WHY WE DON”T LIKE TRUTH?
1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, John 9:1-41
March 14, 1999 by Tad Mitsui
The other day, someone asked me about a meeting I attended last Sunday. She had a second hand report about it. What she heard sounded like quite wrong to me. According to this person who reported it to my friend, the result of one particular vote was a complete opposite of what I thought it was. When you run into a situation like this, you realize that truth can be so elusive.
Jay Ingram is a science reporter, who used to host a science program on the CBC Radio. He recently wrote a book about human brains. In it, he quotes an interesting market research done by a women”s clothing manufacturer. Volunteers were led into a room with a pile of pantyhose, and were asked to pick one pair of pantyhose they would buy. After careful examination, every volunteer picked one best pair they would buy. They were asked to give reasons for their choices. They mentioned such things as superior materials, more comfortable, more agreeable colours, etc. But unbeknownst to them those pantyhose were exactly the same; knitted by the same machine, in the same size, of the same colour, and using the same material. Objectively speaking, none of the reasons they listed could possibly be true, because all of them were exactly the same. But Jay Ingram was sure that all of those women were sincere and truly believed that everything they said was right. Could this be one reason to say that there is no such thing as the universal truth? Is it all in your mind? It is up to you. Is it? But we believe that there is truth. Truth from God. Trouble is that we can not handle truth. We can not even agree on a simple fact. The story of healing of a blind man in the Gospel according to John is a typical example of human behaviours that always manage to make truth all muddled up.
One day, Jesus healed a blind man. He had been born blind, but now he could see. He had had to beg for living, but now he had a chance to make his own living. Healing is not just a matter of restoring the eyesight or of correcting physical problems. It is a deed to restore dignity and wholeness. The blind man, when he gained sight, discovered faith in God and in himself. He was not afraid to tell the truth any more. But what a furore this simple episode of healing provoked! Neighbours did not believe that it was the same blind man who was healed. They began to say, "Surely this is not the same man, who was blind and a beggar." Many of them saw what happened with their own eyes. But they did not believe what they saw, because they didn”t see what they didn”t want to see, and they forgot what they didn”t want to remember. So they asked the parents of the man if it was the same man, and they said it was. So they turned to the man who was blind and asked him if he was truly the same man who had been born blind, and he insisted that he was. They could not handle the truth they did not want to believe. But he was not afraid to tell the truth, and he did not shut up. Healing gave him courage to tell the truth no matter how much it annoyed people. So in the end, they ran him out of town. They banished the man, when they saw the truth and didn”t like it.
Pharisees had other problems about the truth. Jesus healed the blind man on Sabbath. According to the laws of Moses, nobody should work on Sabbath. But what is work? It was left to the lawyers to figure out those details of the law. Healing was work as far as the Pharisees” interpretation. They tried hard to perfect the laws by defining fine points of the laws. But sometimes lawyers forget the spirit of the law, when they try to figure out the meaning of the laws. That”s how they grab more and more power over people. That”s how they can tell people, "It”s all complicated. Leave it to me." For Pharisees, Jesus violated the Sabbath law, and he was not a qualified person to perform healing either. So the Pharisees scolded the man for allowing himself to be healed by a sinner. They told him to "Give glory only to God. We know that the man who healed you is a sinner." But he said, "I don”t know whether this man is a sinner. Only thing I know for sure is, though I was blind, but now I can see." He didn”t know the fine points of the law, but he knew the truth that counted. The laws are God”s instruments. They are there to help us to know God and to live accordingly. God is not bound by those instruments. God is bigger than any of them. But if your job is to maintain those instruments, you are tempted to guard them as though it is more important than God. This is how you get trapped in a folly, "My mind is made up. Don”t confuse me with facts."
The Church, too, have made the same mistake many times as the Pharisees did with Jesus and the blind man. It is only recently, the church at last admitted that the mistake was made by the church, during the sixteenth century, when it condemned those scientists, including Galileo Galilei, who said that the earth went around the Sun. The church used to say that the earth was the centre of the universe and the Sun and stars went around the earth. Some of them were burnt at stake as heretics for speaking contrary the church”s teaching. Many women were also burnt at stake during the medieval ages and as recently as two centuries ago in Americas branded as witches. Often their crime was their knowledge of herbal medicine, which they acquired while looking for edible plants. They were looking for herbs and spices for flavour and taste in food, they discovered healing properties of some plants. But medicine was reserved for men. So those women had to be punished for stepping on to men”s toes, even though their herbal medicine worked and must have cure diseases. We know today that herbal medicine works sometime better than the chemicals.
We too keep repeating the same mistake over and over again, and reject truth, because sometimes it does not suit us or threaten our vested interests. You can see how Jesus, as good and loving as he was, could end up being crucified as a criminal. During this season of lent, let us admit our prejudices and vested interests that cloud our mind. Let us start all over again and again with open mind. That is one way to know the truth about Jesus Christ, and how good and loving he was.