Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (CEB)
I love taking my boys clothes shopping with me. That sounds crazy, I know. But, at eight and ten, my boys are very honest (and free) with their opinions. If I try something on and it looks awful, they tell me. And trust me, I need that feedback!
As we get older, we tend to struggle with honesty. We don’t want to say something that might hurt someone’s feelings, cause us to lose face or be painful to acknowledge. I’m not saying that we should be brutally honest with one another in the dressing room at Kohl’s or Dress Barn–my mother tells me there is something called tact. However, I am saying that perhaps we need to be a bit more honest with ourselves about why we think, feel and act in a certain way.
We need to be honest with ourselves about the state of our relationships with others. We need to be honest with ourselves about our own gifts and abilities. We need to be honest with ourselves about our own biases, prejudices and contributions to discord and disharmony.
Why is honesty so very important in our lives and relationships? Because honesty, my friends, enables us to grow. Putting a good spin on a difficult situation is not going to solve the problem. Placing all of the blame for a falling out on someone else is not going to pave the way for forgiveness and reconciliation. Hiding pain behind a false smile is not going to make us feel better.
Society tells us to “fake it until you make it”. Fortunately, as Jesus followers, we don’t need to fake anything. You see, Jesus valued honesty. In fact, he criticized the religious leaders for being dishonest; with the people, with themselves and with God. In the book of Matthew, Jesus calls the religious leaders hypocrites twelve times–six times in one chapter alone!
“How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You shut people out of the kingdom of heaven. You don’t enter yourselves, and you won’t allow those who want to enter to do so.” Matthew 23:13 (CEB)
“How terrible it will be for you, legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You travel over sea and land to make one convert. But when they’ve been converted, they become twice the child of hell you are.” Matthew 23:15 (CEB)
“How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You give to God a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, but you forget about the more important matters of the Law: justice, peace, and faith.” Matthew 23:23 (CEB)
Jesus detested the dishonesty of the religious leaders. Their dishonesty poisoned their faith. These leaders were consumed by self-interest. They were self-righteous, judgmental, unjust and ungodly. They put a spin on faith that prevented others from coming to know God, and the consequences of those untruths were going to be eternal.
In 40 Days of Decrease, Alicia Britt Chole challenges readers to avoid the dishonesty of the religious leaders and to fast revisionism. Chole writes:
…valuing something more than truth limits our interaction with Jesus. Taken seriously, this is rather sobering. Do we value something more than truth? Have control and position become more precious to us than sincerity? Are we committed tot he pursuit of emotional and intellectual honesty in God’s presence? (pg. 93)
Jesus states in the Gospel of John that truth will set us free. Being honest before God allows us to release all of our fear, insecurity, pain, ambition, need for control and anything else we try to spin our way.
And what do we receive for our honesty? Peace. Forgiveness. Redemption. Grace. Strength. Healing. Wisdom. Mercy. Freedom. Compassion. Love. Restoration.
Notice that God’s blessings don’t include things like: happiness, ease, prosperity, universal appeal, promotions, privilege. Those promises are dishonest. As humans, we will grieve, face challenges and sometimes suffer. Adam and Eve’s dishonesty marred God’s perfect creation and closed Eden’s door. However, our ability to be honest with God deepens our relationship with him, the effects of which will flow out from us and into the lives of others.
Today, I would challenge you to spend some time honestly talking to God. Tell him your fears, your desires, your frustrations and your hopes. Then, ask him to fill you with his presence so that you can go forth and share his great love with others.
Blessings and Peace,