One of the bedrock beliefs of Christianity is that there is truth. In fact, Jesus once told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6a) There are no lies in Jesus, only truth. In other words, those who choose to lie are purposely stepping outside the bounds and blessings of being in Jesus. Jesus demands that we tell the truth, not only because he wants to have fellowship with us, but also because telling the truth requires accountability, courage, and faith. Do people today still believe there is an ultimate truth to be found? Or has truth become relative and manageable according to our needs? By not answering this question, or demanding that we do, are we playing with fire? In my opinion, we better begin telling the truth now – before it is too late.
During my recent trip to Egypt this spring, we heard numerous personal testimonies from people of Muslim background who had chosen to become followers of Jesus and members of Christian underground communities. However, the societal and familial pressures against these dear people are enormous. Most Arab countries do not allow even amodicum of religious freedom. Nonetheless, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, there is an exploding movement within the Arab world today that encourages the exploration of alternative philosophies and understandings of God. In Egypt alone, there are now as many former Muslims who have become atheists as Christians. The younger generation, especially, is dreaming of the day when their society will give them the freedom to believe whatever philosophy and theology they prefer.
One of these testimonies, shared by a younger man, was riveting and harrowing. He recounted his relentless pursuit of truth. Many Muslims are growing tired of being told what to do or think. They want to think for themselves. Too often the Quran or other holy books of Islam are read and interpreted only by an Imam for the purposes of the laity to obey and recite. The young man who spoke to our group told how he first came across Christian literature he found on a bus, which turned his eye and began warming his heart. Soon afterwards, he told us, he arranged clandestine meetings with Christians so he could begin asking the burning questions of his heart. He discovered inconsistencies within Islam that disturbed him. He developed an insatiable desire to read more Christian literature, finally leading to the Bible itself. One day his parents discovered his materials, exploded with anger, and demanded that he leave the house.
They shipped him to Saudi Arabia to live with his cousins and begin a rigorous program of being “re-educated” in the virtues of Islam. The Saudi Arabian government does not allow the printing, selling or possession of Bibles. There are no above ground, legal churches in the entire country. A strict form of Islam, called Wahhabism, is taught in every school and mosque. The country’s religious life is tightly controlled. For example, every single sermon given by an Imam during Friday worship services is written and approved by the government; it is the same message being delivered in each mosque throughout the country. The parents of this young man were convinced that their son, while in Saudi Arabia, would return to the truth of Islam and forget about his curiosity with Christianity.
This young man stayed in Saudi Arabia for seven years. He tried as hard as he could to cooperate with his family by practicing Islam. However, after his exile and return to Cairo, Egypt, his life began to unravel again. He was frightened to investigate Christianity further. His discontent with Islam had grown so great that he turned to drinking alcohol and consuming hard drugs because he had no idea how to handle this increasing dissonance in his soul. He began exploring atheism. Tragically, being an addict or an atheist were acceptable to his parents; all they cared about was that he did not become a Christian.
As he lounged around his house and hung out with his friends, he began watching Christian programs on satellite TV. His spirit was quickened again by the mention of Jesus and his teachings. He could not get enough of these Christian programs. The more he devoted his thoughts to Jesus, the freer he felt. He slowly began to distance himself from the drugs and alcohol, which had consumed him. Finally, one night, Jesus came to him in a dream. He saw a gigantic cross with the Lord’s blood sprinkled all around it. Jesus reached out to him urging him to keep coming towards him. When the young man woke, he knew he needed to leave his parents’ home and begin the challenging but difficult life of being a secret Christian believer and member of the underground church in Cairo.
It is estimated that in Egypt today there are now as many as four million Muslim background believers in Jesus. Many of these people have been repulsed by the ugly nature of radical Islam that has swept through the Middle East and around the world in recent years. In addition, they are pursuing new ideas that are now available to them on the internet, satellite TV or radio. The young man giving his testimony to my group impressed me to no end as I listened to his story of integrity and willingness to endure whatever hardship came his way in his pursuit of truth.
For centuries there have been similar stories like this young man – of people in various cultures and time periods – vigorously pursuing truth until they found it; and when they did, they banked their entire lives on it. It became an anchor for their souls and afoundation for their spirits. They were willing to do anything, even suffer hardships, to keep that truth firmly planted in their hearts. Our nation was founded on that belief. That is why Jesus taught his disciples the following parable; “The Kingdom of Heaven is likea treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13:44-45)
Perhaps our world needs a fresh start in believing there is an ultimate truth to be found in this world; that truth is not something to be invented daily and tossed around casually likea football. Have we become too careless even irresponsible in not demanding more truth from each other? What would our world begin to look like if we once again demanded more truth from ourselves and others around us, whether it be from our families, our friends, those in our workplaces, or with the government officials we have elected to represent us?
Truth is worth pursuing vigorously. It has more value than any material comfort we can conceive of or hope to produce. Without truth as a bedrock foundation in our lives, we invite an increasing darkness, no matter how imperceptible it may be, to enter and eventually overwhelm our lives. Don’t let anyone tell you there is no such thing as ultimate truth. It is the same as saying there is no God to whom we are accountable.
Jesus said it best when he turned to his disciples and taught the following; “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)