These are some brief notes related to my September 7 sermon, part of our series on the “Seven Values” that guide us as a church.
We know more today and have more access to knowledge than at any time in human history. Ironically, all this knowledge has created a crisis of truth: we live in a world of constantly competing truth claims and we’re often not sure how to discern truth from error. Sometimes we’re not even sure what “truth” means.
As Christians, how should we think about “truth”? Here are a few thoughts shaped by Scripture and Christian tradition, centered on Jesus.
First, all truth is equally true and worthy of seeking. This idea is based on a few key Christian convictions: God created all things (Gen 1:1; John 1:3); in Christ all things hold together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3); God reveals Godself through both God’s Word and God’s world (Ps 19; John 1:14, 18; Rom 1:19-20); and all people have been created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). This means there is no separation between “secular” and “sacred” truth—there is a single, seamless reality that has countless layers of complexity and many different ways of perceiving it. While some truth is more relevant to our relationship with God and others, truth is true whatever its source, and all pursuits of truth are worthwhile.
Second, then, as Christians we are called to seek and uphold truth in all things: in doctrinal and ethical matters, in our public discourse, and in our personal relationships. We should be known as people who seek truth and speak truth.
Third, however, our knowledge of truth is partial and imperfect. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “We know only in part…now we see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Cor 13:8-13). It is no Christian virtue to claim absolute certainty about our beliefs. We are finite and fallible human beings, capable of misinterpreting and misunderstanding things. This means we must seek and speak truth with humility, always open to correction and change. This is also why we seek truth in community: wisdom is found in many voices.
And fourth, our understanding of truth will show itself in our actions, most especially in our love for others. This is, in fact, the most important part of a Christian perspective on truth, for it is based directly on the teaching and example of Jesus. In John’s Gospel Jesus, who brings “grace and truth,” who even is “the truth,” demonstrates this truth by giving himself in love for others (John 1:14, 17; 13:1, 34-35; 14:6). Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1-3); James warns against a mere correct theology that is not a living, loving faith (Jas 2:18-20); and 1 John affirms that the way “we know we are in the truth” is if we “love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18-19). It is possible to be absolutely right but still be completely wrong, because we do not love the other person.
This, then, is how we want to be people of truth: earnest, honest, humble, and gracious, following Jesus in the most excellent way of love.
At Morden Mennonite Church we value truth. We provide a safe space for people to express their doubts and fears, to ask honest and difficult questions about life and faith. We seek truth with humility, in conversation with one another and listening to many voices. When we disagree, we do so honestly yet with gentleness and respect. When a group decision is needed, we work hard for consensus.