I loved my grandfather on my mother’s side. We called him Granddad Larimer. He was a hard-living Irishman with a huge heart and will always be remembered for being challenged when it came to telling the truth. Granddad Larimer was what you might call a “lovable” liar. He not only embellished the crazy stories he told but definitely distorted the truth beyond all reality. He told his stories with such conviction he began to believe them himself. They actually became his truth. Granddad Larimer was an endearing character, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I discovered being “a character” was not the same as “having character”. For those seeking character marked with integrity–truth matters.
Like my grandfather, I, too, have always been a storyteller. Through the years I have credited my ability to tell a good story as adding to my success, both as a schoolteacher and a Christian pastor. I discovered early that embellishment was like putting salt on bland food when it came to making a good story into a more captivating one. What I neglected to see was that embellishment demanded exaggeration which is a distortion of truth, more commonly known as a lie. Most of those who sat under my teaching loved and accepted me for who I was much in the same way I loved my grandfather. They enjoyed the stories I told, accepting my exaggerations, referring to them as “the Robinson factor”. The problem, however, was that many who didn’t know me well enough to understand when my tongue was in my cheek, accepted everything I said as the Gospel truth. Being a teacher of the Bible and a leader in the church, I realized my role required a higher standard of accountability and ethics. For me, it became an issue demanding repentance and behavioral change (With the exception of my role as a grandfather – in which case, I confess, I am still a sinner).
The greater the role of leadership, the higher the bar for accountability to “absolute truth”, especially for those called to be communicators of truth. There are two kinds of truth: relative truth and absolute truth. Jesus prayed for His followers in the Gospel of John saying, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world”. The type of truth Jesus was speaking of is absolute truth. Absolute truth requires substance, assurance, and evidence. In other words, this kind of truth is absolutely true. Relative truth, on the other hand, is unfounded “truth”, used to support the belief of an individual. In essence, it is not biblical truth, but the kind of truth that is “of this world”. Relative truth would say, “Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth thus, everybody has their own truth”. This kind of truth is based on perspective, not fact, and is troublesome for those who claim to be followers of Christ. The undergirding of Christian faith is absolute truth. The author of Hebrews defines faith saying, “Now faith is the substance (or reality) of things hoped for, the evidence (and assurance) of things not seen”. In other words, faith requires proof in the same way absolute truth requires proof, not simply hearsay or hopeful thinking. Our Christian faith rests on absolute truth while the world often defaults to relative truth. The problem is much of American Christianity has accepted relative truth with open arms, which has not only hurt their faith but has robbed the power of their testimony. Jesus prayed that we would be people of His Word, and proclaimers of His absolute truth.
Evangelical Christians have recently earned the reputation of turning a blind eye to our president’s inaccuracy when it comes to the truth. This has been a problem for our nation’s political well-being, but even more, a major problem for our Christian witness to the world. It has robbed us of credibility. Well-known Evangelical leaders have continually given Donald Trump “mulligans” for his constant dishonesty. Fact Checker records over 10,000 misleading and inaccurate statements Trump has made over the past four years. One well-known Christian commentator recently said on national television that for Trump these are not lies because he is personally convinced of the things he says. In other words, they are the truth to him. It is a classical example of relative truth. I get that, but I see it as problematic for Christians who have lost sight of the kind of truth Jesus spoke of for those “who are not of this world”.
When people lose the foundation of absolute truth, they become susceptible to all kinds of error. Fear can overtake them, and in their anxiety, brought on by a seemingly out-of-control and rapidly changing world, hearts become desperate, searching for answers. In their quest for truth, many Christians have mistakenly turned to social media, only to discover the foolishness of unvetted information and conspiracy theories which have no substance nor any assurance of hope. This has led many down a dark rabbit hole of even greater fear, robbing them of the absolute truth which once gave them life. Relative truth is the enemy of authentic faith and the robber of hope. My cry for the church is to acknowledge this error and join many who are now choosing to turn around and take the journey back to absolute truth.
Soon to come is a new podcast called “The Journey Back” hosted by Ruben Navarrete and myself. When it is about to begin its broadcast, we will be inviting you to join us.