THE TRUTH SHALL SET US FREE. John 8:31-36

The truth shall set us free. That’s what Jesus said, to encourage those who believed and wanted to follow Him.

The truth shall set you free.

Years ago I was friends with a young man named Kurt. Kurt had some kind of eating disorder. He’d be fine for a few weeks, and then something would trigger him, and he’d start eating everything in sight.  It didn’t matter if he’d just had a 16 oz steak and sides, he was still ravenous. Nothing could make him feel full, sated.

He ended up going to a counselor, who said, “What are you feeling when you binge like that?” He replied, “It’s like a panic white-out. All I feel is panic, and a compulsion to fill myself.” The counselor asked if anything he ate filled up the hole inside. “No.”

So, the counselor said, Next time you’re triggered like that, force yourself to stop eating. You have to feel what’s going on inside of you. So stop eating, and force yourself to pick up a pen and paper, and start writing down what you’re feeling.

“I know what I’m feeling,” said Kurt. “I’m feeling blind panic. I’m feeling compulsion.” “So write that down,” said the counselor. “Write down ‘I feel blind panic and compulsion’, and then when you feel like you’ve hit a wall, keep writing. Force yourself to keep writing and writing, and eventually you’ll find out what you’re really feeling- what is driving you. And when you find that out, you’ll be free.

Sounds like Jesus- the truth will set you free. The truth, however frightening, however uncomfortable, will always set us free. Maybe not free like Julie Andrews in the Alps singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music,” but free in that we can start the process of becoming a whole human being.

The truth will set us free.

But we have a problem with truth these days. We say, “Whose truth? My truth or your truth?” Because truth changes according to a person’s perspective. And there is a strong core of… truth!… to this.

In our school textbooks, back when I was a sweet young thing, we were taught the truth about the lives of famous white men (not women), people who had changed the course of history. And we were taught some accurate facts about the wars and battles that changed borders and lives (but not about the lives of the people who lost the wars, or the lives of ordinary people whose job it was to sweep up the wreckage.)

William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims founded the Plymouth Colony in 1620. True. And from that tiny beginning, the colonists started to civilize North America. Not true. A complex, vibrant civilization had been here for hundreds of years. They had built cities with irrigation systems, great public buildings. Unlike ‘civilized’ Europe, there was no raw sewage flooding the streets; the Native Americans had figured out how to build a sewage system.

What is also true: The Pilgrims didn’t meet that many Native Americans. What they came across were towns filled with the skulls and bones of a people that had been destroyed by disease when the earliest explorers had brought with them small pox. 80-90% of the Native American population had been destroyed by disease by the time the Pilgrims got there. What is true is that, in order to survive, the Pilgrims raided the storage huts of these destroyed communities to feed themselves during the savage winters.

Now, what had been written in my history book was that the Pilgrims came to America, and created a whole New World. Partly true- but not the whole truth. And so we have to ask ourselves, “Whose truth are we telling here? The truth according to the Native Americans? Or the truth according to the settlers and their descendants? Because both sets of facts are partially true, according to their perspective.

Another example. For years, it was said the that signs of a heart attack were

  • Discomfort in your chest, like pressure or squeezing
  • Discomfort in your upper body, including your arms, back, neck, jaw & stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • and cold sweats, nausea and light-headedness

Those signs are absolutely true- for men. But not for women. Women were never included in the studies because it was just assumed that they would have the same symptoms as men. But it’s not true.

Women’s symptoms of a heart attack are

  • Bad indigestion
  • Squeezing motions running up your spine
  • and pressure under your sternum radiating up into your jaw.

Those signs are absolutely true… for women. Not for men.

And so it is right to ask ourselves, Is this the whole truth? Does it only tell the story of those in power, or does it include other voices as well? It’s an important, true and legitimate question. Whose voice is not being heard?

But I think these days we’ve taken the question of Whose Truth in a destructive direction. We ask what Pontius Pilate did, when Jesus was standing bound before Him: He asked, “What is truth?”

These days, the way we fight with each other is by yelling, “Fake news!” Anything we disagree with: “Fake news!” And we try to disable truth as mere opinion. My truth is truth, and your truth is ill-founded opinion. And we yell and mutter and speak to our insular circle of friends, and it gets so loud and static-y in our heads that we can hardly hear ourselves think. Add that to the intentional distorting of the extreme social media and conspiracy theories, and we’re really in a fine mess now, Ollie!

Partial truths.   Partial truths.  The devil dwells in partial truths. But there really is such a thing as truth, and by denying it, we let the devil in through the back door. And what is the devil? What is this demonic force which drives us into partial truths? I’ve thought hard about this, and I think it might just be fear. Fear for ourselves, fear for our way of life, fear of the Other. And we yell and we mutter and we speak to our insular circle of friends… because we’re run by fear.

What is behind our fear? What feels threatening? What is it we don’t want to look at?

Jesus said, If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Jesus was not speaking about the New Testament when He said, “continue in My Word.”  Jesus was still alive! The New Testament hadn’t even been written yet!

This Word is described in the beginning of  the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing made.” (John 1:1-3)

The Word is light, and the Word is truth… the Word is Jesus. Continue in Me, Jesus is saying. Continue following Me, seeking Me, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

So what?  We say we’re Christians and everything that comes out of our mouths is true? I know that’s not even close to being true. But as we seek to live in Christ’s ways- ways of compassion, ways of justice; ways that are not driven by fear, but by love- maybe what comes out of our mouths might be closer to the truth.

Paul writes to his young disciple, Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  (2 Tim 1:17) And so when the white static of panic rises in us, and chokes us, and fills us, we start writing down all that we’re feeling.

Rage. Fear. Powerlessness. Fear. Disgust. Anger. Despair. Fear.

We name them, and give them over to God, asking not to take them back again.

We name them, and give them over to God, asking not to take them back again.

We name them, and give them over to God, asking not to take them back again.

And as we have named that which triggers us into these tirades of emotion, we start to gain clarity over our own reactions. And with this clarity, we begin to see our truth, and prepare our hearts to be willing to hear another person’s truth as well.

Check out that word clarity. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language has more than 60 meanings, many of which have to do with freedom: free from obstruction, guilt, and blame, free from confusion, entanglement, and limitation, free from debts, suspicion, and illusion, free from doubt, uncertainty, and ambiguity… And of course, it’s ultimate meaning, “Able to serve perfectly in the passage of light.”  (Remen, pg. 157)

That clarity speaks to the Spirit that God has given us: The Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Never a Spirit of fear.

I know; this sounds too pat, too easy. But facing our demons, and standing with someone else as they face theirs, is neither pat nor easy. It is the hardest thing we will ever do. And by facing them, we will understand what Jesus meant: The truth shall set us free.

In the Name of the Way, the Truth, and the Light; even Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

Resources: workingpreacher.org for Oct. 27, 2019/ Judith Jones and Oct. 31, 2010/David Lose; My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, Riverhead Books © 2000, pg. 157.  Jill Lepore, These Truths, ©2018

 

Scripture for Oct. 27, 2019          John 8:31-36

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household, but the son has a place there forever. So if the Son (of God) makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

Friends, listen to what the scripture would say to us today.

2019-10-30T08:22:43-06:00