What is Truth?

John 18:33-38

The Bourne Identity must go down as one of the most exciting movies of the last two decades. Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) is a CIA agent who is found shot and unconscious in Italy. He recovers but has lost his memory and has no idea who he is. He discovers he speaks a number of languages and has unusual combat skills. He also realizes that people are out to kill him. The entire movie is about his fight to survive while he does his best to work out who he is and why he has these unusual abilities.
Now this is a great story for a movie, but when a story like this becomes reality it’s kind of weird. Yet there is a sense in which it is reality. The fact is that most people in this world are just like Jason Bourne; they are in survival mode but don’t have a clue who they are or why they exist. Approach anyone in any occupation and ask a few questions. Let’s interview George, a local fisherman in his boat; “Hey George, you’re up early every morning, working really hard, why?” “Why! I’m trying to survive, that’s why!” “Ok, sure, but why? I mean, what do you think this life is about? Why are you here, why do you live?” “I don’t think anyone can answer that! We are just here and we all do our best to survive!”
If you’ve been to the places I’ve been this is a typical response from most people. Nearly all people are a Jason Bourne; they are fighting to survive but don’t know why they are here or who they are supposed to be.
Questions like ‘Why are we here? Who am I? What is the point of life?’ are known as First Order Questions of Life. They are the most basic questions a person can ask about themselves; more basic than ‘What will I eat?’ or ‘Where will I sleep?’ Yet most people put more time, energy and thought into ‘What will I eat?’ than ‘Why am I here?’
Enter Jesus: In the scripture above Jesus tells Pilate, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth” (18.37). Here Jesus is claiming to know the truth about life; why we are here and who we are meant to be. Pilate responds to this claim with a First Order Question of Life, “What is truth?” But he doesn’t wait for Jesus to give an answer because like George the fisherman he did not expect anyone to know the answer.
Here we see a clear distinction between Jesus and many other great people. Jesus not only believed in absolute truth, he claimed to know absolute truth, and considered it his job to tell everyone what it was! Anyone who likes Jesus in anyway needs to factor this into their ideas about him.
The word ‘truth’ carries a lot of weight when used the way Jesus and Pilate were using it. When Jesus says, “The reason I…came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” it implies that much of the world is deceived and ultimate truth is here to correct things. This fits well with all we know about Jesus’ teaching elsewhere. He saw the truth as light invading a dark world. His saw it as a quality that flowed from a person, namely God. For Jesus, truth involved God, the correct story about God, and the character of this God in his people. He saw life, purpose and truth as things that came from ‘above.’ He told Pilate “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (19.11).
People sometimes say “Christianity may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” Can you imagine what Jesus would have said to that? What is true for one is true for all; otherwise it’s not truth! Truth is not subjective; it isn’t dependent upon human opinion. If someone is persuaded that there is no law of gravity, and they act on their belief by jumping off a ten storey building, they will soon find out that gravity exists regardless of their opinion. So truth is not subjective but objective. And when we discuss religion we are discussing the origin and purpose of life. This is not something subjective because what put you on this earth put me and everyone else here too. Now, our opinions about life may vary but the truth about it does not. So if I say Christianity is true and you say something contradictory, we cannot both be speaking the truth; at least one of us is wrong. So Christianity cannot be true for me and at the same time not true for you. Actually, we can resolve the whole issue very quickly by simply recognizing that anyone who claims that ‘truth is subjective’ contradicts themselves because their very statement is an objective statement about truth.
If truth is from God as Jesus claimed, any disconnection with God will dismantle it. In fact Jesus saw this world as largely disconnected that is why he claimed “I…came into the world is to testify to the truth.” Now we can be disconnected because of our philosophy on life like Pilate and George, but we can also be disconnected because we have not maintained our relationship with God. Either way, to the degree we are disconnected we are like Jason Bourne lacking truth about who we are or what we are meant to be. We are like ‘sheep without a shepherd’ (Mt 9.36).
When Pilate asked ‘What is truth’ he did not wait for Jesus to answer, but truth was staring him in the face. Jesus said elsewhere “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14.6). He also said “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8.32). What a pity Pilate did not take the time to connect with the truth. How about you? Are you just in survival mode? Do you know why you are here? Do you know who you are meant to be? When last did you connect with The Truth?

Illustrations: The Bourne Identity Film. A Fisherman Interviewed. Alpha Invite Cards. Bourne’s Attackers & Misinformation. CS. Lewis on the Moral Law.

Words to Vineyard Mombasa: Are you connected?

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