Truth and Christmas

Posted on December 25, 2020


“You promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” the court clerk asks the accused on the stand to repeat, with her hand on the Bible.

“Oh, but of course,” she lies, knowing full well her version of the truth is at odds with the indictment handed down by the Grand Jury. So that makes the truth relative in this case. Is there a “her” truth, a “my” truth and the Grand Jury’s truth?

Or how about “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” for Jesus on truth (John 14:6). That’s pretty unequivocal, which is sometimes rare in searching for the truth of the matter. The truth in this instance is absolute, not relative.

In the Gospel of John, John wrote to Gaius. “It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (John 3:3-4)

The truth was important to Jesus and to his disciples. All you have to do is read Scripture. John even said be nice to people in verse 8.  “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”

Truth in fact runs through the Bible, as indeed it runs through our culture and civilization.

What is truth? One can start at the simplest level. It is the opposite of lies. Lies carry many names: misconceptions, duplicities, misunderstandings, deceptions, etc. but they all point away from the truth.

Perhaps the most famous Scriptural reference to truth is where John wrote in his Gospel “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Even this truth has two different contexts, one religious and one secular.

John’s meaning can be interpreted easily if we substitute “Jesus” for “the truth” in his message. That is at the heart of the Christian message.

On the other hand, the message is prominently displayed on the Supreme Court building just behind the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The Court is after all in the business of determining, ultimately, the truth of any matter, although in the secular context of the Constitution and the law.

Sometimes we don’t like to hear the truth, or to share the truth with others because we know we will get a negative reaction.

It can constitute something as monstrous as decapitating an Englishman in Syria because it is Allah’s will. Is this what the holy book of Islam, the Quran (Koran), calls for? If he refused to convert to Islam, then, yes, indeed, Allah says to kill him.

To deny the violence called for in the Quran—in over 100 verses—is to deny the truth of Islam. Apologists and defenders of Islam dance around the truth, and so I’ll probably get a negative reaction because, like looking into our own mirror sometimes, the truth can hurt.

Truth is learned at home, at the knee or with the switch of a parent, to add some incentive to tell the truth. It helps to be reinforced in other institutions, like church and school, but it is not for society at large to teach the fundamentals.

In 1996, then first lady Hillary Clinton published a book with a theme and title lifted from an old African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.” The extended meaning was that we all live in a global society and are all responsible for each other.

Not everyone agreed. Bob Dole, then the Republican candidate for President, countered rather sharply: “… with all due respect, I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.”

We may live today in a “global village,” but need to learn to think for ourselves. If you don’t then you have taken the first step towards letting those others—usually government—determine what is best for you.

That can lead to downright ugly tyranny, like Hitler’s Third Reich, or today’s Islamic militants. Hitler championed getting rid of all the blood sucking, Christ-killing Jews while Islam claims to be the only true faith. Others, like Christians, need to be converted or eliminated.

Pontius Pilate, when faced with Jews wanting to execute Jesus, exclaimed in frustration “what is truth?” since he did not find Jesus guilty of anything against the Roman state. He then capitulated to the mob and had Jesus executed.  To admit the truth of Jesus would have cost him his life on earth.

This is the Christmas season when we celebrate not the death but the birth of Jesus. For today, it is the season of love and friends and family. Enjoy the Christmas story and its true and glorious significance. Tell it and embrace it with joy for it, indeed, is the truth.

Published as “Holiday season calls for us to celebrate the truth with joy,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday December 20, 2020.