Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Importance of Truthiness

“So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (Exodus 32:24, esv). The next time Hollywood attempts the story of the Ten Commandments, I hope they cast Jon Lovitz as Aaron. His pathological liar character would work perfectly. Just end this verse with “Yeah, that’s the ticket” and the outlandishness of Aaron’s claim would be at home in a familiar Saturday Night Live skit.

Aaron’s answer to Moses is ridiculous, but what makes it more tragic is its timing. Moses has just returned from spending 40 days on Mount Sinai with God. As God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments and detailed instructions about the Tabernacle and how the priests were to be set apart for the Lord’s service, Aaron—God’s choice for High Priest—was busy leading the people into idolatry. God was taking steps closer to His people. Aaron was taking steps further away from the Lord. God was bringing truth, and Aaron countered with a lie—and a ludicrous one at that.

God is not surprised by His people’s sins. In fact, that’s what the wilderness narratives are all about. God not only anticipates Israel’s disobedience, but He goes to extraordinary measures to overcome it so that the relationship might continue. He gives the people the Law to restrain sin but, more importantly, to make the people aware of their need for a Savior. He provides the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, in order to come close to His people, in spite of their sin. And centuries later, He will send His Son to deal with sin once and for all so that His people can be with Him forever.

We cannot truly come to God with our own ridiculous story revisions. When we offer up to God our excuses in an attempt to avoid responsibility, what we are really saying is that we don’t need a Savior, that we’re okay on our own. And that’s a damnable lie, and I do mean “damnable.”

But the same is true of our relationships with other people. Obviously our friendships with others won’t bring us eternal salvation, but the same principle applies here as well. We cannot have true relationships with other people if we deny the truth—even if living in the truth means admitting we’ve done something wrong. Reconciliation is important, and loving another person sometimes means being wronged to the glory of God, but if a relationship is consistently one-sided, it will be like a house that is one-sided—not a house at all.

The Christian life is the remedy to the disease of excuse. Those who know Christ have no need to hide anymore. God knows all we’ve done and forgives us. After that, what really matters?

In our relationships with other people, this freedom from guilt ought to free us to be truthful and to seek out the truth, no matter what that search uncovers. There’s really no need to rewrite history or to stubbornly hold on to a viewpoint that we know simply isn’t true. Love never denies the truth but embraces it and rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 13:6). When we’re on the side of guilt, we stand in the shadow of God’s mercy. And when we’re in the right, we seek the Lord’s help in forgiving the other person. Both bring God glory but both require the truth. That's one of the ways that truth sets us free, and it's the reason why truth can’t be simply swept under the rug.

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