Consider the possibility that truth is not a thing or group of things (e.g. ideas, facts, doctrines, etc.) but a Spirit. This seems to be the apostle John’s understanding. For instance, he repeatedly calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth (Jn. 14:17, Jn. 15:26, Jn. 16:13 1 Jn. 4:6) and in 1 Jn. 5:6 he says “the Spirit is the truth.”
I believe when Jesus said “I am the truth” he was referring to his Spirit being one with the Spirit of truth. According to the Gospels, Jesus was conceived by, begotten of, born of, anointed with, led by, filled with the power of, sent by and full of the Holy Spirit. The relationship between Jesus and God’s Spirit is one of complete and total harmony. In fact, Paul and Peter imply a singularity between the Spirit of Christ and God’s Spirit (Rom. 8:2, 8:9, Gal. 4:6, 1 Pet. 1:11).
If Jesus’ connection with the truth is inseparable from his connection to the Spirit of truth, then our pursuit of truth as Christians must be rooted in our pursuit of God’s Spirit. This also means that our call to understand the truth of Jesus, live the life of Jesus and follow the way of Jesus, is impossible to fulfill without entering into the same kind of relationship with the Spirit of truth that Jesus had.
To live in truth is not simply choosing to live a just and ethical life, nor is it living in certainty that our beliefs are correct. To live in truth is to live in a state of oneness with the Spirit of truth, resulting in a wellspring of divine love erupting within us, flowing through our lives into the world. (Remember: God = love, Spirit = truth, God = Spirit, therefore, truth = love.) This is the movement Jesus inaugurated. This is the kind of truth that has the power to change the world.
Everything about Jesus is interconnected with divine Spirit. This means we cannot follow the way of Jesus in our own strength and willpower. Like Jesus, we need to be born of, anointed with, led by, full of and in sync with the Spirit of truth in order to follow his way of life. Likewise, our capacity to understand divine truth is contingent upon our conscious awareness of and co-operation with God’s Spirit. As Paul says “no one knows the things [thoughts, wisdom, truth] of God, except God’s Spirit” (I Cor. 2:11).
This has changed my understanding of Christian faith.
I used to have a beliefs-based faith where the focus was on doctrines, ideas, the authority of the Bible and the church. Then I developed an actions-based faith that focused on social justice, peacemaking, righting the wrongs of the world, advocating and caring for those in need.
The problem, I discovered, with both of these kinds of faith was that the external focus produced an ego-based arrogance that was divisive and judgmental. In my experience, when we focus on externals we end up drawing sharp lines on who is in and who is out. The mindset is the same: we are right and they are wrong, whoever “they” might be.
I am now convinced we need a being-based faith where the focus is on an internal state of “at-one-ment” with divine Spirit. Our only hope of living the way of Jesus is living in the Spirit of Christ. The only way to know the truth is to know the Spirit of truth.
So how do we do this?
Jesus says, “The Spirit of truth…You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (Jn. 14:17)
The Spirit of truth is already within us. However, entering into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Spirit of truth requires letting go of our co-dependence on externals (other people, things, causes, etc.). Learning to trust one’s inner light or inner teacher is difficult but essential. Without question, we need spiritually attuned mentors to provide us with spiritual tools and training to help us discern the Spirit of truth from all the other spirits within us. However, it is important to remember that our mentors cannot teach us the truth. They can only point the way. We must be in a state of conscious collaboration with divine Spirit ourselves to know truth.
Troy Watson is pastor of Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford, Ontario. This is Part 9 of “The pursuit of truth” series.