ISSUES OF FAITH: Truth is truth, guilt is guilt

JESUS SAID TO her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV).

Is truth subjective?

Last week, I was teaching on the seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) with some of the youth of the church.

The question was presented to them, “What if you find a wad of money in a grocery story parking lot, told nobody you found it and pocketed it. Is that stealing?”

I was greeted with a barrage of answers that can be summed up with the expression, “It depends.”

Do right and wrong, truth and fiction, or good and evil really depend on circumstances, points of view or opinion?

I am here to tell you, no.

There are truths and realities that are outside of the realm of our manipulation because of our personal addenda, the coldness of our hearts or the fear of not being in control.

For example, when you pull out into traffic in front a car and cause an accident … it’s your fault.

When you get pulled over for driving 67 mph in a 55, it’s your fault.

Your excuses don’t matter. Our mental circumstances do not change reality.

That also goes for lying to your wife, bad-mouthing your husband with your coworkers, posting hate-filled rants on social media, hitting your children, verbally abusing your neighbor, disregarding the value of life seen in each person’s eyes, even those wandering the streets.

Don’t worry, I am only getting started.

It also applies to when you give in to that third, fourth, fifth beer and get in your car.

When you choose the selfish path of feeding your addiction rather than getting help and choosing your family over a high.

And yes, showing up late to work, quitting because you can’t keep your emotions in check, not being a dad or mom, only a biological parent; it’s all wrong.

No gray area.

No room for discussion.

So yes, picking up a wad of money that doesn’t belong to you and putting it in your pocket as if it does, not turning it in as a lost item, is stealing no matter how bad you want it, need it or justify your desire to slip it into your wallet.

Truth is not subjective.

Right and wrong is not dependent of circumstances.

Circumstances may lead to empathy, never justification.

Since the law was presented to people at Sinai, God’s people have tried to squirm their way out from under guilt.

Excuses abound, and explanations flood into our relationships with one another and God as if an excuse or explanation can remove your sin.

There is no amount of “yeah, but” that can get your record expunged, your conscience cleared and your guilt acquitted.

You’re stuck with it, until it is taken from you.

So, we have established that, as much as we would like to distance ourselves from our sin through philosophical gymnastics, we cannot.

Truth is objective truth.

I wonder, who will save you or me?

“All day I see myself doing the thing I do not want to do, but the evil that lives in me, that I keep doing” (Romans 7:19).

“Where is the person that can take this all from us? Jesus the Christ tells us that he is the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), “that is the Good Shepherd that lays his life down” (John 11:14), “and that he has come to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

He stands and declares, “I am the first and the last, the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forever more, and I have the keys to death and Hades’” (Revelation 1:17-18). Moreover, he confidently declares, “If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Jesus makes some pretty big claims and there are only two possible conclusions: either he is telling the truth or lying.

No gray area, no philosophical gymnastics to comfort our trembling consciences, no alternative realities or circumstantial accuracy; just truth and lies.

Is he or isn’t he who he says he is? This sobering question is brought home with the words from John 11:26, “Do you believe this?”

“To think that something so important as forgiveness, eternal life and a right relationship with God would be dependent on something you can see, or measure, and is seen in the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen living in your soul” (Hebrews 11:1).

“Assurance and conviction conceived in your heart through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17) “and that attaches itself to gifts found in your baptism that unites you to the death and resurrection of Christ” (Romans 6).

This is truth: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, John 3:15-18, 3:36).

Thank God that truth is objective and not subjective, lest we be left without any certainty of hope.

You have been saved, redeemed and equated in the blood of the Son of God who sought out and saved you.

May his truth live in you, not only in thought but word and deed, as you practice right and wrong, knowing that there is such a thing as truth and fiction as well as good and evil, free from circumstance, point of view or opinion, revealed in God’s infallible holy word.

To him be the glory.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or pastorlovejoy @rocketmail.com.

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