Paradigm-Shifting Truth

by Peter Swann

The day began like most others in South Sudan. As my eyes popped open, I stared at the mosquito net around me, knowing I’d need to watch my step when I venture out of my meshed cave. Scrambling around the mud hut, I glanced around for any wayward scorpions while preparing for the day. It was undoubtedly going to be a day of great effort and great adventure.

My two South Sudanese friends arrived just after the sun peeked above the horizon, eager to begin our four hour walk to the nearest large market. We were on a journey for used Chinese road bicycles, the only type of bikes available in that mud hut world at the time. The fact that they were road bikes seemed to matter little when there was no other option.

We began our journey, following trails through one mud hut home compound after another, winding our way through the bush. It was an honor to again traverse land that no foreigner had ever visited, when one of my friends suddenly stopped in front of me. He froze in his tracks, then whirled around and looked at me. The conversation that followed was one that seemed random, but one he clearly had meditated on for some time.

“Peter,” he said, “We have heard that you foreigners say that the earth revolves around the sun. But it’s evident to us that the sun circles the earth. Every day we watch it rise in the sky and set on the other side. It’s very clear that the sun revolves around the earth.” There was angst in his voice as he continued, saying, “We know you, and we trust you. You have to tell us the truth about this.”

I sat back, amazed at the situation, knowing the truth wasn’t really what he wanted to hear. Laying it out for him, he just stared at me, unable to accept the truth about the sun and earth and scientific principles of the solar system. Shocked, he simply stated, “You’re lying… you have to be lying!”

Turning around, he began to move down the path, and we never talked about it again! The truth, it turned out, was that he didn’t really want the truth. It was too much to absorb at that time. He claimed he wanted it, yet couldn’t process it. Or, like many of us, perhaps he simply didn’t want the truth as much as he said he did.

I worry about us with that when it comes to following Christ. We claim we want biblical truth, yet feel settled in our traditional ways. Comfort tends to trump truth, and our muted Christian lives are the result.

I’ve been begging God to strip that away from me. It may hurt, but it’s worth it. I long to see us be a people always hungry for real, gut-wrenching, tradition-stripping truth. It’s the type of truth that shifts paradigms, and the type of truth that alters journeys. It’s the truth that may make fools of us, but also make much of Christ. Only that truth best enables us to advance our Lord’s Kingdom and bring Him great glory.

The question, in the end, isn’t if we can really handle the truth; it’s how badly we want it. It’s a question of hunger, and surrender. It’s a question of how desperate we are for the joy of pure biblical truth. It’s found in this pledge: Scripturally-grounded truth eagerly welcomed, even if it alters our universe a bit.