Christ the King B
The Gospel stops short of the best line. After Jesus speaks of truth, Pilate responds, “What is truth?” It is an important and current question. Back in seminary, I took some young people to our Good Friday service, and as John’s passion was read and Pilate dramatically intoned “What is truth?” one of the young people looked at me and smiled and shrugged. He had a point and it has only become harder since then to answer the question.
So let us wade into what Stephen Colbert called “truthiness.” There are a few aspects to consider. First there is objective truth – that in reality something is what it is. If I say this is a chair, I expect everyone to know it is a chair. It is the basis for communication. Some questions are harder such as “Is Jesus God?” We have an answer for that of course, and others may disagree, but the one thing we know is that Jesus cannot be God and not God. Something cannot be something and not something.
Of course, there is a tendency to over-objectify, to make everything black and white. For example I can say that it is better to be a Met fan or a Yankee fan; I would rather be cold or hot; all Catholics should root for Notre Dame and you would know that only one of those is objectively true. (I won’t share which.)
On the other hand, some would say that there is no such thing as objective truth. There are only versions of the truth. This would be called relativism. Everyone has a right to their own truth and it would be wrong to impose my truth on yours or expect you to live by my truth. It is wonderful for freedom and independence. However, its drawback is that with the ground of truth constantly shifting for one person or another, how do you find a place to stand? I believe we need common ground. When we come to a traffic light, we want everyone to believe that red means stop.
Objective and relative theories of truth have been around for a long time. But I want to add a third category- internet truth. These are truths that are held so strongly, one cannot admit the possibility of being wrong. The great show “The Good Place” described something very rare on earth by saying it was as rare as someone writing on the internet, “You make a good point. I guess I was wrong.” It never happens. Twice I saw something so dumb I had to point it out hoping for a moment of enlightenment, but all I received was a cascade of comments saying how dumb I was. I should have known better. But it is good to think you might be wrong. It is humble and freeing to not always need to be right. It is also the beginning of dialogue and civility.
So we too might want to offer a big shrug to the question of “What is truth?” But we cannot for we are followers of Jesus Christ and he makes clear that truth is the heart of his mission. “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” We must belong to the truth to belong to Christ the King.
So how do we navigate this landscape of truth? How do we belong to the truth which is neither black and white, which allows freedom and diversity while still giving solid ground to view the world? I think we can find our answer in the readings of a couple of weeks ago when Jesus was asked “Which commandment is the greatest?” He boiled it down the essence of the essences. We must love God and our neighbor. The rest is kind of details. Important details but still not as critical as the direction the truth takes us. To belong to Christ, let us commit ourselves to this paramount truth. Let love of God and neighbor alone govern our vision. Let us build our world from the truth that God loves us and our greatest vocation is to love one another.
What would such a world look like? It would not automatically give us policies and programs. But it would set us on the right course with a common hope. How shall we belong to the kingdom of which Jesus preaches? If you belong to this kingdom, you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. If you belong to this kingdom, you value God’s word and God’s people. If you belong to this kingdom, you love what God loves and what God created. If you belong to this kingdom, you give thanks to God for everything and reflect that thanks in worship. That is how we would love God.
If you belong to this kingdom, you treasure the sacredness and dignity of every life. If you belong to this kingdom, you don’t ask should we help the poor, only how do we help the poor. If you belong to this kingdom, you show compassion and mercy every opportunity you have. If you belong to this kingdom, you seek justice; you are a peacemaker. That is how we would love our neighbor.
And if you belong to this kingdom, everyone would now what you stand for and why. They would know you are a Christian and we would be singing the song the world has been waiting us to voice. The Greek philosopher Archimedes claimed that if he were given a place to stand and a lever, he could move the world. Let our place to stand be our belief in Christ and let truth be our lever and we can build a kingdom.