We need truth even if we don’t always want to hear it. Yesterday I saw a woman leave the toilet in a coffee shop with a stream of tissue paper trailing from her left heal. She was around the corner in an instant so I didn’t chase her, but I was sure she would want to know about her awkward attachment. I’m also sure she would grimace in being told.
That two-sided reality is a common experience: we love truth but all too often we hate to hear it. I recall my own response a few years ago to news about a skin lesion. A barber asked about the ugly mole hidden under my hair. I wasn’t pleased by the comment but afterwards I visited my doctor who removed what proved to be a malignant melanoma. The barber’s awkward initiative saved my life.
Telling the truth in love is a feature of authentic faith. When we first meet and respond to Jesus we turn our backs on the realm of Satan, the Liar, who always speaks “the Lie” for “he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44, literal translation). It proves to be a life-saving turn.
“It”—“the Lie”—was first offered to Eve in the Garden of Eden: “You can be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The serpent offered a position alongside (or even above) God. Any former dependence on God and his triune love was now obsolete. And by declaring independence from God humanity also felt free to determine the “good and evil”.
It was a blind and foolish presumption. But Satan is nothing if not bold. He wants worship and he gets it by having others follow his lead. It makes him their own ultimate leader, as those “following . . . the spirit who is now at work in all who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2).
The Liar’s motive, and the basis for his deceit, was pride: “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17).
And there is the dangling toilet paper that trails from the heel of this self-important Cherub, and is stuck to the heel of all who follow his lead: the corruption of pride.
What is corruption? Call it the undoing of truth. Call it a dissolving of God’s reality in favor of unreality. Call it a pretense of importance while having no substance of character. Just as food starts to spoil if it isn’t protected, our souls start to spoil for being away from our ultimate source of truth and life.
Satan invites people to set up new values that are opposite to God’s creation purposes—and that’s where we find corruption in play.
Is the womb a sacred place for God’s creative work? No, they would say, it’s simply a venue for personal pleasure. Is marriage a lifelong covenant between a man and his bride, meant by God for procreation and unique honor? No, it’s just an economic and social contract that can be dismissed or revised as needed. Are words considered sacred—only expressing truth? Only when it’s convenient.
But here’s the problem with the creativity of corruption. Truth and trust are eternally linked. I only trust those who are committed to telling me the truth. Even when it’s awkward.
But a proud person can never be trusted to care for others. Marriages and businesses need trust to survive. If we learn that others around us aren’t honest we become fools for investing our souls in their care.
Truth, then, is the realm of our realignment with reality after we’ve turned away from the Liar. Jesus made and sustains the cosmos as a garden for our faith-based, trusting relationship with him. We find our peace within his care and our dependence is based on his love. His ways and words are the axis for all that exists. In salvation we turned a corner and now despise pride in favor of faith.
But pride can still catch us by surprise. We don’t see it in ourselves, even when it’s obvious to others. So when people love us enough to tell us we have some toilet paper trailing from our shoe, good! They care for us. Be sure to listen.