Christians are now in the season of Lent. It is a time of reflection and refinement. It is also a time of anticipation, as Lent leads to the holiest moment in Christian worship, the morning we gather at sunrise and declare that death is defeated because Christ is risen.
Lent culminates in Holy Week, and the trial and execution of Jesus, during which there is a moment that echoes down through the ages. With great exasperation, Pilate, the Roman prefect charged with deciding Jesus’ fate, asks him, “What is truth?”
It’s a valid question today, in a world awash with “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Truth is hard to come by, with our President and politicians lying continuously. Many news outlets feature more propaganda than fact. Our social media feeds are flooded with stories that don’t stand up to scrutiny. We find ourselves asking, with Pilate, “What is truth?”
We all seem to have our own truth, depending on which side of the spectrum we prefer. Pick an issue, any issue: gun violence, the President, immigration, religion, health care or a host of others. We choose our trusted sources, the experts we perceive are on our side, the statistics we prefer, and then label everything else as “fake news” if it disagrees with us.
There is truth with which we all should agree, like the certainty that two plus two equals four. However, truth that ought to be obvious is still denied as untrue by many in our population. The growing number of moon-landing hoaxers, flat-earthers, Sandy Hook shooting deniers and their ilk show just how much people are willing to believe lies if they fit their warped worldview.
“What is truth?” The question is hard to answer in our post-truth culture.
It is high time we reclaimed the work of wisdom and discernment. It’s easy to give in to cynicism, but a healthy dose of suspicion might just do us all some good. Many stories that spread through social media sound too outrageous to be true, and with a little research, it’s easy to prove they are fake. The ancient practice of discernment is necessary now more than ever.
In addition, let us listen to one another. None of us holds all truth. If we hear each other out, rather than bolstering our own defenses, we often find a deeper truth than we knew before. When we listen, rather than react, we usually find out our initial understanding was incomplete, if not simply incorrect.
As a Christian, I find the words of Jesus fascinating. He said, “I am the truth.” This points me to the reality that, often, truth is embodied in flesh, not propositions. Truth is revealed in the love of God for humanity, and our love for one another, not in the rancor and divisive debates that mark our conversations.
I would encourage us all to stop listening to those who pander untruth to the masses, and to earnestly seek after truth, wherever it may be found. It will take time and effort, but it is a worthwhile task; after all, it is truth that will eventually set us free.
Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church.
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