Love Rejoices with the Truth

by Pastor Geoff

Did you hear that the coronavirus was manufactured in a government lab?
And that it’s a hoax meant to unseat Donald Trump in the next election?
And that Bill Gates is using the pandemic as an excuse to tag us all with tracking devices?
And that wearing a mask activates the dormant virus?
It’s all true…if you believe the conspiracy theories that are currently swirling on the internet.
There’s nothing like a pandemic to get the disinformation machine firing on all cylinders.
This past week, I was following an online discussion being had by several pastors.  They were lamenting the fact that some of their parishioners were watching and sharing the Plandemic video, a YouTube “documentary” that promotes some of the falsehoods mentioned above.  These pastors wondered together: How could their parishioners possibly buy these blatantly
deceptive claims being peddled by social media hucksters? How could they so quickly embrace and promote lies meant to slander and divide and confuse?
How indeed.
But on one level, it kind of makes sense. We are living in uncertain times. Our lives have been upended. Our livelihoods disrupted. Our communities physically disintegrated. There is much about this situation that is cause for fear, confusion and grief. And there are so many questions to which we just don’t have good answers. Where exactly did the virus come from? Can our economy survive this? When will there be a vaccine? How long will we have to stay home?  What will the world look like, post-pandemic?
And we all know that in times of uncertainty, when there are pressing questions without
immediately obvious answers, there will always be those who rush in to fill the void. There will always be the opportunists and the swindlers, eager to offer answers to our burning questions.  And, even when those answers are based on manipulated data, fabricated “evidence,” and outright lies, there will always be those who latch onto them because they’re just that desperate for a little certainty.
Of course, when the explanations offered pin blame on our least favorite people, that just makes them all the easier to believe. Whether that’s foreigners or the liberal elites or the deep state, the theories seem less conspiratorial when they confirm what we already believed – that “those people” really are out to get us.
As I read my fellow pastors’ laments about their unfortunately credulous parishioners, I found myself feeling grateful (and a little smug) that there aren’t any of “those people” at Church on The Ave. Thank God that our church is full of discerning, critical thinking people who would never fall for the half-baked theories circulating online.  
And then I caught myself. Because it’s not just “those people” who struggle when it comes to discerning and accepting what’s true.
The fact is that, for many of us, our relationship with the truth is often a tenuous one. Because we all have our biases and preconceptions. We all feel the need to maintain certain beliefs about ourselves and others in order to feel okay in the world. We all choose to embrace some truths and ignore others, depending on what jives with what we already believe.
In his book, Virtuous Minds, Philip Dow says that, for many of us, “…the allegiance to the truth often appears to end where self-interest or the pursuit of pleasure begins.” And I believe that’s a truth that applies to all of us, independent of education level, political affiliation or anything else.
I’ve worked in campus ministry for the last eleven years, mostly with graduate students and university faculty. These are really smart people. I sometimes joke that at work I’m often the dumbest person in the room.
And yet, over the years I’ve seen several of these really smart people struggle in their
relationship with the truth. I’ve seen them use their considerable brain power to rationalize and justify all sorts of irrational and unjustifiable things. I’ve seen them argue in circles to explain away truths they found inconvenient or uncomfortable. Apparently, being smart doesn’t make you immune to dishonest thinking.
The Apostle Paul tells us that love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  What does he mean by that?
Well, I think he means at least this: As Christians, love requires that we live squarely in reality, doing our very best to understand the world and our own souls as they really are, not as we wish they were. Love requires that we not create for ourselves an alternate reality where we
are the heroes and those whose race or religion or political persuasion differs from ours are the villains. Love requires that we deal honestly with our demons instead of casting them onto others.
And as Christians, this is something we ought to rejoice to do. Because we, of all people, understand that with truth comes freedom. And those aren’t my words. Those are Jesus’ words, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Further on in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
The great truth of the Gospel is that God knows us fully. God knows the whole truth about us, even the truths we can’t admit to ourselves, much less divulge to others. And in spite of this, God loves us. That’s the greatest truth the world has ever known.

And it’s the truth that sets us free to face reality as it truly is. Even when that reality is
intimidating and confusing and uncertain. Because the God who knows us fully also knows where all of this is headed and has promised that his plans for us are good.

Discussion Questions

1) How are you dealing with all of the unknowns in our current situation? What are some ways you are coping with the not knowing how all of this is going to play out?

2) What experiences have you had with people who struggle living in reality? How have you engaged with the “alternative facts” that inform some people’s thinking?

3) What are some of the things about yourself, your relationships or this world that you’ve had a hard time accepting as true?

4) Where have you experienced freedom by accepting and living into the truth?