Facing Truth

We often scurry around in life attempting to avoid truth and the painstaking decisions it asks us to make.  We dodge the truth of our past, truth of our present, and maybe even the truth of where we’re headed.  We run from the potential of having to face telling the truth, living in the truth, and walking in truth.  Somehow we’ve bought the lie that truth is something that is best kept hidden or removed, or worse yet; is subject to each person’s interpretation.  I can remember many years of not walking in truth, living in denial while the truth was never far behind me.  Even today, I continue to learn what it means to be willing to stand for truth…even if it means I stand alone, and without the approval of others.   

There’s a man whose compromise of the truth was well recorded in God’s Word, due to his effort to keep his political career intact. This man sought to appease an aggressive mob of enraged Jews and their religious leaders, who failed to recognize their long-awaited Messiah.  This man of compromise was the infamous Roman governor, Pontius Pilate of Judea, who was under the Emperor Tiberius in the New Testament (see the Gospels…Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).  He had a title that afforded him authority over maintaining Roman law and order,  as well as executing punishments for not abiding under it.  This authority should have provoked a need for discerning wisdom, but sadly; he lacked that ability.  The privileged power he held, gave him the complete freedom to end the life of someone; even if that ‘someone’ was innocent; like Jesus.  

As believers we know that all things in this life, have to pass through the sovereign hands of God. (see John 19:11)  He decides ultimately what He will allow and for the reasons He permits.  Jesus was in the Father’s will, and as such, His death had always been a part of God’s ultimate plan of redemption for mankind. (see 2 Thessalonians 2:13)  From the cradle to the cross, to a resurrecting comeback; all of it would go as the Father had ordained according to the scriptures.   

The governor, Pilate, had a misfortunate need to secure his immediate political future with Rome by manufacturing  political peace.  The peace Pilate sought was much different than the eternal peace that God was in the business of bringing through His promised Messiah.  So the inability Pilate had to stand firmly for truth, played directly into the Father’s hand.  His need for approval among people led to Pilate’s name becoming attached to the most publicized ‘wrongful death sentence’ ever to go down in history.    

You may remember in the book of John, how Jesus was dragged before Pilate to receive Roman ridicule and retribution.  The crowds and religious leaders stood in Pilate’s courtyard, demanding death for Jesus.  Not the typical death-by-stoning that was associated with Jewish law, but something more sinister that, unbeknownst to them, would further fulfill prophecy.  Because of the times in which they were living, they sought death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.  In order to obtain this gruesome act, it would require the Jewish leaders to meticulously twist their Messiah’s words to fit this sought out prophesied punishment.  Though the Persians had creatively come up with this sadistic form of death, it was the Romans who had perfected the art of making the process as painful and humiliating as possible (not that death by crucifixion wouldn’t hurt in the first place!) 

Pilate had hoped that by legally declaring that he saw no merit to this case against Jesus, it would rid him of any further responsibility, and he could go about his day.  He sought to discourage the religious leaders from dumping this matter in his courtyard; yet the leaders wouldn’t forgo their demands.  In search of a reprieve from this precarious situation, Pilate attempted to defer this very sticky legal matter onto others in authority, yet all his attempts failed.  No matter how far Pilate threw this explosive case in another direction, it boomeranged right back to him.  Having to render a verdict of who Jesus is, is something we too must decide, but on that day, Pilate would be called to render one.  There was simply no escaping his pre-planned appointment with the Creator that had been in the works since the beginning of time.  

Pilate didn’t solicit this particular trial into his life, and he had no desire to be thrown into the specifics of a religion he didn’t understand, nor have any interest in.   His true interest was self-preservation through political acceptance.  He was a man sandwiched between two groups of people; political Roman big-wigs that reigned over him, and the people he was forced to govern that he detested.  Both sides carried a voice and influence in his political well-being and livelihood.   

But nestled deep inside of Pilate, buried back behind his political need to keep the peace, was a man who grew increasingly torn between doing what was right for himself, and what was legally and morally right.  Pilate was at a fork-in-the-road like many of us find ourselves, and he made a wrong turn due to his inability to distinguish the truth and properly stand for it.  Pilate wavered back and forth like debri blowing along a highway on a blustery day, eventually giving way to him flippantly questioning Jesus as to what truth even was. (see John 18:38) 

His dilemma had him in search of pleasing many masters.  There was the need to appease his conscience, the earthly authority above him, and adequately sooth the rage of religious Jewish leaders and their people.  He knew if he could just somehow smooth out this tumultuous tension that transpired from a radical religious group, then he could go about his real Roman business!  He then wouldn’t have to fear the negative repercussions pertaining to his performance as a governor, making its way back to Rome. 

This internal turmoil that battled within, lent itself to the misfortune of an onslaught of physical brutality (flogging) to be inflicted bitterly upon Jesus.  Pilate simply miscalculated that a disfigured beaten body would somehow satisfy the insatiable appetite of the religious leaders, as well as the crowd.  He hoped to persuade the enraged audience to accept disfiguration, over death.   But Pilate soon learned that his search for the ‘easy way out’ from dealing with truth, would prove harder than he expected.  

The crowd hurled their angry insults at the top of their lungs, shouting that nothing other than Jesus’ gruesome death would satisfy their bloodlust.  And sadly, because Pilate spent so long trying to save his own skin politically;  Jesus’ literal skin was allowed to be deeply gouged, pierced, sliced, and ripped apart like pulled porkAll this incessant torment, led to prolonged agony for Jesus; far more so than if the Lord had been originally handed over for immediate crucifixion.  Pilate’s heart wanted to keep himself in good standing with the people,  even if it meant looking at Truth directly in the face, and denying it as such. (see John 14:6) 

 Pilate eventually saw that his attempts to avoid crucifixion were futile, giving way to his final decision that cost Jesus His life, and that gave way to our freedom from the penalty of sin. He proceeded to literally wash his hands of the responsibility of Jesus’ death, (see Matt 27:24) all the while giving into the Jews’ twisted demands for crucifixion. This led to an excruciating death for the Lord.  By washing his hands of this affair, Pilate believed the lie that he would somehow be off-the-hook of any responsibility for the shedding of innocent blood. Pilate stood outside his palace that fateful day, believing he held the ultimate authority that rendered judgement and a verdict over the Living God.  Yet one day that scene will be turned around, and Pilate will be the one standing outside the Lord’s palace, receiving judgement and a rightful verdict. 

 The death of Jesus would be due and through the sin of all mankind.  The Jews weren’t solely responsible for the death of the world’s Savior, nor would that responsibility lay at the hands of the Roman’s brutality (the Gentiles).  It would be a non-deserved death, in which the sin and sinful hearts of both Jews and Gentiles alike, (all of man-kind) would facilitate, just like the Father had prepared for in advance. 

Uncomfortable situations that call for us to stand for truth can be found anywhere, and can be exceedingly hard to run from.  We often try just like Pilate did, to escape having to make the tough choices in life, by running from those things we don’t want to face, or maybe understand.  We treat truth as if it is abstract, or even ambiguous.  Something which can’t really be… ‘nailed down’.  

Yet it was.

Truth was nailed down to a rugged cross many, many years ago.  It walked and talked among its people.  It declared itself among the crowds, and taught them how to live in the Truth, and how It would set them free (see John 8:32; John 14:6))

Drawing a line in the sand about truth, can mean risking a marriage, friendships, or our careers.  But some things in life require a line to be drawn, such as which side of the dusty road we choose to stand on when it comes to God’s Son; Jesus Christ.      

How many times have we attempted to claim we’re innocent in a situation by quickly ‘washing our hands of it’?  Or look to run from those tough choices in life; the ones that test our character, and reveal who we really are, and what we stand for?  Like Pilate, we may know what the right thing to do is, yet the fear of standing up for truth falls to the wayside in our attempt to gain accolades from the voices of others, or our attempt to silence our own. 

Jesus stands at the courtyard of our hearts waiting for our verdict.  He longs to see us stand as His proud supporters when insults are casually made of Him at the workplace, or when elected officials of this earth cast Him aside and wash their hands of Him, and His laws. 

We can live victoriously in the peace and freedom that comes from facing the truth, and not letting ourselves carry around the shame and regret of denying Jesus when He’s the One that died for us…and those we are tempted to appease.

My Robe For His

It was a warm, ordinary weekday morning in the middle of May, of my Junior year in high school.  As I lay sleeping in my bed I felt someone approach me, then begin to sit.  That ‘someone’ was a grown man.  In a matter of moments, his unwelcomed contact became physically inappropriate.  With eyes still closed, my stunned mind darted into self-preservation mode, igniting the stretching of my arms in a forward motion, all in the hope of discouraging his distasteful act.  While purposefully extending my arms out with the sole intent of preventing this man from continuing; he suddenly fled.

His immediate need to take cover and slink out of my room, lent itself to the glaring truth that he knew his actions towards me were far from honorable.  While still dazed and in shock, I heard the shower my mother was taking during this offense; turn off.     

Never having had a boyfriend, or having been physical with a boy, meant these particular kinds of advances, were foreign to me.  So as quickly as I could, I got up, got dressed, and raced to get myself off to school, without saying a word to anyone else in my home about the layer of filth that now took residence in my head, and heart.    

Throughout the school day I began to process the inconceivable idea of what had occurred that morning, at the hands of my mother’s boyfriend. I grew disgusted that this man of more than twice my age, would evoke such disdain and distrust in me, let alone succumb to such reprehensible actions.  

So later that evening, I approached my mother discreetly, and shared with her what had happened.  I described in great detail where she was at the time this transpired, and exactly what her boyfriend had done, along with his need to flee once he believed I was beginning to wake up.

She later elected privately to inquire of the situation with this man directly.  That sadly allowed him the opportunity to falsely mislead her into believing that his actions were somehow ‘innocent’, under the disguise of showing me “fatherly affection” as he reported.  I had been without a father in my life for roughly three years at this point, but I was confident that emotionally healthy fathers didn’t show “affection” towards their daughters in that manner.  So naturally I couldn’t fathom my mother lending any merit to this obvious lie.  

Nevertheless, the story he dispensed was accepted by her, permitting him to maintain a key to our house, while remaining a potential threat to me.  That house key afforded him the ability to stop by our home whenever he saw fit, which was usually just prior to me arriving home from school, while my mother was still at work.  This was particularly concerning because he did not hold a job which would have limited his availability towards me.  

So he continued to arrive at our home, just prior to my homecoming nearly every…school…day. 

However, I maintained my resolve to protect myself from this unscrupulous man, by not arriving home from school until my mother was back from work.  I went directly to a neighbor girl’s home if I saw his car parked out in front of my house, never telling her the real reason for my constant visits.

At the time this situation occurred, my mother sought to resolve this issue by requiring that I wear my thick winter bathrobe whenever he was in our home, and it was nearing evening.  Her solution bewildered me, because the incident took place in the morning, so I never saw the logic behind her assessment.  This ‘solution’ did not resolve the issue, and only served to inappropriately hold me responsible for his misconduct.  I had already felt a sense of shame over what this man had done to me, giving way to reflection on other previous advances of his which now encompassed my mind.  So wearing a robe of ‘shame’ was only serving to victimize the victim, and causing me to recoil emotionally.  

Growing up in a home without air-conditioning, I began to loath that stifling robe as spring gave way to a scorching summer.  Month after month I wore the weight of it’s symbolic shame, with no sign of a foreseeable reprieve. 

So there it was; the consequence for speaking truth.  I was having to wear the shame of this man’s wrongdoing.     

But there would also be someone else whom I would later learn about in my adulthood, who was expected to wear a ‘robe’ of shame that didn’t belong to Him either.  

His name….Jesus.   

In John 19:1-5 we read of a well-thought-out plan to shame the Lord, complete with a thorny crown and a robe of mockery; for added measure.  Jesus did nothing to warrant the carrying of another man’s shame, or even my own for that matter.  Yet amazingly; He did it gladly, unlike the shameful robe I was forced to wear.  Jesus took on the world’s shame and wore it before the Father, causing Him to have to turn away from Jesus.  This turning from His Son led Jesus to say “Father, why have you forsaken me?” (see Matt 27:46)  

I certainly felt forsaken by my mother when she saddled me with the shame of another.  If I had had the words to express what my heart felt beneath the anger it would have been “Mom, why have you forsaken me?” 

Eight months passed by with me robed in another’s shame, before my mother elected to end her relationship with this unhealthy individual, for issues unrelated to my circumstances.  For quite some time this issue had remained unresolved in the relationship my mother and I shared.  

While I never received acknowledgement or an apology from this man, I did receive one eventually from my mother for the way she handled things. Extending forgiveness in my heart towards this man (years later) did not require an apology from him.  Instead it required truly understanding the forgiveness that God offered me through His Son; Jesus Christ, and the outflow of gratitude that sprang forth as a result.  

However, nothing has brought more validation and healing than the verse God brings us in Isaiah 61:10 which states:

I delight greatly in the Lord;

My soul rejoices in my God.

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation

And arrayed me in a ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS……

The robe I once wore was a robe of shame, but Jesus saw to it to clothe me in salvation, and offer me HIS robe of righteousness.  I can’t tell you what a trade off that was for me!  

So have you ever found yourself in a robe of shame that didn’t belong to you, or perhaps maybe a robe of shame that did?  Often, we inadvertently elect to wear a robe of shame due to our own destructive choices.  The Lord, however; desires to disrobe EVERYONE of their shame and exchange it for the kind of radiance that can only be found; in His robe of righteousness.

Waters You’ve Entered

I grew up in northern California, about 30 minutes from its beautiful coastline.  Weekend day trips to the beach were commonly taken by my family.  Though outings to the beach were always something our family enjoyed, we were never encouraged to go in the water.  My mother was never fond of the idea of her children swimming in the great blue waters of the Pacific, due to its undertow.  She had shared with me how easy it was for the ocean to carry you out much farther than you had ever planned to go.  

So, I always spent my time there on dry land.  I would walk up and down the rich warm sand, hunting for the most exquisite seashells I could find. I was perfectly content watching the waters repeatedly kiss the shoreline, while I stayed dry, building sandcastles that would inevitably come crashing down within minutes of lifting the bucket I had used as a mold.   I knew nothing other than playing along the shore, so there never seemed to be anything I believed I was missing out on.

One summer as a teen, I vacationed with extended family at a beach town in the southern part of my state.  During this particular trip to the beach, I ventured out.  This trip was different, because I elected to get into the water.  Swimming in the ocean wasn’t ever anything I grew up doing, but somehow seeing my cousins basking in that seemingly refreshing San Diego water, with delight written on their faces, made it much more appealing.

I took one step into the foaming shoreline, and found that it wasn’t nearly as daunting as I had been led to believe the ocean waters were, when I was much younger.  Every step I took, invited me further into that serene blue ocean.  Each step made it that much easier to take yet another step, then another.  Before I knew it, I was treading water.  What I had originally thought of as a beautiful blue taste of heaven turned out to be filled with unappetizing salt.  In addition to that, I no longer found myself in the shallow portion where the waters could kiss the shore.    

As I reflect back on that beach trip, I see how that event mirrors much of how I lived my life.  I would often draw a line in the sand on a particular issue, (confident I would never cross it), all to find that crossing that one line, wasn’t so bad.  Before I knew it, that damaging poor decision, and others after it, would lead me out into uncharted waters, that didn’t deliver on the promise their appearance had led me to believe.  

While I began to tread the waters of that San Diego beach, I felt a tug on my ankle.  That tug caused my whole head to unexpectedly go under.  I remember every time I began to gain the strength to fight to get back up, the weight of the pull kept me down under the water.  

There I was, fighting to get up for air.   I had drifted so far out from the shore, that the pursuit to get back to where I was, took all my efforts.  Once I was able to get my head above water, and breathe in some much needed air, I finally realized how far from land I really was.  I looked around for the familiar faces of my family, but all I saw were unfamiliar ones.  I paddled my arms so fast in an effort to reach dry land after that.

Much of my life has been spent treading in waters that God never intended me to go into.  Instead of being content on the shores He wanted to provide, I would find something else more riveting, that would inevitably hook me into the nets of destructive seas.  

Sin often takes us farther than we ever intended to go.  It pulls us down, and we are soon over our heads!  We are somehow convinced of the fun to be had in those wonderful pools of blue, but the oasis it promises, leaves a bad taste of unforgettable seaweed in our mouth.  And if we listen to that voice of a particularly seductive sin, eventually God’s voice is drowned from our heart, leaving us shipwrecked.

The Bible is filled with all sorts of folks just like us.  People who were convinced that the troubled waters they entered, weren’t that bad.  There was Jonah whose refusal to obey God led him to board a ship.  A ship that carried him into deep waters, after which he became the temporary lunch for a whale. (see Jonah 1:17)  Or King David, who instead of being on the dry land of the battlefield where he was called, found himself in a sea of compromise at the sight of someone bathing by moonlight. (2 Samuel 11:2)  Both of these choices carried Jonah and King David into seas of regret.

I don’t have a rock to throw in the waters that engulfed Jonah or King David.  I can truly relate to both.  I’ve personally set my focus on people (much like King David did), that I had no business bathing in sin with.  I can also identify with Jonah, who struggled with a defiant heart towards God, simply because I did not understand His ways.

So on what shore have you found yourself lacking contentment?  What sin is taking you in its undertow?  Has the line you once drew in the sand now been blurred on the shores, from waters you’ve entered?