Searching for Truth
By Sarah Onderdonk
Bernard Madoff swindled $50 billion dollars from thousands of investors worldwide, committing what some are decrying the biggest financial hoax in history. People burned and singed by Madoff's "Ponzi" scheme include private citizens, institutions and corporations. My heart goes out to the many people whose economic viability–the ability to pay today's bills and plan for tomorrow–was tethered to untruth.
We have a pecan tree in the backyard. It's hard to tell just from looking at a shell which ones are hollowed out and full of decay. So it goes with the human experience. It’s often quite a challenge to discern fact from cleverly disguised fiction. Perception vs. Truth
Often we confuse our perceptions about the state of reality with that of truth. Madoff's investors put their trust and confidence in something they thought was true. But the reality proved false. I found a very helpful explanation of truth vs. reality in an article called Confusing “Truth” and “Reality” on pluggedin.com:
Reality reflects the varying conditions and circumstances that characterize our world—right or wrong, they’re all a part of “real life.” Truth, on the other hand, is objective, eternal and absolute. For the Christian, it is grounded in the Word of God.
Our Clouded Vision
It's a tricky, shadows and light world in which we live. How often do we take the "right or wrong" aspects of our reality and embrace them as truth? Making decisions and living our lives pointed toward a direction that seems right based upon the conditions and circumstances of our world only to be spit out and deposited outside the boundaries of God's truth. Truth transcends our experiences and perceptions.
Sometime we suffer from faulty vision. If I encounter better-than-acquaintance-but-not-quite-BFF Betty Jean in the cereal aisle at WalMart and she snubs me, I may think that she hates me. My perceived reality is that I have just cheerfully chirped "Hi, Betty!" and she has cruelly rejected me with an incomprehensible sputter and a frosty, mean-girl stare. My perception is that we are no longer friends and I won't be calling Betty for coffee next month. Unbeknownst to me, however, Betty's 12-year-old hound dog was put to sleep that morning. My perception of her feelings about me had no grounding whatsoever in truth. Betty was mourning not snubbing.
Truth can set us free (John 8:31,32), sanctify us (John 17:17-19) and purify us (1 Pet. 1:22). “Reality” cannot. Truth, as found throughout Scripture, gives us a reliable set of unwavering parameters to live by. Reality is affected by time and manipulated by the agendas of man. It knows no boundaries of acceptability. Every form of depravity is “real.” Does that mean it’s acceptable? (Confusing “Truth” and “Reality,” pluggedin.com)
The Spirit of God worked through divinely empowered human beings to reveal truth through the medium of words which are now canonized in Scripture. Theologians use the term "propositional revelation" to describe God's provision of truth through the written word. The Bible is the Christian's "Mapquest" to salvation and a "playbook" for moral living. The text is alive and relevant to every aspect of our relationship with God and one another, and is simply truth defined.
So, Scripture is truth. Going back to our hypothetical encounter with Betty Jean in the cereal aisle, how would my thoughts (and actions) play out if I were on a quest for truth?
Step 1: Suspend My Judgment (1 Samuel 16:7)
Understand that my "gut" feeling about Betty Jean–my perception–might not be true.
Step 2: Check My Heart (1 John 4:11)
When my feelings get hurt, my focus turns inward. My first concern is "self" not "others." This is a normal, natural first response and the universal heart affliction of our fallen state. But, as followers of Christ, we need to pray for help from the Holy Spirit to overcome this tendency to self-protect or "get back" at others when the perceived injury involves pride.
The Madoff crime is a worst-case example of something that seemed true but proved to be false. But all reality–macro and micro–is rife with untruth that often masquerades as truth. Our challenge is to discern the difference. Thank God we have Scripture as revelation to guide us.
Source: Waliszewski, Bob and Smithouser, Bob, Confusing “Truth” and “Reality,” pluggedin.com, http://www.pluggedinonline.com/discernment/a0001832.cfm.
Sarah is the author of Little Sins, Big Problems (AMG Publishers) blogs here: www.sarahonderdonk.blogspot.com.