The scripture speaks of two truths…one is a spiritual truth, such as “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” That truth is the universal truth of God in Christ, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for sin, and his resurrection from the dead.
Then there is truth as we normally think of it – moral truth; veracity, genuineness, honesty. Such verses as “speaking the truth in love” or “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” are good examples of this. This concept of truth involves both character and speech.
Moral truth has difficulty without spiritual truth. Spiritual truth is fleshed out in moral truthfulness.
Moral truthfulness, even for those of The Truth, is a difficult quality to master. Indeed, it is evidenced as a challenge in the Old Testament within the community of Yahweh, just as much as the Acts community. It appears anytime there is a relationship – casual or formal, personal or impersonal, among many or few, living, speaking and dealing in truthfulness can be a challenge.
In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear, speech such as slander, obscene talk and lying should all be eradicated with the old self. Most of us know how hard it is to rid ourselves of the “old self” and continue to be transformed into Christ-likeness. Nevertheless, the command and obligation to do so is apparent.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie (literally “stop lying”) to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Col. 3:5-10)
Paul emphasizes being transformed by the renewing of our mind, and putting on the new self. What might have been acceptable living habits before, are no longer acceptable for the believer. That kind of transformation requires radical action.
In May of 2003, Aron Ralston, then 27, was climbing in the Colorado mountains. His arm became pinned beneath a thousand pound boulder. It was apparent that he was not able to free himself and he would certainly die there out of view of any rescuers.
Ralston became trapped on a Saturday, by Tuesday he had run out of water and after two more days he decided the only way he would survive is if he amputated his arm. Using a pocket knife that is exactly what he did.
When Paul says, “Put do death therefore what is earthly in you” the action indicated is exactly like that experienced by Mr. Ralston. In other words, do whatever it takes to get rid of what is “earthly” in you, related to both thoughts and words. Then, “Put on the new self with its practices which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Jesus put it more succinctly, if your right eye offends you, pluck it out. If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. Take whatever action necessary, radical action, to shed the old self and put on the new.
Is it any wonder integrity (truth in character) and honesty (truth in word and deed) are such rare qualities?
Uhm…where did I leave my pocket knife?