I have to be honest, if ever there was a phrase that the simple hearing of it spoken could light a raging fire in my soul it’s the phrase my truth. And yet, it has become the mantra of our modern society. It’s literally on plaques that you can purchase at Target. Seriously. Seriously.
In the reading for this week, Keller beings the chapter talking about the argument that many have against Christianity’s claim on Absolute truth. He says: “Is a belief in absolute truth the enemy of freedom? Most people I’ve met in New York City believe that it is.” He goes on to say, “In this view, ‘freedom’ means that there is no overarching purpose for which we were created. If there were, we would be obligated to conform to it and to fulfill it, and that is limiting. True freedom is freedom to create your own meaning and purpose.” Then he quotes from Stephen Jay Gould who says, “We may yearn for a ‘higher’ answer-but none exists…we must construct these answers for ourselves.”
Is that true? Does that correspond with reality? An example I like to use when talking with someone about truth is this: Who gets to decide what is right and wrong? Who get’s to decide what makes someone happy? Happiness is, after all, one of THE supreme ethics of our time. We have the right to pursue happiness at all costs. But, what if you get in the way of my pursuit of happiness? What if you have the life I want and feel that I deserve? If my pursuit of happiness is the supreme ethic and we live in a world where we each get to create our own truth, then no one can say that it is wrong for me to kill you and take your life. I get to kill you and you have to be okay with that, because, my truth is my truth.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (I certainly am not one) to figure out that there must be some boundaries that we all agree upon. However, as common sense as that may be, there are still SO MANY voices pushing the idea that we all get to create our own truth so that we can be happy. I mean, if there’s a plaque for sale at Target, you know it’s a mainstream idea. I mean, Target carries the authentic Magnolia Market line of products that are made in China and Indonesia – it doesn’t get anymore real and mainstream than that!
Whoah, now, whoah. Don’t you go picking on Chip and Joanna. I mean there’s Jesus, Paul, maybe a few Martyrs and then the Gaines. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chip & Jo-Jo. I’ve probably seen every episode of Fixer Upper and am looking forward to the Magnolia Channel that’s coming soon. But, we went to the Fixer Upper Mecca on our last road trip, AKA, “The Silos” in Waco, TX, and as amazing and awesome as that place was, I was disappointed. Do you want to know why? Probably not, but I’m going to tell you. All their stuff was made in Indonesia. One of the things I loved about the show was their desire to use local craftsmen and women in their projects. That’s why we went to see Clint Harp’s place too. The truth they created in their show was that the right thing to do is to buy local and support local. That’s a truth I agree with wholeheartedly. So, I just assumed that the things they had for sale would be things that were made locally. But they weren’t. They sold us all a truth but don’t live by it in their own business. They created a burden for us to carry that it seems they themselves aren’t willing to carry.
Again, I love the Gaines. Some day, Chip and I are going to be best friends. He just doesn’t know it yet. But, this illustrates something about our culture.
You might way, “well, that’s just the world we live in, everyone gets their stuff mass produced in China and Indonesia.” To which I would reply, “Exactly!”
Yes, everyone get’s their stuff made in China, but that doesn’t make it right. Yes, we all eat food that was grown by a corporate farm who has probably put hundreds of small farms out of business, but that doesn’t make it right. Yes, we live in a world where it’s okay to killl unborn babies by the millions and as long as you don’t talk about it we’re fine, but that doesn’t make it right.
In Matthew 23, Jesus gets into some very difficult teaching for the Pharisees, what we call the “woe’s”. The word woe can be translated as woe or alas, but it’s literally a grunt. It’s like Jesus was grunting at the pharisees, grrrrrunnnt. Come on guys.
At the beginning of that chapter, Jesus starts by saying this: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (Matt 23:1-4)
Then, Jesus gives the Pharisees his first grunt: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
What was Jesus getting at here? The pharisees were creating an oppressive religious system intended for the priests and trying to force the requirements on the common people. I’m sure their intentions were good. “We need to be a nations of priests, that’s what God called us to be! So, everyone has to live up to these impossible standards.” So they had taken the thousands and thousands of rules and started to put them on the people. “They tied up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
At least here, it was one group who was the dominant burdener. Yes, there were the Romans who had influence in people’s lives, but, in large part, the Jews were submissive to the pharisees. In our world, that’s no true. Not only are there hundreds, if not thousands of influential voices telling us what truth we’re supposed to be living under today…we are also expected to accommodate and support the truths of every single person’s individual truth. It’s death by a million truths. It’s like a leak in your roof. If you catch it quick and fix it, not big deal. But if you let it go, it could destroy everything. It’s like a load of gravel in a pickup truck. One single piece of gravel in the bed of your truck isn’t even noticeable. But when a front end loaded dumps 2,000 pounds in the bed of your 3/4 ton truck, you’re going to have a challenging time steering and keeping the truck out of the ditch on the way home.
The pharisees had placed the burden of thousands upon thousands of micro-regulations on the jewish people. There were over 600 of these micro-rules for the sabbath alone. One at a time, they’re not big deal. But carrying the weight of the entire paradigm of pharisaical life was killing the people.
It should come as no shock that earlier in his ministry, Jesus told his followers: Matthew 11:25-30 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
This is the lie of my truth, it is not freedom. It is oppression. As the popular quote says: “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.” When the decisions we make correspond with the reality God has created, we thrive. When those decisions clash with God’s reality, we struggle. It is impossible to truly thrive outside of God’s design. Take the T-R-U out of “My Truth” and you’re left with “Myth” which is closer to the truth.
This is why I had a problem with Chip and Jo’s decision. They built an entire movement around, at least in part, the idea of supporting local businesses. Their heart is to restore Waco. After driving around Waco, it’s easy to see that they still have a lot of work to do. They supported local antique malls, flea markets and Jimmy Don. I loved it. But in the end, a decision was made not to stick with the heartbeat of the movement they created in favor of profit. I know it’s easy to pick on someone so famous. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. I believe it’s best to support local business, but I often times go to Walmart. I believe it’s best to eat healthy, but I consume disproportionate amounts of sweets. I’m guilty of my own hypocrisy.
And that’s the overwhelming burden of my truth. With the abundance of truths being thrown in our face on a daily basis, it’s impossible not to be a hypocrite. I dislike Fracking but we use natural gas to heat our church facility. I believe the Buckeyes are God’s chosen football team but I’m still friends with people who root for Michigan. I’m an imperfect person.
So, where is this thriving found? “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:16-17
What is the will of God? “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” (1 Jn 3:23) More specifically, earlier John said: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 Jn 3:18)
That’s how we thrive. We thrive by believing in Jesus, and loving another in deed and truth. We love one another with actions and truth/reality. We don’t love one another according to their idea of truth, we love one another according to God’s reality that framework of the world was built upon.
You can claim you have “my truth” if you want, but that doesn’t make you right.
How should we respond? With love. If we’re honest, every single one of us has something in our life that we believe that we aren’t currently living up to. So, while you may want to picket the Silos, the right thing to do is love. No, that doesn’t not mean we capitulate to the lies. That’s what we’ve been doing and what has gotten us into this mess.
What it means is we unconditionally love one another. Yes, we even unconditionally love those who are blinded by the god of this age. Love is not agreement. Love is sacrificing yourself for the betterment of others. Love is what Jesus did on the cross. And if Jesus can die on the cross for people who were hurling insults at him and ask the Father to forgive them, then we can self-sacrificially love someone who is hurling insults at us for claiming to have the truth.
And maybe, if we love in this way, maybe we’ll earn the right to deeper relationship with them and be a part of God leading them out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. If we’re going to do this without being tainted by the tricks of the deceiver, we have to be immersed in the truth ourselves, which is what tomorrow’s podcast is about.
This devotional was not brought to you by Magnolia Market.