“What is truth?” Pilate asked. – John 18:38a (NIV)
Just this past week, the carefully constructed narratives of two prominent athletes came crashing down.
Cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admitted in an Oprah Winfrey interview to using banned substances in the pursuit of his seven Tour de France victories after vehemently denying the same for years. Armstrong went has far as to sue the London-based Sunday Times for slander and attacked former teammate Floyd Landis to cover his tracks.
It was first reported by DeadSpin.com, that Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Te’o never existed. Te’o who previously reported Kekua died of leukemia last fall now claims he was the victim of an online hoax. Apparently he never met the love of his life in person but only corresponded with her online and via phone. I can’t help but think of another virtual love, Karen, the computer wife of Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants. (Am I the only parent who watches their kid’s television shows with them?)
We live in an age of moral relativism, and for many there is no longer such a thing as absolute truth.
You may have even heard someone say, “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” Yet when stories like Armstrong’s and Te’o’s break, there is a general sense of outrage. Why? Because there is something inside of us that innately bristles against falsehood. In order to know that something is false, we must know the converse, that something else is true. There are proponents of moral relativism who do actually believe what they profess, but there are others who simply refuse to acknowledge the truth. To acknowledge the truth is to be held to the standard of that truth.
The word “truth” appears throughout the Gospel of John over 50 times, more than in any of the other Gospels. It is most often associated with Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth.” Why did John place such a great emphasis on the truth?
The best evidence suggests that the Gospel of John was written between the years of 85 AD and 95 AD, well after the other Gospels were written. John would have witnessed the spread of the gospel throughout Asia Minor, into Africa and to Rome. He would have experienced the gospel’s persecution externally by the Jews and the Romans. John battled false teachings from within the church such as Gnosticism.
Yet the Gospel not only survived but thrived through all of these withering attacks. John saw Roman Caesars who encouraged their worship as gods die as other mortal men. He witnessed the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life, just as Jesus predicted before his death. John instinctively understood what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. put to speech centuries later in his “Give Us the Ballot” speech, “truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
Perhaps you are reading this as someone who has doubts about or flatly does not profess the Christian faith. You may have troubling and perplexing questions about Christianity such as, “how can an all loving and all powerful God allow pain and suffering in the world?” or “why does the Bible condemn homosexuality and yet God allow people to be born with these feelings?” I would encourage you to at least temporarily suspend whatever objections or doubts you have about the faith and read the Gospel of John. If you come to the reading with a truly open mind, you may still have questions when you’re done, but you will also discover simple yet profound truths.
After reading the Gospel of John I am left with a perplexing question myself, “why would the God of the universe subject his son, Jesus Christ, to such a grisly death on the cross to grant me the gift of eternal life?”