During this season of Epiphany, a small group of our New Church community has been gathering weekly to read and discuss a book by J. Philip Wogaman entitled, What Christians Can Learn from Other Religions. As you might expect we discovered that the faith traditions of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and other smaller faith traditions have some clear differences from Christianity. Wogaman reminds us throughout the book that it is common to compare the best of our faith with the worst of other faiths and warns against doing that. Even with all our differences, the thing that surprised me the most during our study was just how much our various faith traditions have in common.
For example, in every one of the traditions we have studied, the idea of the Golden Rule is present, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Included in those ideas are the appeals for us to treat others with respect and compassion. And almost all of the traditions have something to say about the importance of “truth” in our personal lives, in the lives of our communities and in the world.
While many people believe that “truth” as it relates to the understanding of faith is relative, there is still a broad appeal across faith traditions for us to “seek the truth,” and to speak truthfully to others. For example, Zoroastrianism, a faith that has its origins in what was Persia, now Iran, emphasizes an uncompromising commitment to truth. Their teachings say, “We are always bound to be truthful! There is never an adequate reason to lie, or even to misrepresent.” Now, there may be some extraordinary circumstances when someone might lie. For example, to save someone from being killed, as many Germans and others did during the rise of the Third Reich by hiding Jews and lying about it, but most daily circumstances do not require that of us. So, the admonition to be truthful is important, and the fact that every major religion and most minor ones instruct us that “truth” needs to be a primary value that we practice, means that it is essential to our living in faithful community.
Now, if we consider the Christian teaching of Jesus, found in the Gospel of John, there is an even more compelling reason to seek the truth and to speak the truth. Jesus teaches us, “the truth will make you free.” And isn’t that what happens when we are truthful with ourselves, with others and with God? Don’t we experience a freedom that allows us to fully be who God created us to be?
I believe many of us would benefit by examining what we say we believe to be true, by being open to what others say they believe to be true, and by seeking the truth in all our life’s circumstances and then committing to speak and live the truth as we best understand it. It is a tall order, but think of the freedom it will bring, not just to you but also to others. In the end, truth matters, it matters a lot.
Holy One, draw near to me, remind me that my ability to seek and to speak the truth is essential for others’ freedom and for my own. Show me your way and help me to walk in it. Amen.