NOTE: This post is part of a series on God’s Priorities
This is the second of the four basic priorities of spirituality, as I outlined in my Introduction is that of Receiving God’s Truth.
As you may remember, this a combination of Loving God and prioritizing truth.
In attempting to love God and seek truth, we must first adopt a posture of being open to truth. This is no mean task – if we truly desire to become spiritual people, we must be open to ideas that we have not yet encountered or accepted. This means all of the following:
A. Seriously considering ideas that are new to us
By definition, accepting that we need to grow means that we admit that we don’t know it all yet. Our limited experience means that we may not have yet encountered the whole truth – we may have missed huge swaths of it! Those who seek to grow must be open to new ideas.
With regard to loving God in truth, we must be open to this important concept – we do not understand God. In fact, we may misunderstand God pretty seriously – not only because we are finite and God infinite, but because truths about God are sometimes notoriously counter intuitive. For example, when Jesus says “love your enemies” or we read “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” we may need to sit down and consider such advice as opposite of what we’ve been taught.
B. Seriously considering ideas that contradict our currently held positions.
Some truth is hidden in the ideas of our critics and opponents. At the very least, to become mature persons, we need to seek to understand others before seeking to be understood. We need to be able to articulate their positions clearly so that we can analyze them clearly.
Practically, thisalso means not superficially dismissing ideas that we initially dislike, especially those we have previously rejected. Time to go back and do a better, more honest job considering ideas.
C. Allowing our current priorities to be analyzed, challenged, and reformed
When you work for a boss, you may immediately realize that your boss’ priorities are not the same as your own. If you desire, however, to stay employed, you should rearrange your priorities to match your boss’.
If you desire to be a spiritual person, you will need to prepare to shift your priorities towards what God wants. As the founder of the relief organization World Vision once prayed:
God, break my heart with the things that break yours.
D. Seriously considering ideas from sources we had previously discounted.
One impediment to spiritual growth, and growth in truth, is limiting the avenues through which you allow truth to come into your life. If you are wise, you will first listen to “God’s two books” – the book of nature, and the Scriptures. But this is not the only way that truth comes into our lives.
In fact, if you survey the ways in which God spoke to people in the Bible, you’ll see that he spoke through dreams, visions, prophets, unbelievers, angels, and even a donkey. My point is, don’t say “I will only hear truth about God or reality through [fill in your trusted source]. Truth may have to come in through other channels because of your own hardness, narrow thinking, and self imposed limitations.
Invite truth into your life. Then watch for answers from expected and unexpected sources. Truth will call out to you. Let me give you a story from my life.
Finding Truth Outside of Christianity
When I was leaving Christianity (I have since returned), I was still desperately searching for truths that would remove my unease (dis-ease) of spirit. The Christianity I had received was legalistic, Pharisaical, and looking back, way too narrow.
So as per James 1:5, I asked for wisdom, since God promised to give it to anyone who asks, regardless of their merit or lack of it. But my asking came with conditions. I would ONLY accept truth from the Bible, or from (Christian) writers I trusted. As it turns out, my perception of the Bible, and the narrow writers I trusted, disallowed any new truth coming into my life.
But truth did start to speak to me. First, through Tony Robbins. Then through Louise Hay’s excellent book You Can Heal Your Life. Then through yoga and Buddhism. But I was slow to entirely receive what they had to say until one day in the Stanford University bookstore.
I picked up a volume by new-age Catholic Anthony de Mello. And in it, he relayed a story which changed my approach to truth. The story went something like this:
A warrior was shot with a poison arrow, and was taken to the medic, who attempted to remove the arrow. “I will not have this arrow removed until I find out who shot it!” said the warrior. The medic replied, “Sir, you will die before that happens because the arrow continues to deliver its poison into your system.”
I realized that I was limiting how I would allow truth to come into my life, and demanding answers to my questions before hearing anything else. And I realized that I was resisting the ways that truth was coming into my life. And that I would probably die emotionally and spiritually if I held onto my preconceptions. What I needed to do was be open to God speaking from anywhere, and use my intuitionn. • direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.
• a function of the spirit rather than the mind
More and conscience to guide me rather than my intellect alone, which had been poisoned by narrow thinking.
As it turned out, I had to abandon my initial faith altogether in order to rebuild a healthy version of it. But all I knew in the beginning was that I had to let go and allow truth in from wherever it wanted entrance into my life. And I’ve created a site for my upcoming book on the subject, Leaving Faith.
E. Seeking what is true, rather than what we’d prefer to be true
This is a hard but important point. Some truth may initially be unpalatable to us. Yet our intuitionn. • direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.
• a function of the spirit rather than the mind
More or conscience will bear witness against our biases that it is true.
I may not prefer to think that innocent children die every day from malnutrition, but it is still true. Similarly, I may not prefer that there is a day of judgement, or that I am a sinner, but the wise question is not “do I like it?” but “is it true?”
F. Biblically speaking, what is true about God?
Loving God in truth means learning and agreeing with what is true and knowable about God. The Bible claims to reveal that God, especially in the life and teachings of Jesus. The main truth of his life? We are all going to face judgement, and we are all guilty. But he died in our place. And if none of that is true, then he was mistaken and died that terrible death for nothing.
There is a coming kingdom, one in which the wrongs will be righted, and evil, including our own, will be punished. This is where God’s establishment of justice, righteousness, and truth will be completed. Justice wins, and we are invited to understand what is coming and be part of that kingdom by believing Him, receiving his work on our behalf, and starting a new life now. Hence the scripture:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. ~John 1:12
Part of adopting God’s priorities is being open to the challenge and liberation of truth in its many forms. It means taking a hard look at what is real, what is true, and what matters. It means being open in ways that challenge our biases and hurts in order to honestly arrive at our convictions. It means realizing that we probably grossly MISunderstand God, and need to change our thinking.