Listen to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
I am teaching you today — yes, you —
so you will trust in the Lord.
I have written thirty sayingsfor you,
filled with advice and knowledge.
In this way, you may know the truth
and take an accurate report to those who sent you.
–Proverbs 22:17-21 (New Living Translation)
It doesn’t take a doctoral degree to discern that we live in a polarized and contentious age. Politics, science, social causes, you name it! One side disagrees with the other vehemently. There is precious, if any, discourse and conversation. Compromise is a dirty word. It is like the world has turned into everyone shouting at each other at the top of their lungs, but no one is listening to the other. We can see each other, but we don’t really SEE each other. One person’s facts are another person’s false news. Even clear and evident truths are questioned. And, why not?! We live in a time where many adhere to the adage that there is no absolute truth.
The author in our scriptural text above states that they want us to know truth so that we can be wise, discerning, and live honorable and effective lives. Sigh … how in the world do we accomplish that if there is no foundational truth to agree upon? There is another deep concern that we face. Connectedness is part and parcel of living in the postmodern world. We are connected in a plethora of ways — population proximity, instantaneous media, technology. Just look at your smart phone. How many ways can we be in touch with each other? Texting, email, FaceTime, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Notion, Zoom, etc., etc., etc. Why, you can even call each other (though who does that anymore?).
Yet, along with connectedness, our culture experiences a plague of loneliness, depression and lack of deep, intimate relationships. How can that be?
Is it possible that having no basis of truth and lack of trust causes disconnection and an absence of deep relationships? Yes. As you read Proverbs 22:17-21, did you see how trust and truth are inextricably bound together?
Truth comes from trust. Knowing comes from experiencing. Fact is established by results. Our dearth of deep relationship comes from not trusting the other. Trust comes from the repeated realization that our experience with another is truthful. Without truth there is no trust. But truth cannot be established unless we try it out, test it and experience it.
That’s what Jesus is talking about in John 14:1,6: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. … I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is saying:
“Try me out! See if you can’t trust me fully! Explore and see if it isn’t true that loving God and loving yourself — which empowers you to love others — is the way to change your life, your relationships, your work and your world!”
Exploring requires us to leave the tried-and-known of our life and step out on a journey of discovery. How about it? Who knows what you might discover? Then again, maybe we do.
—Terry Swenson, DMin, is director of University Spiritual Care at Loma Linda University.