“It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to get married over the age of 40.”
That quote comes from a scene in “Sleepless in Seattle,” in which Annie, the protagonist, discusses single life with her friend, Becky.
“That statistic is not true!” Annie protests.
“No, it’s not true,” Becky agrees. After a thoughtful pause she then adds, “but it feels true.”
Unfortunately, we’ve all been there. I’m not talking about being hopelessly single, but rather being more attracted to what “feels” true than what really is true. We need look no further than our television habits, our browser history and our social media feeds to see this.
The Oxford dictionary selected “post-truth” as its Word of the Year in 2016, suggesting that our culture is becoming less interested in objective facts. A “post-truth” world is not one in which the truth no longer exists; it’s one in which it no longer matters.
I’ve often thought about how Christians are to practice our faith in a post-truth world. It’s a fascinating and challenging time to follow Jesus, who called himself “The Way, the Truth and the Life.”
How do we share the good news in the age of “fake news?” How do we offer honest statements of faith when 78 percent of all statistics are made up? (See what I did there?) How do we proclaim truth when we are so easily seduced into believing what “feels” true than what really is?
The Bible speaks a lot about truth. In John 17, Jesus prays that his disciples would be “sanctified in the truth” of God’s word. Philippians encourages us to think first upon “whatever is true.” Ephesians instructs us to “speak the truth in love.”
The message is clear. We followers of Jesus are to be seekers and lovers of truth. More specifically, the truth to which our words and actions should point is the ethic of grace and love exhibited by Jesus himself. That ethic touches all aspects of life, and shapes how we think, speak and act.
The (uncomfortable) truth of following Jesus is that it requires humility. It requires that we alter our perception when new facts arise. It requires that we be hyper-attentive to truth and hyper-resistant to relativism.
We do not speak truthfully when we proclaim, repeat or repost something without confirming its authenticity. We do not glorify God when we speak damaging words that “feel true” but are not factual. We do not bear God’s truth when we would rather clothe ourselves in political propaganda than the love of Jesus.
At the very least, Christians should seek truth. That might mean listening to differing voices, becoming aware of your own bias or even thinking critically before you post, but it also means emulating Jesus himself. When we do that, the love of God is made evident to those around us. It’s made tangible, and relational and real.
By the grace of God, that promise not only feels true. It really is.
The Rev. Lee Koontz is the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. He can be reached at email@example.com.