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Defining Freedom, part 4: Honesty

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Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. — John 8:32

Live up to the light thou hast, and more will be granted thee. — Caroline Stephen

Nothing enslaves us so effectively as falsehood. Unjust laws may make it harder for us to do what we feel called to do, but history shows that we tend to find ways to overturn such laws or subvert them. But lies, especially the lies we tell ourselves, stop us from hearing the call in the first place. Knowledge of the truth is the fundamental ground of meaningful freedom.

I know people who read John 8:32 as a statement of a desirable but almost hopeless goal. They say that it’s well-nigh impossible to be sure that you really ‘know the truth’. Which church really has the true interpretation of Christ’s life and teaching? Which news agency is telling us what really happened in the latest much-disputed crisis? How can we know? How can we ever be free?

There are many perplexing questions to which I don’t know how to find the truest answer. In my experience, these are not the questions I actually have to answer with my life. So far I have found myself set free to hear and answer God’s call, not when I settle some obscure and perplexing point, but when I face the obvious home truths that I am tempted to avoid. There have been plenty of these. There’s the truth that my daily consumption has an effect, too often a harmful effect, on other people and the earth. There’s the truth that sometimes when I tell myself and others that I am trying to help people I am actually trying to get them to like me. There’s the truth that I am not helpless in the face of injustice and chaos, that I am always able, here and now, to live a little further into the Kingdom of God.

When I turn and face these truths I experience new energy, as I am no longer wasting my strength hiding from what I know. I also experience new clarity, enough to show me the next step I need to take. That’s good enough for me.

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