The Truth will set you free

'Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth – to see it like it is, and tell it like it is  -to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth.'

So said Richard Nixon, who later admitted to misleading the United States during the Watergate scandal. 

In our reading from St John’s gospel today, Jesus promises that the Spirit of truth will come to the disciples. The Spirit is the essence of truth. The Spirit enables us to see God as he really is, he reveals to us the true nature of Jesus and the real meaning of the gospel.

Jesus calls the Spirit, 'the advocate', 'the defender', like a lawyer who seeks to get to reveal the truth. Understanding the truth of a matter, especially through prayer, helps us to come to terms with it. When we deal with reality, we have something concrete to deal with. But if we do not know the truth, then we have no firm basis on which to base our thinking. Worrying about what might be, rather than what is, taxes the brain and causes anxiety.

There is much anxiety now about the future, about our churches, about our businesses, about how things will be. We don’t know the reality of the future, so we just have to deal with today. Jesus says not to worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough trouble of its own.

Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus called the devil ‘the father of lies.’ Lying, he says, is the devil’s native tongue. We should always avoid telling lies, it is better to keep silence than to lie. Christians must venerate the truth, because it is the personification of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. Right from the beginning, John acclaimed Jesus as the one who came from the Father, 'full of grace and truth'. If we love Jesus, we must love the truth.

Jesus also declared that if we are his disciples we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. How liberating the truth can be. If you you are ill, a diagnosis can come as a relief, because at last you know what you are suffering from and what treatment you will receive. If you know something is wrong with someone but they won’t tell you, only when they divulge it can you then help them deal with it.

Telling the truth does not require such a good memory as does telling lies. Lady Halifax, the wife of the wartime Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, used to keep in her engagements diary a list of the 'white lies' that she had told as excuses for not accepting invitations.

Lies in themselves can have a bad effect, but they can also be harmful because they can lead to a loss of trust, and damage a friendship or relationship. Once you know someone has lied to you, can you ever completely believe them again? As Einstein said, ‘whoever is careless with the truth in small matters, cannot be trusted with important matters.’

To some extent this period of lockdown, makes us confront the reality of ourselves. We are not concealed  by our busyness. We may have learned some things about ourselves during this time, some of them pleasant and some of them perhaps rather disagreeable!

Jesus said that the Spirit will lead us into all truth. We must be careful to separate facts from opinions. False rumours begin with opinion. Someone says what they think to somebody, who reports it to someone else, no longer as an opinion but as something ‘I have heard’ or something ‘people are saying……’. These false facts can be mischievous or even damaging. And as Churchill said, 'a lie gets halfway round the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.'

The coming of the Spirit of Truth depends on the keeping of Christ’s commandments, for unless we can love with an open generous and accepting heart, it will be harder for us to accept the truth, and we must accept the truth if we are to deal with the reality of life and not what we would pretend  it to be. Elvis Presley said, 'the truth is like the sun, you can shut it out for a while, but it ain’t goin away.'

God is there all round us, waiting to be known and understood. If we love Jesus then will do what he commands us, and he will send the spirit of truth. If we live by his commands, he will reveal himself to us.


John 14.15-21