Over the past months, I have watched my Facebook Newsfeed become a stockpile of partisan commentaries. It was rather interesting, albeit stressful, to see people repeatedly citing fake news to back up their claims.
Well-meaning, fact-checking accounts come out now and then to set the record straight, but if I’m being honest, I still take those with a grain of salt. Until I have personally triple-checked the data, I’m wary of any information I come across.
I have professors who work for international organizations. I have classmates who are part of private data-gathering bodies. I have family members employed in government agencies. And they all say the same thing: data is easily manipulated. Even information released by official channels cannot be implicitly trusted.
So, I was taught to dig deeper. To look beyond the headlines and be mindful of hidden agendas. To understand that everything is a bureaucracy, and there may be powers pulling the strings behind the curtains.
This does not mean I look at everything as one big conspiracy theory because there still are sources to be trusted. It’s ironic because, as a graduate student, I am dependent on official and verifiable information when writing academic papers.
Regardless, my classes emphasize the importance of considering all possible theories and angles when assessing issues, sorting through the contradicting “facts” presented by various parties, and zooming in on what is truly true.
[Mis]information in the digital age
Every day, we are bombarded by an insane amount of facts, opinions, and rumors. And the more we consume, the more we come to believe that we know so much.
But information isn’t knowledge, and knowledge isn’t wisdom.
The thing is, it’s not about knowing what to think; it’s knowing how to think.
And the biggest hindrance to the discovery of truth is the belief that we are smarter than we actually are.
We must be humble enough to admit that we don’t have all the cards.
The pursuit of truth
The thing about the truth is it is straightforward and unchanging. However, it may also be three-dimensional.
What does this mean? We live in a world of paradoxes. It is true that God is both merciful and just. We are indeed fallen yet redeemed.
Likewise, there are always sides to a story, and it would be a disservice to the truth if we jump to conclusions without examining all contributing perspectives.
So, when assessing information, I think of the truth as a mystery I have to untangle. I am the detective, pursuing different leads and examining seemingly contradictory evidence.
I do not – cannot – take things at face value. Instead, I cross-check, look for loopholes and missing pieces, and follow the trail.
This may mean taking a good look at someone I trust and look up to and confronting the fact that this person may not be as innocent as I thought. It might result in me questioning certain things I previously knew as factual.
Regardless, I have to do it if I’m committed to the pursuit of truth.
Beyond smokes and mirrors
After reading hundreds of mystery novels, I know that sometimes, the key to cracking a case is a detail or witness dismissed as unimportant because the detective already had an end in mind.
Sometimes, what is “true” can seem so obvious — until we find out that we’ve been looking at things from the wrong perspective.
The last thing I want is to miss out on the truth because I was fixated on my own ideas; because I didn’t want to change my mind.
Likewise, our investigations should give us a holistic view of whatever we’re assessing. We need to look beyond preferences, biases, preconceived notions, and partisanship to get to the truth.
Pursuing truth requires more than knowing where the facts lead. It requires the honesty to actually follow them, regardless of who they implicate.Hannah Anderson
Justice, truth, and love
Many who seek the truth also seek justice, as the latter would be impossible to attain without the former.
This is why when we experience a form of injustice, rage forms deep within us. We know that something is not right and that the truth, in some form, is not being upheld.
Yet there is the wide acknowledgment that the law, for all the intents of its establishment, doesn’t always aid in the implementation of justice. Further, enforcers of the law aren’t implicitly enforcers of the truth. If anything, some of them become agents of deceit.
If this is so, then who decides what is truly just? Who’s to say what is really right?
Justice and righteousness
In the Bible, justice and righteousness are used interchangeably. The original Greek uses dikaiosune to refer to either.
This means that one cannot achieve justice without righteousness – God’s standard of what is right. Accordingly, righteousness is the true measure of justice.
And He tells us, “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Hence, if we’re going to seek justice, we have to do it in a manner that upholds that which would be deemed holy.
But sometimes, in the process of seeking justice, we end up becoming unjust. We contend and argue and fight, not because we care about the truth but because we want to win. It’s no longer about standing up for what’s right; we just want to prove that we’re right.
It’s the same when people debate Scripture and theology. People bust out their know-how because they want to seem better, not because they want to help others see better.
If we become unrighteous in our quest for justice, then really, what’s the point?
When we seek justice, we seek God’s will to pass on this earth. What should that look like?
Speaking the truth
I find it interesting that the people who vehemently oppose death penalty because it is a clear violation of human dignity go on to mar the very dignity they claim to fight for by hating on people who hold differing views.
“Their decisions are a reflection of their morals,” they say. It’s true. But how you treat them, regardless of their morals, is a reflection of your morals.
But when we engage in dehumanizing rhetoric or promote dehumanizing images, we diminish our own humanity in the process.Brene Brown
They say that we should not shame people into Christianity, which is only right. Yet they shame people who adhere to a different political stance.
“It’s urgent,” they say, “because our country’s future hangs in the balance and we’re talking about the truth here. People need to stop being stupid.”
As if the Gospel doesn’t require a greater urgency; as if it didn’t carry a more significant message of truth; as if we’re not foolish in our worldly ways.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire." Matthew 5:21-22
And yet — no matter how important the Gospel is, many shut their ears towards it. Sure, part of it has to do with their sinful nature. But we also need to recognize that sometimes, they refuse to listen because they just hear a clanging gong.
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
If we want people to listen to the truth, we need to speak in love.
The lost language of love
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
First, it is essential to understand the context of this passage. Ephesians 4 talks about what maturity would look like in the body of Christ, and the very first verse urges us to “live lives worthy of the calling we have received.”
How do we do this?
Paul goes on to instruct us, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Let me ask you this: Are you living a life worthy of the calling you have received? Are you humble and gentle? Do you bear with others in love? Do you make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace?
If not, then you may need to re-examine your devotion.
This isn’t to say that you cannot speak about injustice. In fact, we are called to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbor.”
Because love doesn’t delight in evil, but it rejoices with the truth.
So, love can mean holding people accountable, pursuing justice, and turning over tables.
"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17
Let your love rejoice with the truth — just make sure that you don’t default to a form of evil in the process.
"Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy fits of anger, disputes, dissension, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these." Galatians 5:19-21
It’s not that we need to be soft-spoken about it. We don’t need artificial and temporal harmony. We’re not promoting complacency.
We can fight and contend, especially if there’s a battle to be won.
But we have to be smart about the weapons we use. We have to remember the true enemy: falsehood, arrogance, and impunity.
Living out the truth
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Ephesians 4:29-31
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8
"Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them [tyrannizing over them]. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28
"Do not participate in the worthless and unproductive deeds of darkness, but instead expose them [by exemplifying personal integrity, moral courage, and godly character]" Ephesians 5:11
“Do not judge [others self-righteously], and you will not be judged; do not condemn [others when you are guilty and unrepentant], and you will not be condemned [for your hypocrisy]; pardon [others when they truly repent and change], and you will be pardoned [when you truly repent and change]" Luke 6:37
What you claim to know about the truth will not matter if you are unable to reflect God’s truth in a way that matters.
Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.