"What is truth?" Pilate asked Jesus. With the Son of God, the very living embodiment of truth, before him, he chose to enter into a philosophical reflection on the nature of truth. It is a stunning example of missed opportunity. Instead of debating the definition of truth, Pilate could have chosen to drink deeply of it from Jesus Christ.
It is clear from the story that missing the point was actually his intention. You do not have to be a theologian, biblical scholar, or psychologist to see that Pilate wanted to dodge the question. Jesus presence and words were searching him and he knew it. Rather than join in that process and come to greater self-discovery, he chose to redirect the conversation and remain comfortable where he was. Sadly, this is a very common, human response. Rather than allowing God to challenge us at a deep level we continually divert the discussion to something else and conveniently avoid that revelation.
I once received a letter from a person who attended the church that I served asking me to change the way I was preaching. She said, "sometimes I leave worship and I don't feel like a good Christian. I want to come to church, hear that I am doing well and that it is all going to be okay, and I want to leave feeling good." I feel for her discomfort, but I also know that sometimes we are not okay. Sometimes, the Spirit wants us to be uncomfortable and to look deeply at our lives. It is through this discomfort that we grow stronger in our character and deeper in our insight.
I've heard similar concerns about the personal nature of the sermon, or the praise worship, or the prayers. The implication is always similar, "Can't we just avoid anything that gets too close to home? Let's just get this church thing over with before it costs me anything or asks me to change." That, however, is not the way of Christian discipleship.
We dare not simply find people and experiences that tell us we do not need to change or grow. We should be looking for Spirit-led people and Spirit-filled experiences that lead us deeper into truth. Jesus said, "you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. He also said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." In Jesus, we experience truth and that truth will change us. It may not be the truth we expected and it likely will not be what seems popular, but it will be real.
Recently, a number of my Facebook friends posted links to articles that support their particular theological, or political beliefs. Some of the sources were very questionable and the arguments shallow, but they were presented with great passion. They were also affirmed with similar passion by a whole group of like-minded friends. I had two thoughts in response: first, this is very dangerous, and second, God show me where I do the same thing.
We ought to be challenged deeply, but we need to be challenged by the truth. The source of what we take into our thoughts and actions needs to be grounded in God's truth, not mere popularity. Real truth should lead us closer to God and to the revelation of God given in Holy Scripture and in Jesus Christ. If we are not careful, we can sound like Pilate as we attempt to redefine truth to fit our expectations and desires, to be popular, and to avoid the deep searching of God.
If, however, we will embrace real truth, we will discover the freedom it brings. Like the driver who finally accepts that they need directions to find their way, we may not like what we hear, but we will know exactly where we are, and the real pathway to where we are going. We will find that Jesus really is the truth and the way, and we will so much the better for it.
Truth can be frightening and uncomfortable, but it is also liberating and enables us to find our way to the destiny marked out for us. Pilate asked, "What is truth?" The answer is truth is God's perspective. Truth is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, and that is a wonderful rock on which to stand.