Getting Odd with God

How about something new – a short test? Choose the single best answer to the following statement:

You shall know the truth and the truth shall ________.

A – hurt.
B – piss you off.
C – set you free.
D – make you odd.
F – all of the above

I’ve been thinking about truth lately. In today’s world (and perhaps it’s been always thus) many people believe what they want to believe. To them truth is relative, or perhaps unknowable. “Whatever works for me is true for me” is the spirit of the age. But truth matters, doesn’t it? Our thoughts guide our actions, and actions have consequences. It’s clear that we’re usually better off if we act based upon truth. Not sure? Ask the folks who invested with Bernie Madoff, or maybe Tiger’s ex-wife. I think they would have acted very differently if they had known the truth about the men they trusted.

So what answer did you choose? They all have merit. Let’s take them in turn.

You shall know the truth and the truth shall hurt. Yes, pretty often the truth hurts. In my own case, the truth is that I create a lot of my own problems. The truth is I’m not that good-looking or that important at work. The truth is I haven’t been the best father or husband. All true, all painful, but necessary to hear if I’m going to have less problems and be a better father.

Hurting is no fun. That’s why, as fallen people, we commonly fight the truth. Defending our egos, we react in anger. We have heard the truth, and we are pissed off! This happens a lot in the wellness field. Way more people are overweight because of their habits than because of their genes. But try saying that, even delicately, and you may be accused of “blaming the victim.” Another example might be alcoholics or drug addicts who fight and deny the truth of their condition beyond the point that it’s obvious to external observers. Unfortunately, fighting the truth does not help us. It’s okay to be angry, but if we want to be better, we have to get to acceptance.

If we can accept the truth, we can be free. I’m sure you know that it was Jesus who said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” But knowing isn’t the whole picture. Not only must we know or accept the truth, we must act upon it. Jesus prefaced his statement with, “If you abide in my word…” (see below) That’s an action step. Both knowing and doing are required. Even demons know the truth of Jesus.  For Christians, faith is an action step.

Same in the wellness space. If you have a lifestyle illness (or more than one because they usually travel together), knowing that your habits are the cause of your problem does not magically solve the problem. You’ve got to do something different. Perhaps many things – eat less, eat “better,” watch less TV, move more, etc.

And, collectively, we have a national lifestyle problem. We’re sick and getting sicker.  Basically our American culture creates illness.  Healthcare and governmental authorities and officials wring their hands and make their plans, but the country stays sick. They ask, “What can we do to make people well?” In my opinion, not much until we grapple seriously with the truth.  We are our own problem.  Our culture is a problem.  Yet we deny and fight the truth and look for external solutions.

I believe that deep down, most people with lifestyle illnesses do know the truth about themselves at least, even if they still fight it in public. As Christians, our knowledge of, and trust in, Jesus and his Word, should allow us to confront and act upon any of the many uncomfortable truths about ourselves, including our unhealthy lifestyle choices and self-created poor health. That is the premise of this blog.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, but God has made a change in us and calls to keep growing in the Holy Spirit.

Sadly, few people actually get to the action part. In our passage, immediately after teaching about the truth setting us free, Jesus (who is the truth) confronts the unbelievers, and the more he talks, the angrier they get. That was me once. Hopefully it’s not you. Probably not. You’re here, you’re mind is open and you’re working on yourself. Great! Prepare to be odd.

Knowing and acting on the truth will make you odd.* In our society Christians are odd. Faith in technology and “human goodness” is normal; faith in God is odd. Self-indulgence is normal; self-control is odd. Overweight and sedentary is normal; fit and healthy is odd. I could go on and on.  You probably can too.

In my own case, the longer I follow Jesus, and the more the Holy Spirit reveals to me about the world’s ways vs. God’s ways, the odder I get. And really, I’m just getting started. Let’s face it, I’m going to be pretty strange by the time I’m old.

How about we become odd together?

 

* “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd” is a quote from the author Flannery O’Connor. I’ve not read any of her work, but one of my pastors quotes her (including this quote) frequently. Maybe I should put her on my reading list.

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So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-2