"The truth of the Lord endures forever."
Methought my son protested too much. No matter that I could smell the candle two rooms away or see curls of smoke rising in the room where he was the only occupant, his "I didn't do it!" was the spitting image of a Family Circus cartoon.
I'd have known he was lying anyway, even without the assault on my senses. The startled look on his face, the exaggerated denial in his voice, plus the still-warm match he held carelessly behind his back convicted him without a trial.
It's not always so easy to determine the truth. In a culture where excuse is more common than blame, almost any act, fact or mode of behavior can be analyzed, retold or explained away.
"There are no shoulds, no absolutes," the shapers of the '60s generation proclaimed, and current parents, educators and statesmen are too timid to overturn.
But the flip side of all this unresolved guilt is mistrust. No one believes anyone anymore. If you are successful in business or politics you lied to get there, and if you lose an election or fail to climb the corporate ladder someone else lied or did you in. Much of America still believes the Kennedy assassination was a plot, and conspiracies are already rampant concerning the just-completed election.
Whatever happened to "honesty is the best policy"?
Unlike the other Gospel writers, St. John begins his account of the coming of Christ with symbols instead of the simple story of a manger in Bethlehem. "In the beginning was the Word...," he wrote, "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1: 1, 14). Later, Jesus himself supplied the words the apostle added in chapters 8 and 14: "You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free" (8:32); and "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6).
As a writer, it would be no trouble for me to write words that titillate, expose or offend those with whom I disagree. I could twist a word here, drop an innuendo there, and slant information in order to influence public opinion. I could also betray a confidence or damage a reputation just to trumpet my own cause.
But as a Christian, I take the words of Jesus and the Apostle John seriously. When my words "become flesh" I want them to be "full of grace and truth," too. It's not easy and I don't always succeed, but I try. Sometimes I've chosen not to write a story because I knew my personal bias would be impossible to disguise. Yet sometimes I delve into a subject I know is controversial in hopes that some of that grace and truth will inform both sides.
Hardly anything we humans do takes as much energy as living a lie, even when that deception is noble. Likewise, hardly anything hurts us any more than believing something -- or someone -- we find out later is not true.
"I am the truth," Jesus said, and in 2,000 years his teachings have never let us down. Loving our neighbors as ourselves, forgiving 70 times seven and turning the other cheek are only to scratch the surface of a way of life he came to show us. Accepting his truth this Christmas season will set us free from the rigors of deception and the stress of living a lie.
And since our opinion of ourselves influences how we view others, think what a revolution we'll cause when suspicion takes a back seat to common trust.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.