Monday, September 26, 2016

Truth Under the Bus

Liars gonna lie. It’s what they do.

I was just enjoying the passage in Mark where the chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jews — all those folks who, at the time of Christ, were supposed to be the moral authorities to which everyone looked for an example — come to Jesus in the temple and ask precisely where he has acquired authority to clear the temple, driving out the money-changers and salespeople and overturning their tables.

So Jesus agrees to tell them, provided they answer this question first: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”

At which point the chief priests, scribes and elders start sweating bullets.

Coming Up With a Satisfactory Answer

The specific details of their discussion with one another as they try to come up with a satisfactory answer are of no consequence. What interests me is that responding took them more than a nanosecond. What interests me is that any discussion at all was required. That tells us everything we need to know.

After all, Jesus was merely asking for an opinion, and everyone there most certainly had one. Many of them surely believed John’s baptism was his own idea, or they would not have been opposing Jesus, whom John had baptized. It should have been easy (though not politically expedient) to blurt this out. One or two may have believed John’s baptism was from heaven, but, fearing the reaction from their fellow authorities, declined to say anything. I suspect a large number of Donald Trump supporters are similarly misleading the pollsters because they know their opinions are unpopular with the PC crowd.

But discuss it they did:
“ ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say, “Why then did you not believe him?” But shall we say, “From man”?’ — they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ ”
When you have to think about what you are going to say next, let alone discuss it with others, there is a solid chance you are about to lie through your teeth. These religious authorities had only two concerns: (1) winning the argument; and (2) giving the answer that would be most popular with their followers.

The Truth Metric

As far as we can tell, at no point does a single priest, scribe or elder stop and wonder about the truth of the matter and whether it might not be better if that were the first thing to trip off his tongue. That consideration doesn’t factor in at all.

Many of us have read about the Muslim practice of taqiya, which Wikipedia defines as “precautionary dissimulation or denial of religious belief”. It is in essence a religiously acceptable lie. If it will further the cause, truth may be hurled under the bus in the line of duty, or so goes the rationalization. The Jewish religious “authorities” were practicing the equivalent of taqiya.

Those who really know God have no such license to play fast and loose with the facts.

What the answer of the scribes, priests and elders shows us is that it was not the Lord Jesus but they who actually lacked heavenly authority. After all, the person who is under authority has no concerns about finding the most popular or winning answer. Such a person has only one possible response: the answer of the One for whom he speaks.

Uncomplicated Answers

This is the rather enviable position in which the Christian finds himself today, if he is willing to embrace it. There is one answer to every question. If the Christian says, “I don’t know,” it is not because he is trying to wiggle out of a politically inconvenient spot, but because he genuinely doesn’t know the answer. That happens, and there’s no shame in it. We are only servants after all.

But many of the answers that are most frequently required of us are dead simple. Was John’s baptism from heaven? Of course! Is Jesus God? You bet. Is hell a real place? Absolutely. The answer is whatever God says it is. No fuss, no muss. Dead simple. No discussion required.

Life becomes tremendously uncomplicated. Just blurt out the truth, and the consequences will take care of themselves.

I’m talking, of course, about what is right, not about what is easy. Sometimes the consequences of speaking the truth are tremendously inconvenient or painful for the speaker. Telling the truth may result in persecution, poverty, unpopularity and even death.

I didn’t say it was fun. I said it was uncomplicated.

We may go under the bus. The truth must not.

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