“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:32 ESV
This is one of the most well know verses in the Bible. It has been quoted by Pastors, Politicians and other orators whenever they believed it would serve the purposes of their speech. Many times, it is quoted completely out of context and sometimes it is used overtly as a weapon to advance a particular agenda. The integrity of the usage is tied up in the “truth” the individual is proclaiming will set you free. We live in a world where truth is under fire. Some are attempting to redefine truth at the atomic level. Long standing accepted norms are being deconstructed and the personal interpretation of reality is encouraged. Individuals are blessed to create their own truth and sometimes it seems that the only true sin in the modern world is to declare absolute truth that claims something else is false.
Last May, I talked about this verse in the context of integrity. You might say, I used this verse for my own purposes in that article. That article was centered on our own usage of truth. I wanted to emphasize the importance of Christians considering the truth of information before they passed it along to a public audience. This is a great challenge in this world today and fact checking the fact checkers can take a great deal of time with the expansion of severe bias into most information sources. Today I want to talk about something that is more central to the main idea of this verse, the freeing nature of truth.
Freedom is something that is often taken for granted by those who live in it. When you experience freedom every day, it is easy not to think of it. The opposites of freedom are words like: captivity, bondage, slavery and subjection. Most of us would never define our lives by words like those. While there are and have been places where it was common for people to live under those circumstances, few of us have experienced something like that first hand. The fight against human slavery even unites people from diverse backgrounds in our modern world.
Even though it is not the equivalent of physical bondage or slavery, the absence of truth in people’s lives has its own way of holding people in a state of captivity. This year especially seems to have emphasized the difficulty people have as they try to understand what information they could trust regarding politics and current events. Polarized viewpoints are often presented with extreme bias as undeniable truth. On both the news and social media, people are able to find perspectives that perfectly align and reinforce their own opinions and can share them in their own echo chambers. Differing viewpoints are attacked and treated harshly and most people seem to rush to find “evidence” that supports their own side rather than an honest inquiry into the truth behind the issue.
All of this tends to build a cage that is difficult to escape. We become more and more dependent on untrustworthy advocates of “truth” that are more motivated by their own profits or political agenda than they are by any journalistic integrity that once existed. As followers of Christ, this is a definite problem. We were made for truth. Our hearts and minds hunger for it. We want to stand up to injustice. We desire to be on the cause of righteousness. Truth is truly freeing when we experience it. Many of the founders and most significant contributors to our scientific understanding of the world we live in were driven by this hunger to know the truth. We should all care about the truth, but where can we be sure to find it?
Let’s return to the beginning to expand the context of this verse, this time with John 8:31-32 in the Amplified version:
Jesus teaching to the disciples was about freedom in 2 main areas:
- Freedom from sin and the penalty of sin through salvation in Christ
- Freedom through Godly living found in knowing and following the teachings of Christ (the Bible)
The core of our search for truth must start there and that must be the foundation of truth in our lives. The devil is a liar and this world is the devil’s playground. We will find few guarantees of truth in the things we experience in this world. On the other hand God is truth and He has conveyed truth to us through His word. As we immerse ourselves in that truth, we experience freedom in our daily life. When our thoughts are centered on uncertain truth through reading the news and social media, we tend towards being bound to those things in our thinking. Our minds will keep coming back to the lies and half-truths we find there and they will consume our mental and emotional energy. This is how we become slaves to the world.
On the contrast, when we center our lives on truth, we experience the freedom to carry out the commands of Christ in the context we find ourselves in. Interacting with people in person and online, regardless of their political viewpoints, becomes about who they are as a creation of God, rather than what “tribes” they align themselves with in the culture wars. When a crisis comes before us, we can concern ourselves with the tragedy of the human impact rather than the take of our political alliance. Truth is found in God’s perspective on the world. We see real people, real needs and know the real solution (Christ).
- Don’t start or end your day on social media or by reading the news. Start it by reading, studying or meditating on the truth. End your day with loved ones or reading a good book, preferably non-fiction.
- When you do go on social media, don’t have an agenda or fall into the trap of picking a fight with someone who is looking for one. If you see an inflammatory post and don’t have the time to thoroughly research it for yourself, just hide it from your feed and move on.
- If you have issues you care about passionately, make it a goal to learn as much as you can from people as close to the source as possible. Don’t rely on lazy reporting from understaffed news agencies with their own agenda, posts on social media, and especially memes. I recommend local news sources. Learn to get to know God’s perspective on these issues. God is just and the Bible has a lot to say about many issues.
- Remember that the foundational truth is that there are no human solutions for the greatest problem you or anyone else has to deal with, standing condemned before God for their own sins and unrighteousness. The essential truth that everyone needs to hear is that Jesus is the only solution for this problem, and until a person puts their hope and trust in Him and receives His salvation, all other truths and problems are of little importance.
If you want to know more about what it means to know God and His truth, I wrote a whole book about it, which is available here.