To Live Freely: Part Nine

Turning Inward)

I have spent the past while examining the principle of truthfulness in broad strokes. I have explored why it is a moral ideal, and why it is beneficial to society as a whole. But people are brought into alignment with truth on an individual basis, and one of the first truths that we must resolve ourselves to is the truth of who we are. Given that, I am going to shift gears with the rest of this series to examine truth within the self.

And the fact is, probably very few readers had any disagreement with my thesis at the beginning of this series. You probably agreed that only a life founded on truth is truly free. This is the sort of statement that we hear and nod along to without a second thought. Something inside of us just intuitively knows that this is the case.

And yet…if we get truly honest, none of us live in accordance with this principle perfectly, and few of us even try. We say that embracing the hard truths is essential for a stable and thriving life, but then we shirk those hard truths at every turn. We preach principles that we do not abide by and renounce the very behaviors that we do. Lying, cheating, and stealing, though we aver it is wrong to lie, cheat, and steal. We try to hide these shameful behaviors from the world. We try to hide them from ourselves, looking for a distraction any time our conscience tries to show us what we are doing. And then, when a light does manage to shine upon our wrongs we make excuses, brushing them off as inconsequential or permitted due to our circumstance. In short, we are hypocrites all!

The Part That Resonates)

So why do we so readily agree with the statement that we should all live in truth?! Why do we have such an immediate agreement to something in principle, but then a reluctance to agree with it in our practice? I see this phenomenon as the clearest evidence that people are divided beings. Every individual has two parts hidden within, and though they belong to the same person, those parts don’t agree with one another at all.

I feel this dual nature is what Paul was speaking to when he famously wrote “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15). There is a very real part of us that recognizes and responds to truth. That part is most manifest when we hear a nugget of pure wisdom and we intuitively know that it is right, not even requiring any sort of proof. That part of us just knows what is true and it wants to live in harmony with that truth.

But then there is another part that doesn’t fully believe in this concept. Part of us believes that even if truth is the fundamental foundation of the world as a whole, that it can still cheat that system. It thinks that it can fool the world into giving us what we want.

Of course, these two sides are at complete odds to one another. On the one hand we believe that adherence to the truth is the principle by which we obtain all that we desire, on the other hand we also think we can get what we want by trespassing that very same principle.

Getting Curious)

The part of you that thinks you can prosper by denying your conscience doesn’t like to be examined. When asked why we do the things that we know are wrong, why we advocate for behaviors but then don’t follow them, we tend to squirm beneath the light and try to wriggle away.

But if you are ever to overcome these baser instincts, you’ve got to start taking them head-on. An excellent first step would be to acknowledge that you do exactly the hypocritical sort of behavior that we’ve been examining, and then meditate as to why you do it. Without judgment, ask yourself “why do I think truth is fundamental to happiness, but still shirk from the truth in these certain areas of my life?” At some point we must all contemplate why we do the things that we do. At some point we have got to own up to our inconsistencies. For simply acknowledging our own untruthfulness is the first step towards becoming truthful.

Our Own Reality- Matthew 6:24, 1 Kings 18:21

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

COMMENTARY

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other
Previously we considered Pharaoh, who wanted the God of the Hebrews to give him reprieve, but also wanted to maintain his control over the Hebrew slaves in direct defiance to that God. As the famous saying goes, though, you cannot ride two horses. If you try, you will only tear yourself, which, tragically is exactly what happened to Pharaoh. By trying to have his cake and eat it, too, he lost his firstborn child.
Many men and women lose the most precious things by trying to clutch to two opposing realities at the same time. Powerful addictions, in fact, often stem from a division of the soul, one where a person genuinely believes in a greater good, and professes it loudly, yet secretly lives a lesser evil on the side. A wedge is gradually driven into the heart, pressing deeper and deeper, until eventually things start to break.

How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: if Baal, follow him.
Each of us only has room for one reality and one master. It is simply not in our nature to thrive so long as we are divided against ourselves. Thus each one of us must choose which reality we will embrace, and then embrace it with all our hearts, letting go of all the rest.

Our Own Reality- Exodus 8:25, 28, 30-32

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
Only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

COMMENTARY

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Pharaoh was a man who constantly bounced between the fear of God and an insistence to have his own way. When Moses first demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites go he countered by having his own priests replicate the miracles being shown to him. Rather than accept the sovereignty of Jehovah, he was able to still rely on his own gods.
But then things began to escalate. Plagues arose that his priests could not counter nor reproduce. Having no alternative, he was forced to accept the reality that the Hebrew God was the only one who could be entreated for relief. And so he relented, in order that he could get the reprieve he desired.
But though he had come to accept a new reality in his mind, he was not converted to it in his heart. Rather he tested the Lord’s patience by recanting his promises, refusing to let the Israelites go, even after he had said that they could.
Yesterday we considered how we can be reluctant to fully embrace the reality that is staring us right in the face. Pharaoh is an excellent example of this. Like him, sometimes we try to have our cake and eat it, too. We point to God’s reality with one hand, but also hold to our own reality with the other. Of course things didn’t work out very well for Pharaoh when he tried this, and it won’t work for us either.

All or Nothing- 1 Kings 18:21, Hosea 10:2

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.

COMMENTARY

How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him
It is very hard to live a life divided. When the ancient Israelites were seduced by the theology of Baalism, they went to great lengths to make it compatible with their Hebrew beliefs. No matter how much they tried to contort things, though, Baal was Baal and Jehovah was Jehovah, and the two of them were not the same.
Today we also awkwardly try to combine the gospel with things that have no place in it. We do it as a society when we try to champion causes that make mockery of God, and we do it as individuals when we try to excuse our personal vices.

Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty
These back-breaking acrobatics leave us faulty in the end. I have far more respect for one who sincerely and whole-heartedly believes a different philosophy than my own than I do for one who precariously tries to straddle both.
In the end we need to ask ourselves the same question that Elijah posed to the Israelites. Is the Lord truly God? Because if He isn’t then we might as well cast that theology off entirely and fully embrace the ways of the world. I mean why not?
But if the Lord is God then stop trying to make Him into what He is not. Accept that His commandments are what His commandments are, and that no amount of popular opinion is going to change them. Accept that even if you do not understand all the prescribed steps of His gospel, that they still are what they are, and need to be taken as such. If the Lord is God, then forsake the rest and follow Him.