It’s there in the texts of Matthew 28:11-15, Mark 16:8-14, Luke 24:9-11, 36-42, and John 20:24-28. Others’ fears and desires to retain power, remain comfortable, resist any change, keep their employment (or heads!) and maintain the status quo cause them to deny the disciples’ stories of the resurrection and to spread lies by creating a false story. Another risk is also written in the texts, too, that the disciples would believe the false story because of their own fears, incredulity, limitations, or lack of ability to see the risen Lord.
False stories serve some purpose. The false stories we tell about ourselves and others justify our actions, rationalize our choices, and deny the affects of what we do or say on ourselves and those around us. False stories usually have some unifying principle that sounds glorious and righteous: e.g., protecting the people (cf. Matt. 28:14), maintaining order, spreading democracy or “free” markets, keeping costs low, ensuring control, “loving” someone, personal freedom, privacy, rights, individual responsibility, forgiveness, peace, group culture, etc. The bass motif underlying all these stories is, however, the justification of a denial or overriding of the truth in another’s life or story. The purportedly “higher” end and principle are betrayed by the process of falsifying another person. Abusers triumph over their victims when they succeed in convincing the victim that the false story is really “truth.”
Massimo & I committed ourselves as parents to do our best to reflect truth to our kids. We told the truth that we believe – we’re each created by a loving God whose love for us is revealed in the self-giving and self-emptying of Christ Jesus. At other times, reflecting truth meant not allowing them to lie or to rationalize their own poor behavior in reaction to another’s wrong; sometimes, it meant confessing our own failures to be loving when we were stressed and our reaction to them revealed more about our immaturity than about their errors or childishness. Reciting the true story to them helps them be grounded in truth and their own identity and worth before God. Reflecting truth also means having the courage to stand against others’ lies and false stories which harm the liar and damage the community.
Paul used “standing” in Christ to describe our posture before liars and accusers. “Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:14-16) There have been and will be times in each of our lives where someone lies about us to preserve their own false story. As Christians, we need to examine ourselves; we know that truth doesn’t threaten us but heals us. Then, when we face accusations, we don’t have to cower in fear or to attack and create a diversion. If the story is true, we need God to help us change in order that we may conform to Christ in truth. If the story is false, we trust God to deliver us while we continue to stand. Faith in God is expressed in truth and standing, not in running or fighting fire with fire.
Arthur Frank reflected on the thoughts of Vaclav Havel in The Renewal of Generosity. Reformation from oppressive systems has to begin individually, because the nature of oppression that is institutional and structural requires individuals to subsume themselves. To overcome the pattern, the individuals have to reform themselves. “Under [institutional oppression], people were unable to see their moral selves revealed in their actions; instead they could see themselves only as actors in a story imposed on them from elsewhere. …No one should have any illusions about the capacity of institutional reform to bring about a renewal of generosity. It’s the reverse: personal acts of generosity have the potential to affect the values that determine what goals are sought by reform.” (pp. 28-29)
Telling the truth is dangerous business. The corrupted authorities want truth-tellers silenced, institutions want to hoard their positions and resources rather than be generous, and power-brokers want Christ crucified. Sometimes we’ll see the corruption ahead, and sometimes we’ll be blind-sided. However, James told believers that we must never stop looking into the perfect law that sets us free – using Frank’s analogy, I believe that we will always be able to see our moral selves and act accordingly when we’re standing in Christ. Only “in Christ” are we known and do we know the true light who reveals us to ourselves and before God’s face. As we humbly meditate on God’s Word and pray daily, we trust the Holy Spirit to weave humility and truth into the fabric of our being. Whether we live or die, metaphorically, in this particular battle, we know Whom we serve: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” (Phil. 1:20-21)
Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed!
May Christ arise in every one of us, this day, and in the days ahead.