There are some well-tried spiritual exercises that enable an examination of conscience. There are passages from the Bible that can be used a template for prayer and reflection: The Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments,1 Corinthians 13 for example. There also ‘lists’ that can set an agenda for prayer particularly the seven ‘deadly sins’. It struck me powerfully recently none of these exercises asks the question ‘do you live in the truth?’ They will help a penitent come to terms with the truth about themselves: to see themselves in the light of God’s purposes and live, but they do not specifically ask the penitent ‘ is your life coloured by untruth?’
Jesus, John’s Gospel tells us, was ‘full of grace and truth’. He is the ‘way, the truth and the life,’ the truth he predicts ‘will set you free’. The Holy Spirit Jesus teaches is ‘the spirit of truth.’ Truth Jesus teaches is the means to ‘sanctification.’ Jesus tells Pilate ‘Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’
It is the hardest challenge in life to live ‘truthfully.’ To live in the truth is to live with vulnerability and humility. It demands courage to be a ‘truth–speaker’. It is easier to trim the truth; to be economical with it. Today it is ‘politically incorrect’ to be truthful. Truth is the only criteria for true justice. Without truth we can never be fully in Christ. Where we avoid the truth about ourselves and our situation we live in an imagined reality and authentic relationships are not possible. There is always a victim somewhere of a lie be it white or grey.
Jesus is quite clear that the Devil is the ‘father of lies.’
If we return to the classical texts cited above we see that Truth is the constant theme binding them together. Take the Ten Commandments. They command to live in the truth of the one God, not to set up ‘false Gods’ – to live in an alternative truth. There should be no ‘vain’ use of God’s name: we should not twist God to suit our own imagination and purposes. To keep the Sabbath is to live trusting in the providence of God: to rest in His truth. We cannot deny the ‘truth’ of our paternity and maternity – where we come from, to whom we belong. Living in the truth means not denying our past. Murder, Adultery, Theft and False Witness are the extreme examples of ordering the world around our self and our own passions hates and fantasies. To covet means that we are turning away from the reality of who and where we are to seek ‘the imaginations of our hearts.’
To live truthfully is a huge challenge and it is so demanding that we live in a society and culture that long ago abandoned living in the truth and nothing but the truth. Where do we find truth in today’s world of spin-doctors and twitter feeds?False news is now a recognised and effective political tool. One way we witness to Christ is to live in the Truth. Ask yourself the question every day – where have I failed to live truthfully today? It will lead to prayer that is deeply engaging with Christ who is both Grace and Truth.