Truth and lies, darkness and light!
John 17: 13-19
“And now I come to you and I say these things in the world that these men may find my joy completed in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, for they are no more sons of the world than I am. I am not praying that you will take them out of the world but that you will keep them from the evil one. They are no more the sons of the world than I am—make them holy by the truth; for your word is the truth. I have sent them to the world just as you sent me to the world and I consecrate myself for their sakes that they may be made holy by the truth. (Phillips)
We have heard much about truth and lies these last couple of weeks and no doubt there will be much more before the vote is out. One side or another makes claims, the other denies and then another trashes both and the whole thing goes round and round. In the midst of it all, truth is spoken and honesty revealed, but is the latter the province of only one?
Harold Rhodes speaks eloquently on this matter. He refers to Winston Churchill who once stated, “Men [and women] occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
He asks if it is possible to really know “the truth”? Or is it dependent on human interpretation?
It is common today to think that truth is relative to the circumstances—that what is true for one situation is not necessarily true for others. This means that truth for one person is not necessarily the same for everyone! If this is correct, how can we know with certainty what to believe and how we should live?
Almost 2,000 years ago, a Roman governor asked a prisoner who stood before him, “What is truth?” The Roman’s name was Pontius Pilate. The prisoner was Jesus of Nazareth (John 18:37-38)…..
There is an irony in the date of the writing of this article. 30th November is St. Andrew’s Day. This is Scotland’s National Day. It has also been a national holiday in Romania since 2015. St. Andrew is known as the disciple who introduced his brother, the Apostle Peter to the Messiah. He is also the Patron Saint of Cyprus, Scotland, Greece, Romania, Russia, the Ukraine, to mention only a few. However, say the name ”Andrew” these days and one can think of only one such: the eponymous hero (or villain, however you would have it) of the latest scandal to engulf the Royal Family.
Many of us will have watched the painful interview and no doubt too many more will watch the sequel, where one of his accusers will state that each of them has their own version, but that only one of them is telling the truth. Whilst he is clearly no saint – none of us are – the fact that he agreed to or even asked for the interview with Emily Maitlis, who then proceeded to grill him more severely than the most acerbic of interrogators, is staggering in itself. However, Prince Andrew is innocent until proven guilty, and more than that has not been charged with any crime.
One of his ancestors, almost exactly 370 years previously was put before a court, though one he did not recognise and therefore offered no defence in it, was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. This was no lesser person than the King, Charles I. As he stepped up to meet his fate, having donned a second shirt, lest he should shiver and betray fear, rather than the bitter cold of that 30th January morning 1649, he made a final exchange with his executioner: “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown!” Earlier he had warned others awaiting execution about the axe, concerned less for their safety, but rather for the effectiveness of the blade should any dent or blow be caused to it that might make for a messier business for anyone to follow!
At the very least, the Prince has been lacking in wisdom, both in the choice of his associates and business colleagues and in his clumsy attempt to clear his name. No member of the Royal Family is beyond or above reproach and people in such elevated positions must maintain the highest possible standards.
Perhaps, though, this is easier said than done. Which of us has been through a difficult situation, challenge or dispute and not, at the end of the day, looked at her or his own performance, attitude, actions and thought about how it might have worked out, had they done things differently. Hindsight is not necessarily a wonderful thing, rather a salutory one.
Major events in life pull us up short and force us to confront our own selves and what we have done, or at least how we view things. Often our perspectives are changed. A friend of mine was recently involved in a serious cycling accident, resulting in a life-threatening condition and severe injuries. After surgery on his arm and hip, he has now thankfully returned to work as a child psychologist. In all the months he has been away from work, he notes, his colleagues have managed without him. Life has gone on in his absence. They are pleased to have him back and have given him a ground floor office. Most of the routine stuff can go on without his input, though his vast experience means that he is still a useful asset to the organisation, whilst Dave himself (that is his real name!) is pleased to be back and now has a more easy-going attitude to his work. It’s not that he couldn’t care less, or that he is careless, but rather that he just cares less!
The calamitous, cataclysmic events of life are often random, undesirable, unsolicited, unexpected, as are opportunities. It is how we respond to them which is important. We learn through our mistakes. If we did not have failures, it is likely we would learn nothing at all.
It seems to me that more than ever, we need the light of Christ to shine in our lives, in our country, throughout Europe and into all the dark corners of the earth. For we live in a world of half-news, fake news, obfuscation, disingenuousness, spin and bare-faced lies.
When Charles I went to his death that cold dark morning in January 1649, he did so with dignity, stating that “my charity demands me to endeavour to the last gasp the peace of the Kingdom”. After his death, the monarchy was formally abolished, Britain became a Republic and then a Protectorate under the supreme command of Oliver Cromwell. The House of Lords was closed down and then the Commons too. Even the celebration of Christmas was outlawed! For a while the irony was plain to see – one absolute ruler and one form of tyranny replaced with another. Within 11 short years, Cromwell himself was dead and his son overthrown by the Army, the monarchy restored in the form of Charles II. Thus ended this country’s brief adventure into Republicanism.
We like to think that we live in an enlightened age, where absolutism is a thing of the past and where the people have the power to decide how their country is governed, within the constraints of the Constitutional Monarchy of course. One truth is that we are actually governed by an over-powerful, even omnipotent Press with the result that none of us really know what version of the story we can really trust. Another is that too many decisions are made by those who operate in the dark. Perhaps the most important truth is that we have little control over these things. However, as followers of Jesus, we must see to it that our words and actions are those which would reveal his light to the world in which we live and in this way the light will not be extinguished.
As Henri Nouwen put it:
“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.”
May we be Christ’s light in this dark world!
To conclude, hear the words of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.
8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Peter Lambert – December 2019