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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What is truth?

We hang our sense of self-worth upon the mere trifles of life, mere specks in a vast ocean of time. In the thick of the battles of everyday life, we forget that all these daily concerns are not our ultimate ground or our destiny; it is not for these things that we were made, but for the glory of God. Regardless of whether we think we are "winning" or "losing" in life, the truth is, God never stops loving us.

“What is truth,” Pilate asked Jesus. The truth to which Jesus testified was not the sort of truth that one can objectively examine and measure. Jesus taught that God is love. So what is true and what is false when we have no empirical data to guide us? When confronted with the things of the heart, when making the decision to believe in love, how do we know that love is the right thing to do?

When speaking of love, we are not speaking of something tangible, of something that we can examine, measure, weigh, and consider. We are left to ponder the qualities that love makes manifest through its presence. We recognize love by what love does. We recognize love by how it manifests itself in our lives. We make a decision to live for the things of love or to reject the things of love based on the way that love works in us and around us. So, then, what are the manifestations of love? Paul tells us:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

But is love the right thing to believe in? If we’ve been hurt by those that said they loved us, perhaps we may think that love is a false pretense, something that only a fool, and a damn fool at that, would continue to believe in. Having been hurt by those that claim to love us, we may resolve to never to fall for the lie of love again. We reject love as a reality for our lives. There is a bit of truth in this. Yes, it is true that people will let us down. In fact, sooner or later, everyone will let us down in some way.

Yet we cannot quiet the restless longing in our hearts. We may fashion for ourselves a vision of being a solitary rock, strong and serene, which needs no one and certainly does not need love, yet the restlessness disturbs our serenity. We attack the restlessness with a myriad of substitutes, with all the diversions and pleasures that the world has to offer, yet despite all our efforts we feel disconnected, isolated, and insignificant. Our life becomes reduced to an endless desperation, waiting out the seconds and minutes and hours for death and oblivion to overtake us.

So it comes down to this: love is a risk. We take a chance on love. By love, I do not mean the mere emotion that comes and goes, but real love, the love that endures all things, no matter what. We take a chance on loving and not being loved in return, on giving and getting nothing back, on sacrificing and our sacrifice being counted for naught, for such is the way that God Himself has loved us. God loves us even though we reject him; he loves us and we do not love him in return; he sacrificed everything for us and we consider it nothing. Despite all that, God persists in loving us into life. We take a chance on being let down, hurt, and betrayed because we recognize the power of love to transform and move us, to inspire and to bring us life. Everyone will let us down, sooner or later, save one: God. God will not stop loving us. Even when life has fallen into pieces and all our plans have come to nothing and all we see is failure, when death itself is but a moment away, God still loves us.

We stand, as it were, on a precipice. We have a choice to make. Step out into the nothingness, into the vast chasm, and trust that love will catch us, or remain where we are, fixed and frozen. It is an act of faith, and faith is also a risk. We may see others take the leap and see that they do not fall, but our own step forward is still marked by hesitation and fear. We turn inward and fixate on all the times that people let us down. We do not see that even at that moment, even before we take that step forward, that God loves us with all his Being. Yes, it is an act of incredible courage to believe in love, now more than ever, in our world of hate and manipulation and exploitation. But the chasm into which we are stepping is not the chasm of the world, and what appears to us to be a chasm is not a chasm at all, but an entirely new world that we did not –could not– see from where we are before we take that step. We step forward into the unknown and find that love was there all along. Jesus taught that God is love and then showed us the love of God in action. The love of God is total surrender to God, trusting him to love us no matter what. Do we dare take him up on it?