Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns.
by Tom Beutel
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
John 14:6 (NIV)
We assume that people generally tell the truth; at least we assume that Christians tell the truth. We base this on our understanding that God’s nature includes truthfulness; that, as the verse above reminds us, Jesus is the truth. Jesus taught that lies come not from God, but from Satan. “When he (Satan) lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
But, we humans, as often as not, are more than willing to lie and to believe lies. We lie to get what we want. We lie to protect ourselves. We lie to make ourselves seem better than we really. We tell “little white lies.” But, Jesus says that he is truth.
We listen to lies and willingly believe them. We believe lies because they tell us what we want to hear. We believe lies because they (we think) shield us from harm. We believe lies because they flatter us into thinking we are better than we are. But, Jesus says the Satan is the father of lies.
It is difficult to know what is really true and what is not. And with the proliferation and rapid dissemination of ideas and claims possible on the internet, television, and other mass media outlets, the problem becomes very difficult indeed. I recently learned that the name of one of Americans’ favorite foods, the “hot dog,” came from the fact that it was widely believed that sausages were often made from dog meat. While not true (for the most part) people believed it to be true; hence the name!
Truth-telling is an important part of peacemaking. We can only have and promote healthy, right relationships when we tell the truth. If peace (shalom) is “things as they ought to be,” (Perry Yoder, Shalom: The Bible’s Word for Salvation, Justice and Peace), then truth-telling is a key element. Things are not as they ought to be when we lie to one another, to God, or even to ourselves. What is true is true! No amount of trying to make it otherwise will change it. By clinging to untruth, we will most certainly cause harm to ourselves or others.
If our actions are causing harm to another, we must acknowledge the truth and change our ways. If our ideas or behavior are contrary to the nature of God and the teachings of scripture – God’s word – then we gain nothing by pretending otherwise or trying to “spin” truth to match our own wishes. “Truth will out,” says Launcelot in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Justice and peacemaking are founded on truth. We must always be careful that our claims are true. In an effort to succeed in a “good cause” we must not distort, embellish, or omit that which is true. We dishonor God and imperil our peacemaking and our well-being when we rely on lies or deception.
This would probably be a good place to end, but with the United States presidential election now really getting in to full swing, a word or two may be appropriate. Whatever party, platform, or candidate you favor, be sure to take the time to check the truth of claims and counterclaims. It is probably safe to say that all candidates, parties, and political groups will slant the truth at the least, and outright lie at the worst, all, they believe in a good cause. If we favor a given candidate or position we at least need to do so without eyes wide open and be ready to explain, truthfully, our position to others.
If you are not involved in partisan politics, including voting, nevertheless, you probably have positions on issues and will most likely (hopefully) be engaged in work to further your convictions. It is just as important to be sure you know the truth as it is for those supporting political candidates. We, all of us, can only nurture peace when we are committed to truth.
For those who might be interested, here are a couple of web sites which attempt to analyze and rate the truthfulness of candidates:
- Politifact: produced by the Tampa Bay Times
- org: a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters