witness then becomes those things that hide the truth from others. Yes, it involves lying and shading the truth, especially in ways that make one appear more righteous or not as guilty. But false witness involves so much more than just lying. False witness is gossip; both the sharing of gossip and the listening and accepting of gossip. False witness is hiding evil behaviors to appear righteous. False witness is attacking another so that my own sins are not discovered. False witness is failing to confront the lies and misstatements of others; allowing their statements to go unchallenged. False witness is knowing the truth, and failing to act upon the truth that is known, or failing to share the truth with others. False witness is not walking in the light.
God is truth and light. When we speak truth, we live into the righteousness of God. When we speak falsehoods, when we shade the truth, when we nuance words for a particular meaning, when we are not being fully honest…these are acts of darkness which are always from the evil one.
In a culture that is often defined as post-truth, we, as followers of God, are called to be truth speakers, shining light into the darkness. Because God is light.