Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is righteous, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is worthy of praiseâ€”if there is anything that is excellent or praiseworthy, those are the things you should think about. — Philippians 4:8
We live in a time when truth has a low popular value. Check it out in your workplace or amongst your friends and relatives, and you’re sure to hear the common expression, â€œThat may be true for you, but for me . . .â€ Now partly this attitude came about because many people were very arrogant about their knowledge of the truth. Persecution resulted when some people decided that they had the truth under their control, and if you disagreed with them, you were obviously fighting against God and the absolute truth.
But in getting away from arrogant people who claimed to have all the truth, many of us have gotten away from the idea that we can actually know anything. Any opinion on any topic is OK. Who are you to argue? There is also a sort of assumption of humility. If I have only opinionsâ€”no information and no factsâ€”then I always appear humble and teachable.
But Jesus calls on us to seek the truth, and the truth will make us free (John 8:32). Now notice that Jesus, who was surely in possession of the truth, didn’t call for an army to enforce his truth on everyone around him. At the same time he was not embarrassed to present it to people and to call on them to respond.
Since we are imperfect what we need is a combination of constantly seeking the truth, but also being humble about our current knowledge.
Think of it like navigating by the stars. If you are traveling at night, and you locate the pole star, Polaris, you can start walking toward it. How far away is Polaris? Well, I checked on the Internet (Nearest Stars and Wikipedia on Light Year), and here’s what I found. Polaris is 132 parsecs from earth. A parsec is 3.26 light years, so Polaris is close to 431 light years. A light year is 5,879,000,000,000 miles, so Polaris is 2.53E+015 miles away. Don’t worry about what that means. If my spreadsheet goes into scientific notation, you can just regard the number as too big. If I can walk four miles per hour steadily, that would require 633,462,250,000,000 hours or somewhere in the neighborhood of 72,313,042,237.44 years to get there, not allowing time for sleep or meals. For those who don’t like to count the places in a big number, that’s more than 72 billion years. Since the universe is generally estimated to be no more than between 15 and 20 billion years old, I could expect to walk at least four times the age of the universe in order to reach my goal. (Please don’t try to incorporate into this the fact that the stars are moving as well, or that there’s no air out there in space and no surface for me to walk onâ€”that’s much too complicated!)
So you got it several sentences ago. I’m not going to get there. Duh! But within my narrow little area of responsibility here on earth, as long as I keep walking in that direction I will be going north. I can travel in other directions in relation to that star as well, and do so accurately enough.
But supposing you come up to me and read off all the numbers in the preceding paragraph. â€œWhy do you bother walking toward the north star?â€ you ask. â€œYou’re never going to get there. Not only will you die, but the entire universe will die before you get there. Just walk in any old direction!â€
What do I say? â€œI’ll never get to the north star, but that’s not important. As long as I walk toward it, I’ll be going north!â€
God knows infinitely more than I do. The big numbers I just used for the pole star are as nothing next to the difference between God’s absolute knowledge and my itty-bitty, teensy-weensy little bit of knowledge. But if I always look toward God, and just keep going forward, I’ll always be going in the right direction.
Grab hold of what you know to be true. Keep looking at Jesus your savior. You may be only a little less mixed up than those around you, but you’ll always be headed the right way.