It is Christ the King Sunday this week. The New Year's Eve of the Christian year. It is the final Sunday of the year and we remind ourselves, before starting this journey over, that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As Year B of the lectionary comes to a close we look at the scene in the passion story with Jesus standing in front of Pilate.
The part that struck me when reading this text [again] was the last verse, Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. Belongs to the truth. We get lost in the kingly verbiage of this day because we are no longer ruled by a "king". Monarchs are simply fodder for the gossip rags in other countries. What stands out as completely relevant is the obsession with truth that we have in this country.
What is truth? Who has the truth? Is truth relative? Is there absolute truth?
Truth is what you make it seems to be the thought de jour. This is what seemed to happen as I watched Sarah Palin on Oprah yesterday. I watched a politician dance around the truth in her answers, never agreeing with anything that could be damning to her image and floating semi-truth grenades towards others along the way. This isn't unique to Palin, almost every politician does it. Yet isn't this what we witness Jesus do in this passage though. Artfully dancing around Pilate's questions? You say that I am a king.
There is another issue that arises, there are those who use this passage to claim the truth only to persecute others. If you claim to have the truth that automatically makes those who disagree with you don't and therefore are wrong. This is a huge no-no in our society these days. What about those peoples feelings? Don't they have the right to believe in what they believe in? As Christians we can't offend people?
This hits home in a couple of scriptures. I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. (John 10:7) I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) This seems pretty definitive when you place it with the 37th verse of this week's text. So what do we do with these and how can we live it out in a way that is pleasing to God and nonjudgmental to the rest of the world?
With all this talk of truth I feel I have to throw in Jack Nicholason's quote from A Few Good Men, "The truth, you can't handle the truth." Jesus says he is the truth. He says that those who belong to the truth hear his voice. He says in John 8:32 the truth will set you free. When it smells like a fish, swims like a fish, breaths water like a fish, it is probably a fish.
Jesus points out to us, routinely in the Gospel of John, that if we desire the truth we need to know Jesus. For those who know Jesus we know the truth. What we do with this though truly paints the picture of how close our relationship is with Jesus.
We can bang this over the heads of everyone who doesn't believe, using these verses as a sword and shield but then are we following the Truth? We can simply sit quietly and let opportunities pass us by because we don't want to offend or bring conflict into a relationship but once again are we following the Truth? Or we can learn from the Truth and follow the Truth's lead. We can dive into the Word and try our hardest to live into the Truth and have the Truth live through us. We can have open and honest discussions through unconditional love with other children of God. We don't have to bang people over the head but if we live out the way the Truth tells us to live, people will be curious and we can tell them who the Truth is.
Will this bring conflict? Yes probably on occasion but conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. Does this mean we have permission to be rude and unkind to those who look at the world differently? Absolutely not. Jesus looks at Pilate and explains that this is the reason he is here. He understands the Truth and knows that not everyone will get it. He doesn't force Pilate to see his point nor does he condemn Pilate to hell because of it. He simply tells Pilate the Truth and Pilate is left to make his own decision.
We should stand firm in the Truth but not as a pedestal to launch attacks from, but a foundation in our lives. A place to better understand the world around us and to hear the voice of the one who is The Truth.