Do people really want to know the truth? No. They want to be told the same thing over and over again. The more times they hear it, the more solid and secure they feel. When the truth is different from what they have been conditioned to think, they don’t want to hear the truth. Why? Because it messes with their false sense of reality. It shakes the ground they stand on. When the ground starts to tremble, fear starts clouding their objectivity and ability to reason.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul says something about people only wanting to hear the things that tickle their ears. Nobody likes to hear new stuff. They like to hear the same old same old. That’s what tickles their ears. That’s why they keep going to church week after week, year after year, Lectionary cycle A through C, again and again and again.
But Paul and the apostles had a new message that was upsetting the ears of people who do not like their truth shaken. The super religious wanted to keep hearing that the laws of Moses were their guide. They wanted to hear of a God who loved only them and wreaked vengeance upon their enemies. This is what they had been hearing for a thousand+ years. It tickled their ears to think they were more special than anyone in history.
Paul ran into resistance everywhere he went because he started telling of a loving God who cared for Jews and Gentile alike, who was willing – not to kill their enemies – but to include them in the plan of salvation. That was not good news to the Jews. Paul was suggesting that Samaritans and Greeks and Egyptians were equal in the sight of God. How could that be the truth? No wonder he got the crap beat out of him so many times.
Let me give you a current day example. If I make a statement like this: “The New Testament has not been translated into English according to what the Greek text says,” then the assumption that has been made about the Bible from the sixteenth century is being challenged. For some people the truth is that the Bible is inerrant. They think every word in Hebrew and Greek has a perfectly matching word in English. That’s their truth and it’s a foundation on which they stand. Other people give themselves a little more wiggle room, thinking correctly that sometimes it takes a couple of words to get across the meaning of a Greek word.
There’s nothing wrong with people having a partial understanding (or no understanding) of a text in the Bible. There are a lot of things I still don’t understand. As long as what we read and understand helps us to grow into loving, generous, and kind people in the manner of Jesus, then there’s no problem. God loves Jews and Greeks and Egyptians and Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Taoists and Hindus, especially when they live in peace and love and harmony with each other.
It’s when one’s truth serves to make him or her more special in the sight of God than someone else, that truth is tainted by pride and ego. And that’s the kind of truth that divides rather than unites.