"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." - John 8
I just heard a candidate use this Jesus-quote yesterday in an interview. I heard it woven into a commercial last week. It seems to be making its rounds, which if funny considering the fact that many of the people aren't all that sure if truth absolutely exists. It's funny the verses that catch on as little pithy proverbs in our culture. "Judge not lest ye be judged." "Love your neighbor as yourself." "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "Jesus is my homeboy." (ok, that's apparently extra-biblical revelation from the Apocrypha or the Da Vinci Code).
But I've learned something about the truth. Before it sets you free, it ticks you off. Or another way of saying it is, "The truth will set you free but not before it sets you off." When people use this biblical phrase, "the truth with set you free", what they are typically saying is "my truth will set you free." Everyone has there own theology of truth. That is, the truth they are comfortable espousing. The truth that fits their current construct of convictions. The truth that doesn't mess with their already busy schedule. The truth that doesn't ask for any modifications or alterations in behavior. The truth that makes them feel better about themselves. The truth that aligns with their values and vision. But that's not truth, that's trash!
That "truth" doesn't set anyone free. You will know the truth when you encounter it, because it, generally speaking, ticks you off and sets you off, before it eventually sets you free. It rattles your chain. It gets up in your grill. It steps on your toes. It gets on your nerves. It amputates and agitates and aggravates way before it emancipates. The truth that Jesus is talking about has nothing to do with a candidates particular political truth, or a preachers pet-issue truth, or a philosophers philanthropic truth. No, the truth that sets us free must first put us to death.
Everyone wants to be free, but few are willing to die to themselves. It's really painful to be crucified with Christ. It's lonely being pinned up on that cross all by yourself. It's torture for your pride to breathe its last and for your flesh to give up the ghost of getting its way. No one wants that truth. Because before the truth asks you, "Do you wanna be free?" it asks you "How do you feel about dying to yourself?" This, I've found, weeds out the ones that are interested only in their version of truth. They are interest in truth unless it kills them. And the ones who are left after the weeding are interested in truth precisely because it kills them.
Let me make a bold declaration, if your idea of truth isn't often killing you, you're more than likely not engaging truth to begin with. Truth kills, then frees. It wounds, then mends. It enrages, then engages. This is not truth on our terms. This is truth on Truth's terms. What is controversially called Absolute truth, that is, laws that exist regardless of who we are, how we're doing, what we're doing, or what we think. Post-modernity has weened us on adaptive truth. Cordial truth. Amiable and Diplomatic Truth. Hospitable truth. A truth that seeks first and foremost to comfort and coddle.
Unless there's a new procedure that provide amiable amputation, it will hurt you first, then heal you. Freedom comes, but not until our feelings are hurt. God cares about your feelings, but not as much as your freedom. He has your "best interest" in mind, and often it is in your best interest to die first. That sounds harsh...but that's what I experience almost on a weekly basis. It hurts so good.
Ultimately, the truth sets us free, but not before it sets us off.