Grace Note Reflections on the Christian Life
Truth in Practice
Why Believing Is Only the Beginning
By Richard Stearns | Illustration by Mike Austin
A few years ago, a new word came into our lexicon that characterizes our human preference to bend the truth to accommodate our desires. In 2006, Merriam-Webster selected the word truthiness as its Word of the Year. The word was coined by Stephen Colbert on his late-night political satire show in order to describe how politicians could bend the truth to support their actions.
Here is the Webster definition: Truthiness, n. “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.”
When announcing that truthiness had been selected, beating out candidates such as google and terrorism, Merriam-Webster president John Morse commented, “We’re at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people’s minds, and truth has become up for grabs.”
Truth is up for grabs.
Two thousand years before Stephen Colbert, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus perhaps the ultimate question: “What is truth?” People today are still asking that same question.
How we answer Pilate’s question matters because truth has implications. We make choices based on the foundational truths we have embraced. Whoever you are — talk show host, political commentator, journalist, schoolteacher, comedian, celebrity, politician, mother, father, or bartender — you bear witness to your own definition of the ultimate meaning of our lives.
How we live speaks to the truths we hold. As he closed the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus How we live speaks to the truths we hold. As he closed the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned that it wasn’t enough to hear his words: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matt. 7:24–27; italics mine)
As Christians, we start with the truth Jesus proclaims. It is the solid rock on which we can build our lives. As Jesus says, we all have the choice to build on sand or to build on the rock of God’s truth. But Jesus doesn’t expect us to simply believe the right things. It isn’t enough to acknowledge the truth of Jesus’ words. Jesus says that the wise man believes his words and puts them into practice.
We live in a stormy world. We had better stand on a foundation of rock because the rain beats down, the waters are rising, and the winds can blow against us.
That’s why Christian universities are so important. We need help learning how to discern what Jesus’ truth means for each of us today. And we need students who will go out into the world seeking biblical truth and putting it into practice in homes, offices, governments, media, neighborhoods, and all those places where people must seek shelter from this world’s storms.
As Christians put Jesus’ words into practice, we do more than put our lives on the proper foundation. We show the world a different way to live, and we begin to show the world evidence of Christ’s restoring and redeeming work.
When we put truth into practice, we share Jesus’ love. We take up the cause of the poor, the immigrant and the stranger. We come alongside the struggling. We fight on behalf of the mistreated and bring real hope to the hopeless.
This is why truth matters. Our broken world depends on it.
Richard Stearns is president of World Vision U.S., author of Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning (Thomas Nelson, 2013) and The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? (Thomas Nelson, 2010), and a member of the SPU Board of Trustees. Follow Stearns at RichStearns.org.