Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Truth will make you free.
Today he once again gives me a different viewpoint:
Spirit of Truth
The Chinese word for truthful or genuine, 真 (zhēn) consists of the two ideograms 十 (shí) and 目 (mù). 十 is the number ten while 目 represents the eye. The number ten symbolizes completeness or wholeness. Discerning the truth requires that we look at an issue or event in a wholistic way, perhaps through 10 different eyes, 10 difference perspectives.
The Hebrew word for truth, emet, is composed of the three letters, א-alef, מ-mem, ת-tav - the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The composition of the word may signify that in order for something to be true, it must start at the beginning, continue to the middle, and complete at the end. There is no half truth in the Hebrew emet.
The Chinese and Hebrew essence of truth point to a comprehensive inclusive approach to discerning the truth. This “spirit of truth” is difficult for the world to receive. We live in a world conditioned by the paradigm of either-or thinking – something is either true or false (remember all the true/false tests you took in school?). Many prefer the simplistic and often adversary approach to truth – it is easier to define the truth by proving that the others lie (remember the “You lie!” outburst of a U.S. senator during the President’s state of the union address?) It is easier to claim my own experience as the only truth and not listen to other’s perspectives. The spirit of truth calls us to attempt to understand the multiple points of views. This truth-discerning process is always complex and messy.
I know that I have tended to look at the world in either/or or black/white. When I was younger, I needed that dichotomy to see the edges of my own boundaries, the explicit understanding of what was right or wrong to order my own behavior. But as experience has given me ‘case studies’ in life, I have become clearer that the grey in life is much more prevalent than the black and white. What is truth for some is not truth for another. And no matter what I do, it cannot change that person’s truth until something powerfully changes it. And it too me a long time to learn that. I wanted TRUTH to be something so clear and so 'stand-alone' that everyone could point to it. But that isn't reality.
I noticed on another Facebook article today the testimony of a man who had lobbied against same-sex marriage all over the US and Europe finally coming to the place where he not only could accept it, but has become a spokesperson for it. It was his ‘experience’ of people in same-sex relationships that brought the change in him. It was where he could see the benefits of loving same-sex parents and talk with them and their children that he was turned from the ‘truth he had learned’ to the truth he had experienced.
I constantly have to revise my understanding of issues that I would like to declare as right or wrong simply because I have met people who are struggling with the issues. Whether it is divorce, just war, stem-cell research or other momentous ethical dilemmas, no dogmatic pronouncement can completely encapsulate a certain topic. This does not mean that I have no values. Quite the contrary! It means I must bring ALL my values to bear on a case-by-case basis. It makes me bring compassion into my judgments. It means I have to make decisions for myself and not for others. It tells me how I need to live MY life, not how OTHERS must live theirs. It means I have to look with 10 eyes at an issue before making a decision. I must be willing center my experiences in the midst of the community. And most of all, I have to THINK. I cannot blithely wander through life unwilling to address major issues or unwilling to tackle the ethical or political matters of my time. It takes work to live a Christian life. It takes being available to people and embracing a wakeful way of living. Now, I am beginning to understand what it means ‘be wakeful and watchful”. It is an attitude of being willing to embrace the wholeness of life that Christ invites us into. Truth does make us free to work hard.