In the past several weeks we have been unable to avoid, and be drawn into, reports concerning the missing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The story has unfolded with differing accounts of what happened. What is the truth? Although the stories keep changing about what happened, did the truth change? The stories around the story, and the various reactions, challenge us to think about what is truth.
Recently in a discussion the comment was made to me that I don’t need to defend my religious beliefs with examples of truths, or proof, since I have faith. In actuality, the word “true” comes from an Old English and Germanic root meaning solid, steadfast, faithful, having faith. So the concept of truth actually has both the quality of faith as well as agreement with fact and reality. Interestingly, Germanic languages other than English draw a distinction between truth/fidelity and truth/factually in the etymology of related words.
The facts of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance exist. And yet, one’s faithfulness to a certain viewpoint undoubtedly inform what a person views as the truth. Initially, some viewpoints supported a truth to them that he was still alive, or that his death was an accident, or that it wasn’t murder. Some may still believe these “truths.” Sometimes one’s point of view is clear – optimist/pessimist, Republican/Democrat, adult/child, calm/anxious – the truths in each of these situations colored by the perspective of the observer. The differences often relate to detail rather than the core issue, but typically the detail influences how one perceives what happened. A murder has been committed but what were the circumstances? What happened in any situation as we observe and experience it becomes a diverse reality of truths. For this reason our judicial system in seeking justice solicits multiple witnesses.
A charming scene from “The Family Man” (released in 2000 with Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni) takes place at a convenience store where an angel disguised as the cashier gives a customer too much change. When the recipient clearly recognizes the mistake and then leaves the store with the extra money, the angel/clerk sadly shakes his head. A small test in life had just been failed. Thinking no one would know but himself, the customer dishonestly chose to keep the money. He knew the truth but didn’t act on it as he thought no one else would know. Although perceptions may vary on the details, despite perspectives, the truth is he stole.
From one extreme are perpetrators of bad acts who lie. Yet on the same continuum are the small acts of deception, the untruths we may feel are too small to matter. Also, in the truth conversation are the viewpoints we enter each situation with that color our perceptions. Life is defined by the acts we take and how we respond to the acts of others, all influencing what we determine as true. Especially when one has felt and feels the living presence of Yeshua intimately, lying to others and lying to ourselves feels deeply as if we are lying to God. For He knows every hair on our heads, every thought in our minds, every feeling in our hearts. He is all knowing.
How do I prove that is the truth, that there is one God who came to us in the form of Yeshua who is with us daily? I can turn to Scripture and the many passages, and to the many inexplicable synchronicities demonstrating God’s presence in our lives on a large scale down to the smallest event. I can also look to the faithfulness I feel to that premise. One’s conscience developed through moral teachings provides the seed. Feeling His omnipresence, that deeper voice inside, is the catalyst to push each of us to make those choices that move us closer to Him, closer to living lives of truth. When we live with Him as the truth, even the smallest unfaithfulness, such as keeping too much change, pushes us to do the right thing.
As we are honest in small things, so are we led to truthfulness as a way of life. We can’t change the world, but how we live can affect those around us, and around them, and so it keeps going . . .