Truth

In these days of fake news, bumper sticker slogans, and statements so brief they can fit into a tweet, there is not much room for truth.  We have a political climate intensely divided, with little agreement about the facts regarding any particular issue or even what the problem is.  Within Christian churches there is deep disagreement about scripture and its interpretation and about authority, leaving congregations who have worshiped together for decades torn and hurting.

What is the truth?  What can bring us together?  Propositional truth, factual truth, matters of reason have their place.  They help us observe, define, describe, and categorize.  They also tend to divide—either-or, it is or it isn’t.

Jesus said, “and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).  This Truth (with a capital T) gives the kind of freedom that leads to a fuller life, one led in harmony with God and what God has made so.  Friends (Quakers) are guided not by dogmas or creeds but by queries.  One such query asks, “How does Truth prosper among you?”  The query is searching out not whether the group believes in certain propositions but whether their faithfulness and practice bring them into spiritual unity (not unanimity).

Truth is a spiritual reality as real as “objective” reality, or more so, that gives meaning and life to everything.  It is not something just to be thought about or recognized; it is something to be entered into.  In A Language for the Inner Landscape, Brian Drayton, a scientist and a New England Friend, and his teacher William P. Taber, Jr., reflect on Truth:

 “Those who enter into this Truth, this reality, come to feel a sense of the divine harmony that holds our universe together and that operates in our own minds, bodies, and human society . . . . To be in the Truth, then, means that one can—and will—live out those standards of inward peace through outward gentleness, tenderness to all creatures, and the right and just ordering of human society exemplified by the life and teachings of Jesus.”

Perhaps if we sought after Truth instead of arguing about what is true, we would find a way to come together, grounded in Love, for the wellbeing of all.

Queries:

What is your experience of truth or Truth?

How or where does Love begin in you?

Prayer:

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me….” (Psalm 25: 4-5a).

For further reference:

“Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 23: 23).

“Jesus answered, … ‘For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’  Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18: 37-38).

Light of Christ

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world (John 1:9). This key biblical text for early Friends contributed to the shape of their theology.  Their emphasis was on the power of the Light of Christ rather than on human sinfulness, although it was that power’s ability to bring change in their lives that mattered.  The Light revealed what was hidden, it convicted, and then it empowered change.

Recently I’ve become aware of some small examples in my life of what that might be like.  A friend I see only on rare occasions reminds me at those times of some words I said to her years ago in a particular context and place.  I at best vaguely remember the occasion and have no sense that my words came from any spiritual depth or wisdom. But for her, those words gave her hope when she was despairing.  She must have experienced through the words a light that allowed her to see a clearer picture of her condition, brought her worry up short, and comforted her so that she could go forward in greater peace.  A little incident, but significant enough in her life that she continues to remember it.

While in Rome for a family wedding I was asked by a friend why I did a particular behavior.  Her tone kept what she said a question and not a criticism.  And I gave her a quick and reasonable answer.  But the question stuck—a light shone on that issue.  Later I was able to reflect on the revealed behavior, see it for what it was, and choose to change, although I wondered how I would be able to.  As if the prayer of my heart were answered, I was empowered to live differently, at least for a time.  The old behavior remains in the light, and the desire of my heart to change is not forgotten.  I am more aware of what the behavior does to another.  I remain dependent on Christ to live in the new.

Queries:

When has someone’s words revealed to you what was hidden in you?

What has enabled you to change—for a short time or more permanently? And how could you or do you stay connected with that power?

Prayer:

May your light shine in my heart revealing what is hidden and needs the light of day.  Increase my consciousness of your light in my life, and the openness of my heart to be changed.

For further reflection:

“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8: 12).

Your strength is to stand still, after ye see yourselves; whatsoever ye see yourselves addicted to, temptations, corruption, uncleanness, &c. then ye think ye shall never overcome. And earthly reason will tell you, what ye shall lose; hearken not to that, but stand still in the Light, that shows them to you, and then strength comes from the Lord, and help contrary to your expectation: then ye grow up in peace, and no trouble shall move you.  (George Fox, Epistle 10)

Heaven

As someone of a certain age, I find that pondering about what happens when we die is natural. For some the answer is about going to heaven. A widespread belief is that heaven is the place you go after you die if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Some would add the assumption that it is where you go if you have been good enough. For some, this picture gives life and hope. For others, this understanding seems too pat, simply unbelievable, or meaningless.

I think there are other faithful ways to think about heaven. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6: 9-13). The yearning is for the two realms to be one—one where God’s ways are fully and completely present, where God’s “commandments” are in our hearts so that we choose to live them and live in harmony with all—the beloved community. God reigns–not human rulers, who are caught up in the ways of power and dominance.

Early Friends were among other religious people who were trying to find a way to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. George Fox realized that the peaceable kingdom couldn’t come through violence and war. He came to know experientially that our hearts need to be changed, and that Christ is present and available to teach us– to love, to live in harmony, to follow God’s ways. Heaven is not confined to what happens to us when we die, or where we go after this life. As we come to know that life and power that tenders our hearts and changes our ways (this is different from intellectual assent to a set of beliefs), heaven—eternal and everlasting life—begins now.

When we are “in heaven,” all that is good in us rises up. All that hurts and destroys is ended. There is oneness and unity, creation is sustained. God dwells with us and in us. Because we know it now in moments, and as a promise, we hope that in time we will know it in full. That hope, held deeper and deeper, changes our lives now and forever. Death, then, I think, is a continued moving into love.

Queries:

What do you think about heaven and how does that impact how you live now?

When have you experienced that sense of oneness with all, of being loved completely, of God dwelling within, of being transformed?

Prayer:

In your imagination allow a vision of heaven to rise up. Take that into your heart and dwell there.

For further reflection:

“I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts . . .” (See Jeremiah 31: 31-34).

“Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter.” –George Fox, Journal, 1647