American essayist Flannery O’Connor made this wry observation about the truth, saying “the truth does not change based upon our ability to stomach it.” A later rendition of this maxim is played out in a well-known scene from the movie “A Few Good Men” in which prosecutor Tom Cruise demands the truth from witness Jack Nicholson. The colonel, veins bulging beneath his perfectly tailored Marine uniform, snarls back “you can’t handle the truth!” Contrary to popular philosophical rumination there is such a thing as absolute truth. When confronted with it people may elect to ignore it, fabricate a reason why it may not be true or accept it and determine how it applies to their lives. None of these, nor any of the other possible choices, changes the fact that the truth is the truth.
The Bible has been considered by most Christians throughout history to be the truth. Some may have negative feelings towards one or more of the proscriptions but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s the truth. There is a very telling interaction in second Chronicles between King Jehoshaphat and King Ahab (whose name later become synonymous with wickedness and a lack of adherence to the truth). When Jehoshaphat suggests that they submit their plans for war to the Lord and wait to hear from his prophets, Ahab gives this stinging rebuttal, “there is still one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”
Ahab’s distaste for the truth presented to them by the prophet was directly tied to the fact that it contradicted his desired lifestyle. The same distaste is seen in numerous venues today, the worst being the church. Many followers of Christ have come to the point where cultural influence has caused them to go out of their way to avoid being confronted by the truths of the Bible. One of the most common methods of doing this is to seek out a church in which the truth is watered down; the messages presented on Sunday in both sermon and song are feel-good in nature. The reality and horrors of sin and the fall are avoided at all costs. The biblical demands for holiness, for unity, for the simple act of loving our neighbors are rarely heard amidst messages about how to build a bigger church or have a better marriage or be all the you you can be.
God gives his truth through the Bible and faithful preachers who make popularity secondary to their calling and leading God’s people. When the truth is presented or encountered, the true Christian — the one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells — is blessed. If a particular truth makes us uncomfortable, we should think the Lord because he is confronting something within us that is not amenable to the holiness that he wants for us. To avoid that truth, and by extension to avoid that discomfort, is to miss the blessing that God’s truth is intended to provide.