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Spotting the Difference Between Truth and Sincerity | terimccarthyblahblahblog

Spotting the Difference Between Truth and Sincerity

Posted by admin in April 14th, 2010
Published in obedience, prayer

Kathleen Norris is a writer that takes you on a journey. She doesn’t have to use the traditional template of: beginning, middle and end. In fact, often the “end” of her books are really just the beginning–at least for me. As she leads the reader on a road, occasionally she pulls off to the side for one of those scenic lookouts. You know the ones, like in the Smokey Mountains where you can see other states, or here in our neck of the woods, where Lewis and Clark did something or other. Norris uses these scenic pull offs to tell the reader a thing of significance; something important that isn’t really relevant to her main thesis. Interestingly, I’ve learned as much about life and gotten as much wisdom from these scenic pull outs as I have from her book’s central theme. She’s a brilliant writer and oftentimes her insights are a little too heady for me and I have to sit and ponder an idea; look at it again, re-read it in hopes of digesting the message: the moral or lesson in her story.

Recently, in one of Norris’ scenic turnouts, there’s a mind-blowing statement (she is referencing Henri de Lubac), “It is not sincerity, it is Truth which frees us, because it transforms us. It tears us away from our inmost slavery. To seek sincerity above all things is perhaps, at bottom, not to want to be transformed.” Norris explains that followers of Christ must become adept at “spotting the difference between truth and sincerity.”

And she never speaks of it again. She goes on and writes another 150 pages and never mentions this topic.

But this scenic turnout truly caught my attention. I grappled with it for days. In our postmodern, deconstructive culture—the world in which we live—I think people do value sincerity more than Truth. In fact, for most people in our culture today sincerity is the highest value you can hold. That’s why Oprah is so popular among Christians. Oprah is nothing if she is not sincere.

Sincerity is one of the ways that we as a culture embrace pluralism. “He can believe what he wants and I can believe what I want and it’s all good as long as we both truly believe.” Or, “Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth.” But the truth IS there’s only one Truth. People can be sincerely wrong and very adamant about the non-truth they believe. Even Christians.

Look at the Crusades. Not one of our best sincere moments in Christian history. Or look how German Christians turned a blind eye during Hitler’s reign of terror on Jews, or even most recently the earnest and sincere guy that shot and killed the abortion doctor right here in Kansas. Without a doubt, we as followers of Christ can also be very sincerely wrong.

So how do we determine what is Truth and what is not? How do we become good at “spotting the difference between truth and sincerity” as Norris has said? Not just in others’ lives, but in our own as well?

It’s tough, no doubt about it. Look at the Gospels for example. Four writers, three of them actual eye-witnesses, and though the basic premises are the same, some of the details are very different: Two men at the tomb; one man at the tomb, or were they angels? Jesus not at the tomb; Jesus was at the tomb. Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James were there; the other Mary; only Mary. Judas hung himself (Matthew); Judas died because his bowels fell out (Acts). (Seriously, that’s what the NIV says). So how can we know Truth? How do we differentiate between perspectives and Truth? Because in order to differentiate between sincerity and Truth we must know what Truth really is!

Well for one thing, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” Okay. But what does that mean to me in regard to relationships? Disagreements? Political differences? Differing opinions about doctrine and the do’s and don’ts of the Christian faith? How does that help me find Truth in complex situations?

And let me do my own scenic turnout here: Truth isn’t as easy as asking, “Well, WWJD?” As I’ve heard preached recently, that’s not a reasonable question. The better question is “What Would Jesus Have Me Do? Or WWJHMD? As Father Edward Beck recently stated on his ABC series “Focus on Faith”, “We can’t always know what Jesus would do. For example, Jesus never shoveled snow. He was perfect in every way and without sin so his decisions were perfect; we are not. He also commanded the wind and the waves and he never confronted an Islamic terrorist trying to fly a jet plane into a building. So we need to ask, ‘Jesus, what would you have me do in this situation and how can I serve you in this circumstance?’” The Truth is, in my opinion, most of the time in most situations God is affording us the opportunity to know Him better, not to pass some kind of WWJD exam. Anyway…

Truth. How do we know it and how do we honor it above sincerity? What I want to wrestle with here is how do we, as followers of Christ, deliberate or make a conscious effort to discern what is truly Truth and what is just feel-good sincerity?

So what is truth? How do we know what we know? This is the basic epistemological question, isn’t it? How do we know what we know and how do we know what we know is true? That question is too big for me and this little blog. But…

Facts are true, but sometimes facts change. Remember when the great thinkers and scientists of our world believed the earth was flat? And Galileo was almost burned at the stake for challenging “the fact” that the sun revolved around the earth. And what about the atom: not creation’s smallest known substance after all, is it? So facts can change, more information can reform what we know to be true.

Eye-witness accounts are sometimes called truth. But, it’s kinda like those blind guys and the elephant thing all over again. And eye-witness accounts are influenced by perspectives as I have already mentioned about the Gospels. Let’s face it. People see things differently. I can’t tell you the number of times Daryl and I were on two completely different vacations together. He found it invigorating and I just wanted to go into a coma.

Finding Truth is a lot harder than it looks, but it’s worth pursuing because like Norris says, Truth transforms us; Truth changes us.

Here’s what I think. I think Truth reveals itself daily in the small things of living. When a store clerk gives me back too much change and I return it to her. When reporting an account of how many people were in attendance, not inflating the number. Truth is practicing the discipline of being as accurate as we can as often as we can. Truth is also found in Scripture. For instance, God is love and God loves us, each one of us of the human race—foibles, warts, flaws, and all. I believe, because He said it about Himself, that Jesus is the only way to God “no one comes to the Father but by me.” He said it and if I believe He is Truth, then He is also Truthful.

This is why as followers of Christ we should pursue Truth. God, what is the Truth here? What is right and what is wrong? In days when the water of our culture is murky and navigating gets tougher and tougher we need to be seekers of Truth and that comes through our asking God to reveal Himself and His Truth in each and every situation, relationship, in how we do business, and the whole of how we approach our world. We ask God, straight up, “God, what is True here and what is false?”

If we do this, I believe human conflict among believers will lessen, not go away, but certainly diminish. If we do this we can stand as followers of Christ for what is True and stand against what is not. Social hot topics of our day: abortion, homosexuality, health care, how to respond to Islam, benevolence, work, sexual sin, and the right thing to do with what we’ve been given—all these things must go through the grid of Truth and by seeking the Holder of All Truth we begin to build an intimacy with the Trinity that moves us from sincere followers of Christ to Truth Bearers of Love. Because let’s face it, sincerity will never transform us or the world; sincerity will not save the world, but Truth and Truth alone will. Moving from just sincerity to sincerity based in Truth means seeking God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength to know what is True and right and good; soaking ourselves in God’s Word so that His Truth may wash over us, cleansing us and helping us bring every thought into captivity—the captivity of His Truth. It involves sitting under good preaching that challenges us and exhorts us, and spending time in prayer that transforms our hearts and minds, being opened to honest rebukes from people with whom we live in community, being open to change and mid-course correction if need be; it’s desiring God’s Truth above our own comforts, traditions, and even our own established pet peeves. Truth begins when I invite the Holy Spirit into my life and I say, “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139). Once we allow God’s Truth to transform us then we are better able to be conduits of that Truth to transform and change a hurting and dying world and to do that with the utmost sincerity. Peace.

7 users Responded In This Post

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382. big sister said,
April 14th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Thank you. I do see the importance of truth over sincerity. Please take me one step further – what do you think about accuracy – if two people are telling a story, an incident they both were involved in – two different versions of what they experienced – the truth felt by each individual – what would the overall assessment of truth be, how does the parent determine which child is telling the truth? …Reliance on the Holy Spirit’s discernment? Sincerity can be a pretty convincing tool when you are searching for the truth, can’t it? Love, me

383. admin said,
April 14th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Whew. Exactly. Even in the Gospel accounts these differences in reporting aren’t actually discrepancies. None of the Gospels say “only” or “just these”; so it is like an essay I read where if I have ten one dollar bills and you ask me if I have one, or five, or ten–the answer is yes to all three questions. But when you have two reports that CONFLICT, well that’s a whole ‘nother thing. Is this where we cry out to the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us and give us insight? Also, it’s important that we shave the stories (reports) down to the bare essentials. Who, what, when, where, why and how. I always say, “Ask a lot of yes and no questions. The devil is always in the details.” Accuracy does have an aspect completely influenced by perspective though. And now I feel our culture processes events with the notion, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. Let me feel what I feel regardless of what the facts say.” Bottom line: when I meet people who are really seeking Truth and really earnestly asking God to search out their hearts, a presence is upon them (Holy?) and I too am brought into Truth. Margaret for example! And you! 🙂

384. big sister said,
April 14th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Thanks!!!! You and Marg are my ‘truty’ barometers! I love you big!

385. BBQ Girlfriend said,
April 15th, 2010 at 11:09 am

Thank you Teri. These are great issues to mesh out. I am challenged and encouraged. Being faithful with Truth in small things and big, and doing it daily. Life is daily and choices are by the moment. I know that to God a day and a thousand years are the same. I can only understand this in that He is above and not restricted to time and space the way I am. Sometimes I feel like my day is a thousand years, holding a thousand years worth of decisions and choices. Like a thousand chapters. The comfort in this is that if I take the day in small chapters (1000??), maybe it will be easier to consider and seek Truth. Bite-sized or a revelation of my OCD? I don’t know, but we usually don’t have to luxury of time. Life happens so quickly. Just my thoughts and I’ll stop babbling now!

386. admin said,
April 15th, 2010 at 11:32 am

BBQ Girlfriend: I’ve known you a while and have found you to make excellent decisions. You are very much a Holy Spirit led woman!

387. margaret said,
April 16th, 2010 at 10:42 am

Why is it the voice inside of me wants to yell at so many, “you can’t handle the Truth!”?

398. race_12_1 (kelly) said,
May 14th, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Truth and sincerity do not have to be mutually exclusive things. The problem for believers is when we are fooled by sincerity not grounded in the truth, much like Oprah who is sincere in the things of Babylon. One can be sincere in loving another, being patience with another, bearing anothers burden, being kind, generous, forgiving, any number of things that are fruits and evidences of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What we must ask ourselves is if the sincerity is rooted in something that mirrors Christ, and if not we ought to be careful not to adore that kind of sincerity. Babylon all to often comes dressed like the real thing because that is how the enemy attempts to fool us. If we are discerning we will know when it is truth or Babylon that has inspired the sincerity.

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