Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” John 18: 37-38 (From the Fourth Gospel on Holy Thursday Evening) Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus as to whether He was a king? And Jesus answered Him that His purpose in coming into the world was to bear witness to the truth, that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. Then Pilate asked one of the greatest questions a human being has ever asked: “What is truth?”
Let’s go back to Genesis 3, the Fall of mankind. If the first sin was ingratitude, the precursor to the first sin was a lie. We read:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, “You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, and here is the GREAT LIE, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:1-5)
So, Eve “thought about it,” and when she saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. (Genesis 3: 6)
And immediately they knew that they had been lied to: Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. (3:7) When they were confronted with God about their nakedness, rather than just tell the truth, they told a lie. And since that time, the human race has battled between telling the truth and telling lies.
I heard a great definition for lying recently: Lying is rewriting history. If one has a sense of truth, he accepts history as it is, consequences and all. Think about when you lie—it’s because the lie is more appealing than the truth. Think about that first lie—the devil rewrote history and mankind fell for the lie.
A couple is asked by some friends to go on a twenty mile bike ride. The husband thinks to himself “I don’t know how to ride a bike.” And then he mulls over what to do. He can tell his friends the truth, that he doesn’t know how to ride a bike, and risk disappointing them or having them ridicule him for not knowing how to do something most people learned to do as a young child. He can say that he is busy, but this will also be disappointing to them. He can go for the big lie: “I am actually a bike racing champion but I hurt my knee and am no longer allowed to ride a bike,” which will engender both respect and sympathy and admiration. Or he can tell his wife “Perhaps you’d be willing to teach me to ride a bike, and not make fun of me while I’m learning.” Most people in this scenario go for the big lie. It preserves our ego, so we think.
Another lie we often say is “how are you?” We ask the bank teller “how are you?” That’s a lie. What if the bank teller tell us that she is going through a divorce, are we willing to speak with her for half an hour, or do we want to just make our transaction and leave. When you say to someone “how are you?” ask yourself if you are really willing to stop your day and minister to them if they are in trouble.
When I give out antithoron and greet people at the end of liturgy, I try to offer a truthful statement and say “Nice to see you.” That is truth. To ask “how are you?” when I know there are another hundred people in line to greet is not a true statement. Because if the answer is anything less than positive, there is no time to slow down and talk.
So when we live in a society that doesn’t promote being truthful, it is easy to fall into the trap of lies and less than truths. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” This is truth. And in John 8: 31-32, Jesus says If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
Speaking truth with love is another skill we can all improve. There is a way to speak the truth while also preserving someone’s dignity when we have to lodge a complaint. Perceptions also distort the truth, but being careless with the truth leads to perception. For instance, when we’re constantly checking our phones, it leads to the perception we are not interested in the conversation when we very well might be. And being patient and humble is part of creating a more truthful society. Think of the humility of an adult who has to ride a bike with training wheels and the patience of the person who has to teach him. But this beats the big lie that has to be told to cover a deficiency. We all have deficiencies. If we can all have the humility to admit them and the patience to work through them or help others work through them, think about how much more truthful our world would become.
The Fall was caused by a distortion of the Truth, a lie. The path to our salvation is open through the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And our attaining of salvation will only be possible based on our adherence to the Truth. Which starts with us being truthful with one another, speaking the truth in love, and putting aside perceptions of truth. And rather than rewriting history with lies, live it in truth the first time around.
The law-transgressors verily did buy the Ordainer of the law from a Disciple. And they brought Him before Pilate as a law-breaker, shouting “Crucify the One, who gave them manna in the wilderness!” But we, emulating the righteous thief, cry out in faith: “Remember also us, O Savior, in Your Kingdom. (From the Beatitudes of the Service of the 12 Gospels, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Be truthful in all things today!
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