The Writings teach that truth on its own is not enough. This week Joel uses a few passages from the Bible as well as other ideas from the Writings to look at why we need more than truth to have a complete perspective. -Editor.
Give therefore your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil: for who is able to judge this great people of yours? (
1 Kings 3:9)
Affection for truth makes the church. What is affection for truth? It is loving the truth for its own sake and also because it leads to the good of life. As children we are born with the potential to be truly human, to be wise and loving, but in order to become so it is a long, even a lifetime process. The first step is education: we need to learn knowledge and truth. This is why children are so receptive to soaking up new information like sponges. When we become teenagers we need to develop the rational mind, Ishmael. This first rational is harsh, untempered, but another step along the journey.
When we gain the ability to be rational around 20 years of age then the true rational mind, Isaac, can be born. In Hebrew, Isaac means “laughter.” We laugh at something because it is true. If it is from a good affection like helping people then the laughter is good laughter. If the laughter is from an evil affection like hurting people then it is bad laughter. Does this dress make me look fat? You decide.
The true rational is not truth alone. It is good conjoined to truth. It is truth in the service of good. It is using truth to help and love other people. As we go through life and the various states or days of regeneration we are constantly learning new things. Knowledge is elevated to truth after temptations and conjoined to good.
If we get far enough on the regenerative path then there is an inversion. Truth is no longer in the primary position but now good. The question we are then always asking is 'how does this, whatever the this is, help other people, truly?' At this point we cannot go back to loving truth simply as knowledge or we become like Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of salt (salt = the affection for truth).
The Psalmist says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart O God thou will not despise” (
It is through temptations, struggles, and vastations that our old hard self is softened. And if we endure and conquer in these temptations we are kinder out the other side and more aware of other people’s sufferings, and more desirous to help them in whatever way we can. When you see other people going through the “dark night of the soul” it can seem brutal (and it is). But if they endure out the other side there is so much joy and peace. Is there an easier way than getting this kind of a “broken heart”? No, there isn’t. And many people simply are not willing to endure the pain of this kind of growth.
What is this “hearing heart”? What does it mean to “listen with our heart”? It means that we are able to “listen without prejudice” to other people’s suffering and all the suffering in the world. This is the first great step if you really want to change the world (or yourself for that matter, for the ego makes us all suffer). Can you look at the homeless person on the street and really get, to really really get how hard and unfair their life is? Can you look at the power politics in the world and see the deep deep evils that people do in the world, who they really are? And believe me this kind of evil is its own suffering, for us here, but for them in hell to eternity if they don’t repent. Can you look at the world, at your spouse, at your neighbor, at your church, at your country, at everyone with long and loving eyes, but eyes that are willing to see the deeper truths in life?
This is really what makes the church the church. Affection for truth. A “listening heart.” For it is into this affection that God can flow and work miracles and motivate us to go forth and serve, to love your neighbor and forgive your enemy, and to care for the poor and the sick and the suffering. But it starts with us, with the choice to listen and to hear. And when we become broken and contrite then sometimes we are very still inside, and like children God can speak to us tenderly and tell us the truth.
Joel Brown is a Christian.