“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” — John 1:1Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” — John 14:6Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” — John 8:32
Pilate said, “What is truth?” — John 18:37
I’ve been thinking today about two things that are central to our faith — words and truth. In the first chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God speaks creation into being. God’s very first words are “Let there be light,” and there was light. God speaks and the words leap forth, creating a world, creating life.
In the New Testament the Gospel of John picks up that theme, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Those words of God that brought forth creation have now become the Word, taking on flesh and blood in Jesus, coming to live among us.
In a faith that believes in the Word made flesh, words are important. Just as God’s Word brought creation into being, our words also have creative power. With them we can create love or hate, pain or joy, fear or hope. Casual words can sting with cruelty or build up with encouragement. Words matter.
Along with words comes truth. Jesus, the Word made flesh, says of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The words of the Word are trustworthy. We can believe them, put our faith in them, follow them with confidence. As Jesus also tells us, the truth will set us free.
What has prompted this reflection for me are words I heard in the news yesterday. They are the words of our president, his own words captured on tape in his own voice, admitting that he was told in January that the coronavirus was the worst threat to national security he would face in his presidency. He also told journalist Bob Woodward that the virus is airborne and “more deadly that even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.”
Why is this newsworthy? Because those words spoken to Bob Woodward are in stark contrast to the president’s public words these last six months that our country has been engulfed in a deadly pandemic. His public words obfuscate the truth. The virus is much less serious or deadly than the flu, he told us. Before long it will just disappear, children are almost immune to it, quack remedies will cure it. We don’t need to wear masks, or social distance, or stay at home.
Of course, this is not the first president who has lied. Presidents have lied about their personal lives and lied to justify going to war. One can even make a case that there are times when lies are necessary for national security, even times when lies might serve the greater good.
I remember as a child we would ask one another, “What if you were in Germany and had hidden Jewish people in your home and Nazis knocked on the door and asked if you knew where any Jewish people were hiding? Would it be ok to lie?” Of course it would.
But the lies that we have been told the last six months have served no greater good. We are nearing 200,000 deaths because of them. The virus would have come to this country, but if we had been told the truth, if our leader had a plan to deal with it, which he still doesn’t, the damage would have been so much less.
How many tens of thousands of people might still be alive? How many businesses would still be open? How many jobs would not have been lost? How much sickness, pain, and suffering would have been alleviated?
If the truth will set us free, lies will set us on a path toward destruction.
In the 1980s there was a popular book by Scott Peck called People of the Lie. I don’t remember too much about it, but one of its central tenants was that when we create a reality based on lies only pathology can follow.
We have critical choices ahead of us in a few weeks, both as citizens of this country and as Christians called to be followers of truth.