Home

Devotion index

Hope

Abiding

Encountering God

Life together

Spreading the Word

Maturity

Obedience

Purpose

Personal honesty

The battle

line
Book reviews

Books for ministry

Christian pop culture

Travel writing

Other genres

ruleBackground

Gospels

John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

January 12, 2017

Post-truth Christians

Apparently, people are not seeking the truth.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about this being a "post-truth" era. It is a time when technology and the Internet have developed in a way that allows and encourages people to live in bubbles that reinforce their interests and beliefs. We are told it is also a time when people prefer to believe that whatever their preferred tribe preaches is true, and whatever anyone else espouses is not. Few people, the thinking goes, care about what is objectively true, and actual facts do not matter anymore.
It did not take long for the unscrupulous and the profit-minded to learn how to exploit the technology behind the Internet and social media. And it is no surprise that the companies and engineers who built and profit from these tools are not very interested in addressing the social consequences of their work.

The thinking goes that because people are increasingly exposed only to information they agree with, they have less of a chance to be surprised, challenged, or to learn something that might change their minds. They are also less likely to realize when they've been had. Thinking becomes more rigid and people are more easily manipulated.

In recent months, the collision of nefarious intentions, technology and people’s ignorance has produced unprecedented changes in how people see the world. The election aside, something has changed for the worse in the population, and no one seems to know what to do about it.

People don’t seem to value the truth right now.

Where are Christians and churches in these times? We of all people should be truth-seekers. After all, we Christians follow and identify with Jesus, who was Truth himself and stubbornly held to what was true, no matter what it cost him. As we grow closer to and more like our Savior, one of the changes we should notice is an increasing desire for the truth—a hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Like Jesus, we should find ourselves drawn to seeking out and acting on what is true. We should find ourselves becoming more aware of lies, whether they are being told to make money, to manipulate us, or to make us afraid.

But in these days it seems that a lot of American Christians are no wiser than anyone else. They seem to not be seeking objective truth at all, and when they fall prey to the manipulators they bring down not only themselves but also the cause of Christ. Increasingly, American Christians are failing at what the public relations world calls "optics." They do not appear to others “as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Instead, they look angry, clueless, even heartless. Why would anyone want to investigate Jesus when his followers look to be so full of hate?

*****

Remember the conversation that Jesus had with Pilate? Jesus was under—to put it mildly—severe duress at the time. And Jesus was talking to a man for whom truth shifted in the wind.
Pilate had learned to play the political game. He did not believe in objective truth. Like many people today, Pilate thought “truth” was something to be manipulated. He believed in expedient truth, truth that would keep him out of trouble with Rome. Truth that, if he played his cards right, would advance his career and his own security.

Pilate asked him, "So you are a king”? Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, "What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Speaking to the man who held power of life and death over him, Jesus did not back down. He testified to the objective truth of who he was. He served truth no matter the cost.

Jesus’ words opened up a crack in Pilate. But the crack was not enough to overcome Pilate’s self-interest. Knowing Jesus was innocent, Pilate went out and bowed to the pressure of politics. He chose to mollify the religious leaders and the crowd they had stirred up. Knowing the truth, Pilate served politics and what he imagined were his own best interests, and gave them what they wanted.
We, who claim allegiance to Jesus, must not betray him like this.

To follow Jesus, we must point our own compasses in the direction of God’s truth. Like the Bereans who actively sought out what was true (Acts 17), and like Jesus himself, we need to stay oriented to truth, keep seeking truth, and act in accordance with truth.

It might be a post-truth world out there, but one way Christians could make a difference and point others to Jesus at the same time would be to buck the trend. Be “counter-cultural,” as many churches are fond of saying. Insist that the truth matters. Insist on getting to the bottom of things. Put some effort into it. And then, when you have found the truth, live according to its light.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

.

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
—Matthew 5:6