This Holy Week is a time to remember the final days of Christ, the excruciating road to the cross. In hearing the stories again and reading them slowly, I am struck by all the off-ramps that Jesus could have taken to avoid the execution.
He could have outed Judas, betraying the betrayer. And yet, he allowed Judas to collect his silver and turn his back. He could have run from the Garden, yet he welcomed the soldiers. He could have answered Pilate’s questions, proclaiming his innocence, as the ruler seemed all too eager to find a loophole to prevent the death.
At one point, Pontius Pilate spoke out of frustration, even mocking the man before him who claimed to embody truth itself.
Jesus said, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
In what the Latin calls the Quid est veritas, Pilate states, “What is truth.?” Was it a question? Was it a philosophic resignation? Or was it a rhetorical statement?
Regardless, Pilate told the assembled that he didn’t consider Jesus guilty of any crime.
Pontius Pilate came to his conclusion because he had stared the immortal in the eye and could see the blamelessness. He could hear the mocking hollowness of his proclamation echoing in his own lifeless soul. He saw in the mirror of his own being a man who was desperate for truth.
When Jesus was praying the in Gethsemane, he said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17). Truth was on his heart and his lips until the final hours.
It was for truth he was crucified.
“My truth” is just a selfish excuse
2,000 years later, humanity is no closer to grasping truth. Yet, we are urgently seeking it out. And in the absence of eternal truth, rejected out of our pride, we have decided that truth is simply what we create. We are the arbiters of truth regardless of objectivity.
How many times have you heard, “this is my truth,” spoken authoritatively while dismissing facts that openly deny the statement. My truth is simply a substitute for selfish righteousness that disregards the wisdom of the ages, the gathered knowledge of the experience of others, and the loving fellowship of close friends and family who might see the situation with clarity.
The Customer Isn’t Always Right
There are other subtle ways we have subjugated truth. Think of the phrase, “The Customer Is Always Right.” The slogan, ‘Le client n’a jamais tort’ (‘the customer is never wrong’) was adopted by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz, the founder of Ritz Carlton hotels in the 1890s. Turn of the century American retailers like Marshall Field and John Wanamaker created the “Customer is Always Right” slogan for their employees.
In today’s world, this employee mindset has morphed into customer outrageousness, demanding refunds and service that is unreasonable and unjustified. Just spend a little time on YouTube craziness and you’ll see someone acting out their assumed privilege. The bottom line is that they have created, defined, and defended their own brand of truth – what is right.
The Majority Rules
There is no greater evidence of truth taking a backseat than our current obsession with the beliefs and actions of the many. Groupthink is defined as a “phenomenon that occurs when a group of individuals reaches a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the consequences or alternatives.”
Look at how we swarm those who don’t follow the party line, who go against societal norms, who break the rules of the majority. We shame them. We out them. We dehumanize them.
Rereading the George Orwell 1984 is a good assignment when evaluating the necessity of truth in these days.
When people talk about American democracy, they presume it’s the form of our government. “The voter knows best” when deciding issues we presume. But how often does the majority simply get it wrong?
I can list all the times the popular opinion was simply wrong. But the sin of today is that we presume the collective science, or assembled political voices, or the cultural influences are based in fact reality.
What is truth? It’s not this.
Finding Truth in a World of Deception
In just a couple of years, we have gone from, “science deniers” regarding global warming, to “follow the science” regarding COVID protocols to “ignore biology” when it comes to womanhood.
Fake news is outing other fake news with fake facts and the majority of us simply don’t know what to believe.
Even the “fact-checkers” are found to be wanting, unable to settle the issues that plague us.
I’m getting the feeling that “truth” is loosely defined.
What’s the truth?
The problem is that eventually, we know when we are being lied to. We react in anger, and in frustration throw our support to another path, which often filled with a whole new set of noble lies. In a world of lies, it’s easy to take the cynics’ path, to trust no one.
And there, on the edge of the rubble of deceit, stands a Savior. “I am the truth, the way, and the life.”
A noble truth.
A magnificent path.
A different way to live.