So let me get this straight: Integrity is optional; Truth is relative; and Wrong is only wrong when someone else does it? We are encountering these ideas at every turn as we speed toward that bi-annual exercise of the American experiment we call elections. As we see candidates and others abandon personal integrity and truth in exchange for anticipated political gain, we gaze in amazement that intelligent men and women could have such a distorted concept of right and wrong, truth and its opposite, whatever you care to call it, and expect us to believe it! As followers of Jesus, we have a clear understanding of truth. Jesus tells us in John 8:31-36 that he is truth, and only a knowledge of that truth can make us free. So why are we so tolerant of those who bend the truth beyond recognition for apparent personal gain?
Do we understand what truth really is? Without exploring a lengthy discussion of the many philosophical nuances that contribute to our concept of truth, let’s just say that truth is a statement or standard that is consistent with a recognized reality. That’s easy to differentiate, and it's the dictionary definition. Is it real? That's the question. But what do we do when those we trust and those who would be our leaders misrepresent the facts - military service, votes on the floor of Congress, facts in their personal lives – facts about which there could be no confusion – and then tell us that the prevarication was unintentional, or worse still that it did not happen? They lie. In our world, a lie unchallenged takes on the attributes of truth very quickly; and we buy into the idea that we can beat any rap if we tell the lie often enough for the lie to become accepted.
Often we look the other way in the face of obvious untruths because we have been equally disingenuous with others and would like to get out of it with a similar well crafted phrase, too. We see too much of our own human condition in the flaws of would-be leaders and others and opt for leniency rather than accountability. We delude ourselves into thinking that reality has changed just so we will not have to be accountable for our own lack of faithfulness. We can justify our own infractions and the lies of others by asserting that “everyone does that” or that “it really is no big deal” or “it isn't that important.”
From Exodus when God gave the Ten Commandments, to Jesus who fulfilled them, to today, the faithfulness and truth of our witness has mattered to God. We pretend that truth is relative at our peril. God gave us the freedom to choose to be untruthful with each other, but God is very clear that it is outside of his will for us to do so.
Even before Jesus, the Greek philosopher, Socrates, taught not to accept existing thoughts as true. He encouraged those around him to step back and reevaluate the truth and veracity of opinions and beliefs. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NRSV). God’s word clearly provides the standard by which we measure, evaluate, and attain truth. Caring and loving hearts cannot be dishonest and take advantage of others.
A good servant leader has integrity and the desire to be truthful and open in dealings with others. The people of God must hold leaders and others accountable for the truth of what is said and done. From family members to your church leaders to those who aspire to other leadership positions in our land, set the standard of truth before us, and hold us accountable for our words and deeds. Get real, people! When we tolerate what God will not, our witness is disingenuous, and that may be the ultimate failure.