***This is a three-part series on Living the Truth in Politics. Part 1 sets the stage of how truth is treated in the political realm. Part 2 looks at how the Bible treats truth, especially for the Child of God. Part 3 examines the obvious conflict and attempts to answer a question: how does the Christian engage in politics in a truthful manner? The answer is much more than simply, “tell the truth.”***
The Bible and Truth
This discussion of truth in politics still feels quaint in an age that challenges the existence of the common ground. Truth, in the realm of factual assertions, much less rational truths derived by propositions, is under assault as a concept. Pilate, before he condemned Christ to death, asked the only question that matters; “What is truth?”
The Bible has much to say on the question. It may be tempting to jump into deeper, philosophical discussions on the nature and extent of truth, but that would obscure rather than enlighten some straightforward teaching. There are simple biblical principles that define Christians as a people of truth. Truthfulness is one of God’s defining characteristics. His integrity displays genuineness, veracity, and faithfulness. God is true, he speaks the truth, and he proves himself to be true through his actions. We can trust God because of the connection between his words and his deeds. The Bible is a testament to God’s integrity as prophecies are fulfilled and God proves himself faithful. God provided an heir to Abraham. The Children of Israel marched out of slavery to possess the Promised Land. The promised Redeemer appeared as his own Son. The Word of God is truth and the Bible, as God’s Word, carries that authority into the here and now (Erickson 1983, 289–92).
Christ, as the Son of God, claimed to be “the truth” and he told his followers that truth would set them free (John 8:32). Christ saw his ministry as telling the truth and that people of the truth would hear his voice (John 18:37). In his high priestly prayer, Christ prays to God, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake, I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:17-19).
God’s people are called to model this divine attribute. The Israelites were required to have only one set of weights for their commerce. It was common to use two separate sets, one for buying and one for selling, with the goal of maximizing profit through deception. For the purpose of fair dealing, God’s people were commanded to use one set (Deut. 25:13-15). They are called to heed their word when given (Eccles. 5:4-5) and to honor their promises (Josh. 9:16-21). Truth is to be spoken. “Hear for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips” (Prov. 8:6-7).
While the Bible commends the truth, it also condemns its absence. Failing to see the truth, acknowledge it, and obey it are grounds for damnation, “for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:8). Satan is called the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and “everyone who loves and practices falsehood” will be outside of God’s Kingdom (Rev. 22:15).
However one may wish to “spin” it, speaking truth appears to be one way Christians fulfill their calling. By being truthtellers, Christians reflect the divine. They banish the darkness of the lie with the searchlight of the truth. While many of the above references seem to refer to truth within the narrow confines of spreading the Gospel, others use broader, more comprehensive understanding. Truth is part of the armor of God, the very thing designed to protect us as we confront a hostile world. The armor, though, does not guarantee freedom from injury. The blood of the martyr suggests a different interpretation. The armor allows believers to stand firm against whatever assaults may come, comfortable in God’s blessings, which may be delivered here in the form of temporal victory, or later as a triumph against death itself.