The search for Truth is a tricky business. We all want it, but getting hold of it is not easy. When we get it (or a piece of it) some of us have a habit of holding onto it so tightly that we strangle it or suffocate it, depriving it of the oxygen of other truths to help us make sense of it. Others react to this over-constraint by holding truth so lightly that it slips though their fingers to reveal a kind of empty-handedness which helps no-one when the uncertainties of life disorientate us, and we desperately need something to hold onto.In that context I am indebted to my Bible reading notes today.
The Gospel reading was from John 7, where people are arguing about who Jesus was and whether he was sent by God.Among the people of Jerusalem, there was a lively debate going on – who was this miracle worker and teacher? Was he a prophet, was he the promised messiah? Where did he come from? What did his teachings mean?
But amongst the most religious people, the chief priests and Pharisees, there was no doubt – their religious certainty closed their minds to what God was doing. This religious certainty reinforced their prejudices – against ordinary people who didn’t have their religious training – against ‘northerners’ from Galilee, from which no prophet could ever come – even against their own, like Nicodemus who tentatively tried to pull them back from snap judgments and rash conclusions.In response, my Bible reading notes said,
“In this reading we see people’s struggle to figure out Jesus. But was that only during his lifetime? Were his followers soon quite sure of his identity? Not at all! The only ones who exude total certainty are the fundamentalists! But their certainty is mostly a mixture of deep insecurity, wishful thinking, and hard salesmanship. The truth is that Jesus escapes all our categories and definitions; he continually puzzles and challenges us. He strips down all our crude certainties. He calls us beyond ourselves, beyond everything we ever thought and imagined. He calls us into new life!”As a Christian and an evangelical, I am deeply committed to following Jesus Christ. I believe (in his words) that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life! But that doesn’t mean that I have got him all figured out. All through my life, he has constantly inspired, surprised, and challenged me and my pre-suppositions, and I have come to expect that he always will.
More than that, if I haven’t got Christ all figured out, then I haven’t got God all figured out either. Truth is not locked in history or human formulations of doctrine, rules or expectations – it is found in the Christ who I am still getting to know. Any other certainty is – at its heart – idolatry.On the radio this morning Bishop Gene Robinson reminded the interviewer and his Radio 4 audience of some other words that Jesus said – this time on the night before he was crucified.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16).The Holy Spirit is still revealing God to us, and just as in the time of Christ, it is often the most religious people who are the most reluctant travellers on this journey. She still has the capacity to shock, challenge and inspire us. She can still rock our preconceptions, our prejudices and our misconceptions. She still points us to Christ the Truth who alone has the power to set us free.
Fundamental truth is not found in doctrine or dogma – it is found in a person, and it is in following Christ - not confining Christ - that “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)