You Can’t (Man)Handle the Truth

by Kirsten Patterson

January 22, 2020

The Rose Parade makes its' way down Colorado Blvd in the 2019 Rose Parade in Pasadena on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.  (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

My family and I celebrated New Year’s at the Rose Parade. It’s one of the best spectacles in town – I love walking down the middle of Colorado Boulevard before the parade starts with the crush of people on either side. There’s a shivery feeling of expectation in the last minutes before 8 a.m. as we keep an eye on the sky for the stealth bomber to appear low and silent out of the west. For others, however, the street is a platform and the crowd a captive audience. There is a man in a cow suit bellowing about vaccinations and thrusting papers in people’s faces. And there are the fire and brimstone folks, shouting fear through their microphone and trying to force-feed salvation to an unrepentant crowd. These peddlers have staked out the four corners of their claim and insist that they alone possess the truth. 

Which in some ways makes sense to me because I mostly think of the truth as something that can be had, known, discovered . . . dug up like buried treasure or peeled back like an onion to reveal a glowing white core. If we don’t already have it we’re in the process of finding it, tying it up and strapping it to the roof of our car for use down the road. In our political and spiritual fervor, we throw the truth down like a gauntlet, use it as a sharp stick to draw fine lines in the sand, stack it on top of itself to build walls that divide. I memorized John 8:32 as a kid, and it says “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” I always figured that meant that I would know the secret to salvation, and that special knowledge would set me free from my sin.

But I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been looking at this wrong. What if the truth isn’t so much a “what” as a “Who”? I re-read John 8 (because context is everything!) and right there in verse 36 Jesus says that it is the Son who sets people free. And in John 14:6 Jesus says that He is the truth. If the Truth that sets us free is Someone and not something, it is absurd to think that I can own or possess it. Even more astonishing, the Truth became human in Jesus. John would testify in 1 John that he and the other disciples heard the Truth, they saw Him with their eyes and touched Him with their hands. 

Contrary to my abstract notion of truth, in Jesus the Truth came close enough to touch. And suffered, and died, and conquered death, and then turned to me and set me free. The fear, and the fact sheets, and the threats of hell echoing in public streets are not the Truth. Jesus is. I don’t need lines in the sand, or magic glasses to see which side owns the truth. Jesus is the Truth and I follow Him.

Kirsten is a seeker of truth, a follower of Jesus and a fan of coffee.

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