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~ The Whole Truth ~

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, if there is anything of excellence and worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things" (Philippians 4:8). This verse is soothing and inviting. If we were to be consumed by only these things, we would be living in heaven on earth.

"Whatever is true," interestingly, is listed first as a predicate to the rest. The others, such as what is honorable, right and lovely, must be grounded in truth or they cannot be the subject of our mental and spiritual dwelling and pondering.

It is true that the people of Kashmir and the surrounding environs woke up to a beautiful day of promise. People went to work, children to school, and mothers to tend to their little ones in love and gratitude. Many no doubt pondered the things listed in Philppians 4:8 as they began their day. It is also true that within a minute of that great earthquake, school buildings crushed children and teachers, family members died or were separated, and the count of the dead as of this writing is 53,000 and rising.

Truth's nature is layered, multidimensional, and mixed with joy and sorrow, promise and defeat. Both heaven and hell are truths, as well as triumph and failure. So while we dwell on what is honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, what is excellent and praiseworthy, the pursuit of truth is the context of our pondering. What is true about honor? These things have corollaries. The apparent paradox is that if we are aware of honor or purity, we must also be aware of their counterparts. We cannot know light without knowing darkness, or happiness without suffering.

The reason you can read this black print is due to the contrast on which it is written. White print on a white background would still be truly there in its fullness, but invisible. When falsehood and deceit are presented in the same color as the background of trust, they become invisible and undetected. To see the falsehood that is imprinted in the same color as its background, one need tremendous discernment. That's why the creators of falsehood begin expounding truth, mixing them both into the same background.

The dissemination of truth encounters challenging semantic obstacles. The oath, "Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?" is essentially confined to objective facts. Court testimony always begins with those truths, such as, "What is your name?" and "Were you writing a Reflection during the week before October 20?" Then questions typically proceed into the nebulous arena wherein one cannot tell the "whole" truth without being permitted to articulate a litany of history and explanation, which are not excuses or rationalizations but rather the background upon which truth is placed.

How does someone answer, "Did you overcome your anger problem?" In the confines of a simple "yes" or "no," within the "yes" is imbedded the confession or agreement that one had an anger problem. A "no" is worse, admitting an anger problem and that it is still the "truth." The whole truth requires an explanation that there was no anger problem in the past to address and thus the question is mute. But then the question itself remains a statement in the minds of listeners, leading them to wonder if "the whole truth" is actually revealed. That makes the whole truth not whole.

If I say, "I love simple, country living in solitude," does that mean I don't like congested, noisy city life? The implication is yes, but since I never stated that as fact, you cannot assume that it is true, although you will, leading you into believing you know me and my likes and dislikes about where I live. It may be true I love both living environments, but you would never know that unless I could tell you "the whole truth."

Consider these two verses: "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6) and "My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused" (Hosea 11:8). Which is true? Can they both be? On a level we may or may not understand, they must since they are both uttered by God. Should God be confronted with these two statements in one of our courts, He would be taken to task and made to look like a liar.

Taken separately, these declarations reveal partial truths. People have constructed theologies on one or the other, meaning they have based their theologies on partial truth, leading to the logical observation that those theologies are then only partially true (and thus partially false.) The whole truth must be discerned from the integration of those two seemingly contradictory statements of God. If we fail at integrating them, we fail at knowing the whole truth about God.

Paul wrote, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). In Paul's day, most mirrors were reflecting pools of water or highly polished stone, so we, today, don't quite appreciate how distorted and darkened mirrors were. Our mirrors are so wonderfully reflective, including colors that are true to the object of the mirror. Yet we must remember that our modern mirrors reflect the opposite of truth. Everything seen in them is reversed. (That's why "mirror writing" is fun to create and look at in a mirror, although requiring practice.) What is seen in our mirrors today is the opposite of the reality standing before them.

With Jesus standing before him, Roman Governor Pontius Pilate rhetorically asked, "What is truth?" The Christ didn't respond with words. He just continued to remain present before Pilate. That was His answer, His silent presence. Words would have only provided Pilate with partial truth. Christ's presence is the whole truth that transcends all words.

The presence of Christ within us is the whole truth. There is nothing beyond that to know, as He declared, "I am the truth." So to dwell in whatever is
honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence and worthy of praise, we must first dwell in "whatever is true." I suggest that "whatever" is the Christ. Given that whole truth, all else follows and enables us to dwell in them, which, as written earlier, is the experience of heaven on earth.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.

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